Friday, May 18, 2018

'The Undie-World' is fun, but surprisingly mild

The Undie-World (1934)
Starring: June Brewster, Carol Tevis, Grady Sutton, Big Boy Williams, Dewey Robinson, and Will Stanton
Director: George Stevens
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A gangster (Williams) recruits a violinist (Sutton) to help him impress a pair of sexy roommates (Brewster and Tevis) who live in the apartment across the courtyard from his, by showing them that he's sophisticated and romantic. The girls, however, end up falling for the dorky musician, assuming he's a dangerous Bad Boy. In an effort to salvage his plan, the gangster suggests the four of them go on a double-date. A comedy of errors ensues.

"The Undie-World" is a surprisingly mild, almost sweet little film, given the title and subject matter. In fact, I can't imagine a more wholesome film where the majority of the main characters are on the make. It's got slapstick, it's got puns, it's got class-based humor... but what it doesn't have is any double-entrendres or anything from the blue category. We get within a mile of "mature" when June Brewster gets knocked down during her first encounter with Grady Sutton and her robe rides up to show some leg, but that's it. Everything though is well-staged and the actors are all perfect in their parts. For the dorky among us, the film even presents a little bit of wishfulfillment as it's the dorky violin teacher who gets the girl(s) in the end.

"The Undie-World" is the first film on the Blondes and Redheads: Lost Comedy Classics DVD collection, but it was the fourth in a series of films that were tied together by featuring as their central characters a pair of young women--one blonde, one redheaded. Although the same actors and actresses appeared in most of them, and usually played characters named after the performers, each film was actually about different characters. Some reviewers and websites about early Hollywood output seem to have missed this, eventhough it's obvious if one watches more than two of the films, and they treat this like a series. "Blondes and Redheads" wasn't even how the series was referred to Back in the Day; RKO's internal title for it was "Working Girls". The films themselves dont' carry any such indentifications, and they're only a "series" due to the troupe of actors that appear in all of them, sort of like the Laurel & Hardy comedy shorts are a series.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Margot Kidder passes away

This past Sunday, Margot Kidder, the actress who was the cinematic Lois Lane for Generation X, passed away at the age of 69. Here's a gallery of pictures in her memory.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Musical Monday: Leo's Uptown Metal Funk

Norweigan musical virtuoso Leo Moracchioli has performed and produced dozens upon dozens of creative covers of songs along with amusing and creative videos... with the ones where he dons a bunny suit, uses puppets, or borrows his daughter's toy instruments being among the most amusing. No matter what artist, or whatever the original genre the song he's covering is from, Moracchioli takes the song and makes it his own, usually with a hard rock and/or heavy, heavy metal twist. He usually plays every instrument and he plays every one of them well.

I recently noticed that a few of his videos made in black-and-white, so I'm jumping on the excuse to spotlight him here on the blog, just in case someone out there hasn't discovered this great talent. I'll be posting a new one each Monday for the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy these covers as much as I do.

First up is Leo's version of "Uptown Funk." (For much, much more, visit his YouTube Channel.)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Time's passage may have left 'Lucky Ghost' behind

Lucky Ghost (aka "Lady Luck") 1942
Starring: Mantan Moreland, E.F. Miller, Maceo Bruce Sheffield, Florence O'Brien, Arthur Ray, Jessie Brooks, Nappie Whiting, and Henry Hastings
Director: William Beaudine (as William X. Crowley)
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Riding an incredible wave of luck in craps games, two vagabonds (Miller and Moreland), have the chance to become set for life when the irritable operator of an illicit club and casino (Sheffield) bets his entire operation against them on a single winner-takes-all die roll. The ghost of the former owner (Hastings) may have other plans, however.

"Lucky Ghost" may be one of those films that's more interesting as a historical artifact than something that modern viewers should seek out for entertainment. It's rife with the common mid-career weaknesses of most William Beaudine-helmed films--like scenes and jokes that could have been impactful or funny but which are padded well-past the point of even being interesting--and a whole lot of race-based humor that will cause the 21st Century Woke Set to suffer strokes before the halfway mark.

That last bit is perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the film. "Lucky Ghost" is what is termed a 'race picture'--a film made specifically for a black audience during a time when the United States was racially segregated, so there was a market for films to be shown at movie theaters for all-black audiences. Despite this, the all-black line-up of characters in "Lucky Ghost" are almost without fail what today is viewed as racially insensitive and negative stereotypes, far more so than other 'race pictures' I've watched (which, admittedly, aren't very many). Perhaps these caricatures were to the audience back then as stoners or nerds are to viewers of comedies today and were recognized as exaggerations of existing people and not something to get huffy over?

One thing that should still speak just fine to modern audiences, and the best part of the film, is the interplay between stars Mantan Moreland and E.F. Miller. This is one of a handful of films they were teamed in, and they function as a black version of Abbott & Costello, with Miller being the straight man and Moreland providing the antics. I think I've expressed my affection for Moreland in every review of a movie I've seen him in, and it's no different here. All by himself, Moreland brings this film from a Low Four rating to a Low Five... and his presence might have made an even stronger impact if not for some of the scenes where I am certain that Beaudine padded the running time by including all takes on a bit where only one, or two at most, should have been included. Moreland is particularly funny during the gambling scenes, and in a couple of scenes where he is leering at the butts or cleavages of the casino's hostesses and making not-so-subtle innuendos. While the film is labled as having passed the Review Board in the opening credits, one wonders which Hayes Commission censor was sleeping on the job that day!

Another aspect that lifts this film a bit above many other horror-comedies of the period is the nature of ghosts. More often than not, hauntings in these pictures turn out to be hoaxes or misinterpretations of perfectly normal and natural events. No so here; in "Lucky Ghost", the filmmakers go fill-tilt with the phantoms, even treating the audience to what special effects the meager budget could allow. It's a nice change of pace.

Monday, May 7, 2018

'Double Exposure' unfolds at double-time.

Double Exposure (1944)
Starring: Chester Morris, Nancy Kelly, Phillip Terry, Richard Gaines, and Charles Arnt
Director: William Berke
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

The road to romance is rocky for editor Larry Burke (Morris) and photographer Pat Marvin (Kelly), with deception, jealousy, and frame-ups for murder getting in their way.

  "Double Exposure" is a fast-moving comedy that mixes up the familiar elements of fast-talking and quick-witted reporters; dodgy and eccentric rich people; romance complicated by social mores and deceptions; and a murder mystery that would be slightly less of a murder mystery if the police weren't lazy. It's a B-movie stew, but it's a tasty one.

This is a movie that hits the ground running and it never slows down, with gags and plot complications flying at the viewer non-stop. As mentioned above, the film is made up of familiar elements and there is nothing here that is terribly original, but what we have is so perfectly deployed that fans of movies from this era can't help but have fun while watching it. In fact, this film is so well put together that some of the things that usually annoy me--such as Insta-Romances between the male and female leads, and One-Suspect Murdery Mysteries--don't bother me here at all.

As a bonus for the modern viewer, the film also has some commentary on the challenges that career-oriented women had to face during the 1940s. The commentary is shallow and breezy, just like the rest of the film, but it adds an interesting dimension that may speak differently to us than it did to those sitting in the theaters in 1944.

The one complaint I have about the film is the soundtrack. I'm used to so-so and often bizarrely inappropriate music over the opening credits of these old B-movies, but it's rare that it shows up during the run-time as wildly inappropriate scoring. During a scene where Burke is trying to confirm his suspicions about who the real murderer is, we're treated to the happy, cheerful music that opened the film. I'm sure someone during editing said, "we can't have a scene this long that's this quiet... what will we do?" but then someone else made the WRONG choice when it came to "fixing" it.

But one "sour note" doesn't come close to ruining the overall experience of this film. It's well worth the time spent watching it!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

It's Cinco de Mayo!

For a few days now, I've been seeing posts in my Facebook feed designed to instruct me on the True Meaning of Cinco de Mayo (or lack there-of). Well, those posts convinced me that I had to do a Cinco de Mayo post of my own this year--the third one in the decade or so that this blog has been around.

I have made an effort to be faithful to the wishes of those who took it upon themselves to preach to unwashed masses. Cinco de Mayo is a commemoration of a battle that helped put an end to France's imperial ambitions in the Americas, and this post is here to remind the world about that.



Friday, May 4, 2018

'The Moonshiner's Daughter': Cute but not a 10

The Moonshiner's Daughter, or Abroad in Old Kentucky (1933)
Starring: Russell Hopton, Lucile Browne, Russell Simpson, Frank McGlynn Jr., Mary Carr, and Mitchell Lewis
Director: Al Ray
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

When Pa Catfield (Simpson) killed the last Ratfield, it seemed the generational feud that had bathed Wolf Mountain in blood for so long was finally over. But when a Revenuer (Hopton) turns out to be a Ratfield AND becomes romantically involved with the lovely Emmy Catfield (Browne), a whole new feud begins.

Produced as a fund-raiser by the Masquers, which was a social club for comedians in Hollywood, "The Moonshiner's Daughter" is a mildly amusing comedy that's packed full of one-liners and slapstick from beginning to end. There aren't any laugh-out-loud moments--although the baby has some moments that come close--but there aren't any dull ones either. It's a competently staged spoof, but that's about it.

That said, one of the things I found the funniest about the film is the fact that the government agent is clearly wearing his badge on his coat for the entire film, even when he's telling the mountain-folk that he's not a revenuer, no sir. I am also very fond of the second title, being the lover of bad puns that I am.

The best moments in the film are when there's interaction between Russell Hopton and Lucile Browne. The two play well off each other, and it's a shame that they do not appear to be done any other films together. One wonders what might have been if they'd been paired in something more than a quickie short film.

Trivia: There were at least three other short films titled "The Moonshiner's Daughter" prior to this one (four if you count one titled "The Mountaineer's Daughter" that had it as an alternate title. They were all silent films (from 1910, 1912, and 1914 respectively). Although the ones information is available on had plots very different than this one, it could be that this was a wide enough sub-genre back then that audiences in the early '30s were amused by elements in this film that are muted today.

May the Fourth...

It's a pun that makes fun of speech impediments and an excuse to post some Star Wars art, so May the Fourth Be Wif You!

By Tony Harris
By Al Williamson

By Sordet Romain

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Princesses of Mars, Part 24

It's time for another of our ocassional trips to Barsoom to visit with the beautiful and deadly Pricesses of Mars!

By Frank Frazetta
By Tom Yeates
By Scott Fischer

By Dawn McTiegue

Monday, April 30, 2018

'Horror Island' is atmospheric but the script is lacking

Horror Island (1941)
Starring: Dick Foran, Leo Carillo, Peggy Moran, Hobart Cavanaugh, and Foy Van Dolsen
Director: George Waggner
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A struggling businessman (Foran) organizes a "mystery weekend" excursion to an old, supposedly haunted pirate hideout as part of a new tourism venture. He and his customers are soon haunted by a very real killer.

This is a minor horror film from Universal that's more spoof than horror, poking fun at the style of mystery/thriller films where a cast of characters are stuck in a creepy house and stalked by a killer. The film is amusing enough, especially once the action moves to the island, but it would have been a stronger film if a little more time had been spent on the mystery/thriller aspect of the film. Instead of trying to come up with a decent story, the writers instead seem like they were simply trying to cram as many movie mystery cliches into the story whether they belong or not. For example, a gangster on the run with his gun moll go on the tour of the island, but they are neither effective red herrings nor particularly sympathetic so we don't really care if they live or die. All they do is waste space and film running time.

"Horror Island" does manage to present a villain that is both amusing and creepy, as well as provide a third act twist that comes as a genuine surprise. The cast is also universally good, even if some of them are just wastes of space in the film and story. The sets and cinematography are all solid and add to the film's atmosphere. Aside from the weak script, everything else is solid enough... not spectacular but good enough.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

'Lost in Limehouse' disappoints

Lost in Limehouse, or Lady Esmeralda's Predicament (1933)
Starring: John Sheehan, Walter Byron, Laura La Plante, Olaf Hytten, and Charles McNaughton
Director: Otto Brower
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

It's up to the Harold the Humble Apprentice (Byron) and Sheerluck Jones, the Great Detective Sheerluck Jones (Hytten) to rescue the fair Esmeralda (La Plante) from the evil Sir Marmaduke Rakes (Sheehan) and his Tong allies.

"Lost in Limehouse" is another short film produced by and starring members and friends of The Masquers Club to raise money for a new guild house. Its main targets for spoofing is the Sherlock Holmes stories and old-time melodramas, but along the way they also mock the Yellow Peril genre, which was popular at the time, as well as the British class structure. Maybe I've come to expect too much of these from the wild and crazy rides of "Thru Thin and Thicket" and "Stolen By Gypsies", but this film was something of a disappointment.

The first half of "Lost in Limehouse" is only mildly funny, with most jokes being poorly delivered and all attempts at physical comedy being simply lame. It is further slowed down by the presence of a completely unnessary character played by Nola Luxford that would have been key to the plot if the film had been written by decent writers. The character reappears during the film's sloppy non-ending, where her presence further underscores the sense that it really should have played a bigger role. Maybe it's just the writer in me filling in the blanks, or maybe it's because Luxford showed such charisma in her small, do-nothing part next to those she shared the scene with, that I wanted her character to be more important. It really felt like she was being set up to be a secret ally of Sir Marmaduke; maybe if this had been a longer, more serious movie, she would have been. As it stands, it would have been better if she had just been left out.

While the Sherlock Holmes spoof, which gets underway as the film enters its second act, is spot-on both plot-wise and dialogue-wise, it ends up falling mostly flat because Olaf Hytten simply isn't much of an actor. In fact, the funniest part of the Holmes spoof grow mostly out of physical comedy related to its intertwining with the Yellow Peril spoof.

The shining highlight of "Lost in Limehouse" is John Sheehan as the lampoon melodramatic villain who's kidnapped the lovely maiden with the intent of forcing her to accept his love. His performance is appropriately over-the-top, he plays well with La Plante and Byron (the two performers he shares the most scenes with), his "evil laugh" is spectacular, and it is his prominence the film's second half that makes it worthwhile. The fact that he manages to abduct Lady Esmeralda twice and tie her up three different times in a very short span makes his character all the more funny. Unfortunately, even Sheehan couldn't save this film from its abysmal script... and while it ends on a literal bang, it feels more like a whimper.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sherlock Sunday: It's the Great Detective's Greatest Case?

The Sign of Four: Sherlock Holmes' Greatest Case (1932)
Starring: Arthur Wontner, Ian Hunter, Isla Bevan, and Graham Soutten
Director: Graham Cutts
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After Mary Morstan (Bevan) receives a mysterious string of pearls and a mysterious letter requesting a meeting, and is then menaced by a mysterious thug (Soutten), she retains the services of private investigators Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Wontner and Hunter) for protection and to get some answers. What is brought to light is a tale of greed, decades-old treachery and murder, and a madman seeking revenge.

"The Sign of Four" is one of the most often adapted Holmes tales, with this 1932 film being the third version and the first talkie. It's a fast-moving and at times very chilling mystery film, with a cinematic style that often anticipates techniques that wouldn't come into wide use until the rise of film noir in the late 1940s and the 1950s. These stylstic flourishes help to offset some of the film's acting styles, which are still heavily influenced by what was then the fast-fading silent movies period, giving the film a more modern feel that many of the early talkies lack.

Another strong point of the film is the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Not only does Arthur Wotner's Holmes seem as though he was brought to life straight from the pen-and-ink illustrations in "The Strand Magazine," but Holmes here seems more at ease with himself and those around him than the one we most often find in the films. He comes across as a unmatched genius, but he also has a good sense of humor and a compassionate nature and friendly demeanor that makes it easy to understand why Watson admires him. Another aspect I like about this adaptation is the Holmes is shown to be as excellent at physical confrontations as he is with the matching of wits. During the film's climax, Holmes kicks much butt, just like the character that Doyle described in his fiction.

Similarly, Watson is portrayed as an intelligent and useful assistant to Holmes, so there is no difficulty in understanding why the Great Detective keeps him around and relies on him for important tasks. This cannot be said of Watson in several other Holmes adaptatations.

While I generally liked how Watson was handled in the film, one aspect of Ian Hunter's portrayal of Watson I didn't care for was the way he came across like a lecherous pervert whenever he was around Mary Morstan. He is ogling her, pawing her... obviously barely able to keep himself from jumping her right then and there. While I understand that the intent was to portray "love at first sight" between Watson and Mary--who becomes his wife in the Doyle tales--the combination of clunky writing and silent movie-type acting makes one wonder why Mary wasn't beating this disgusting lech (who is also at least twice her age) with his cane and then running screaming from the room.

While the film keeps most of the generalities of the original Doyle tale, there are a number of changes that lend the film to be internally inconsistent and even nonsensical at times. The villain is so over the top and reprehensible that one wonders why his henchmen stick around, or even helped him in the first place; while the fact that the entire stolen treasure seems to be intact when Mary is sent the pearls instead of partially spent as in the original story; and a bizarre bit of comedy involving the neigh-obligatory "Holmes-in-disguise" scene. Some viewers might also be annoyed by the fact the story has been transported from the 1800s to the modern-day period of the 1930s, but it really makes no difference to the overall thrust of the tale.

On balance, though, it's a strong adaptation that is made even stronger by Wontner's excellent portrayal of Holmes. It's well worth checking out.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

It's a wild bike ride to save Benecia!

Stolen by Gypsies, or Beer and Bicycles (1933)
Starring: John Sheehan, Sam Hardy, Barbara Sheldon, Charles Ray, William Farnum, June Brewster, and Eddie Borden
Director: Albert Ray
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

When his romantic advances toward the beautiful Bencia Beamish (Sheldon) are rejected, the fiendish Sinclair Sable (Hardy) hires Gypsy Joe (Sheehan) to kidnap her. Now only  her true love, Elmer Updike (Ray), aided by the members of the Beer and Bicycle Club, can save her!

"Stolen by Gypsies, or Beer and Bicycles" pokes fun at the melodramas that were once mainstays of the stage and silent movies, complete with asides to the audience, mustache-twirling villains, and intertitles (the latter of which are completely unnecssary, given that this isn't a silent film, but they add to the ambiance and comedy).

Although there's a gag-a-minute during the first half of the film, it's the long bicylces vs. horse-drawn gypsy wagon that makes this film worthwhile. From the special effects (Elmer bouncing into the air after riding over explosives thrown at him by Sinclair) to the stunts (the bicyclists colliding with a fallen tree, riding/tumbling down a cliffside, and more) to some bizarre asides (one of which includes a very strange portrayal of Atlantic City as an African village where the citizens try to knock the bicyclists down using clubs... this may be a joke that's muted due to the passage of time?) it's a hilarious and impressive affair that puts some modern chases to shame.

This is one of a thirteen shorts produced by the Masquers Club--a social club for comedians--in the early 1930s with the intent of raising funds for various charities and a new building for the club to have its meetings. It is also one of five included on a DVD release from Alpha Video, but it may also be available for viewing online. I think fans of Monte Python's Flying Circus may find it particularly enjoyable, because it draws from some of the same wells as a number of their skits., despite the 30+ year gap between them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Superman!

April 18, 2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the very first appearance of Superman! In celebration, I am posting some drawings of the Man of Steel by my favorite Superman artists, in the order they come to mind.

First, there's Curt Swan, who drew Superman during 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. I don't think he'll ever be topped. His art was especially good when inked by Murphy Anderson.

Next, there's John Byrne, as a close second. He didn't have anywhere near Swan's track record on the character, but his breif tenure during the mid-1980s was very impactful and carried the character through the 1990s.

Gil Kane didn't do a lot of work on Superman, but the stories he did draw (in Action Comics and a couple Specials in the 1980s) were spectacular!

Finally, there's Jose Luis Garcia Lopez who, sadly, spent most of his career in DC Comics' licensing arm drawing style sheets and merchandising artwork, but he drew some spectacular Superman team-up stories in early issues of DC Comics Presents. I'm ending this survey of the Man of Tomorrow's yesterdays with a drawing from his that shows Superman's changing looks from his debut in 1938 through to the 1990s.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Thru Thicket and Thin' is a nutty send-up of jungle pictures

Thru Thin and Thicket, or Who's Zoo in the Jungle (1933)
Starring: Eddie Borden, Dorothy Granger, and James Finlayson
Director: Mark Sandrich
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

A booze-happy reporter (Borden) and an unscrupulous African explorer (Finlayson) compete for the attention of Tarkana, Queen of the Jungle (Granger).

"Thru Thin and Thicket, or Who's Zoo in the Jungle" is a fabulous send-up of the jungle explorer genre of adventure films. From the first mocking of the liberal use of stock nature footage in such pictures, through the final scene of "jungle domestic bliss", this film offers some 20 minutes of absurdist humor with barely a break between gags to let the viewers catch their breath from laughing.

Eddie Borden and James Finlayson (the latter of whom I recognized from his many parts as the frustrated man caught up in Laurel & Hardy antics) are great fun as the smarmy would-be beneficiaries of Tarkana's Innocent Affections... and Dorothy Granger is hilarious as the not-so-innocent wild woman. Everything you expect in a jungle picture is either turned on its head or savagely mocked (or both) in this brief film, including the portrayal of the natives. (And I can't even comment on one of the film's funniest and most startling gags, because even mentioning it will ruin its impact.)

"Thru Thin and Thicket" is one of 13 short films that were produced by members and starred members of the Masquers Club, a private social club for comedians as fund-raising vehicles for charity and to fund a new meeting place in the early 1930s. Several of them are available on DVD, or can be viewed for free online.

And while I'm at it, here are some publicity stills of Dorothy Granger as Tarkana. (The weird contraption she's sitting next to in one is a "radio" that is playing music in a scene.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

It's Friday the 13th!

Adrienne Ames wants everyone to know what day it is, and she wants everyone to watch out that bad luck doesn't strike them (and let's not even get into the threat of goalie-mask-wearing maniacs!).

Meanwhile, Jeanne Carmen is like the honey badger, 'cause she just don't care!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Musical Monday: 'Hey Ho' by Gin Wigmore

"Hey Ho" was a single from Gin Wigmore's 2009 "Holy Smoke" album. It's cool song with an even cooler video, shot entirely in black and white.

You can read more about this fantastic talent from New Zealand here. You can also visit her official website here.

Monday, April 2, 2018

'Ticket to a Crime' starts strong, but falters

Ticket to a Crime (1934)
Starring: Ralph Graves, Lola Lane, James Burke, Charles Ray, Lois Wilson, John Elliot, and Hy Hoover
Director: Lewis Collins
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When a financially troubled jeweler (Elliot) is murdered before he even has a chance to fully explain why he's hiring P.I. Clay Holt (Graves), Holt and his secretary (Lane) must not only find the killer, but try to learn what their job was supposed to be.

"Ticket to a Crime" is one of those films I started out liking, but which fell in my estimation as it progressed. It benefits from a pair of charismatic leads (Graves and Lane) that played well off each other, and the mystery at the center of the film is more complex that what is often the case with these low-budget films, with multiple possible motivations for the murder, as well as a slate of several likely suspects.

Unfortunately, the interesting plot and its relative complexities get derailed as the pace of the film accelerates during its second act and then rushes toward its conclusion with such a breakneck pace that the solution to the case feels lazy (and the criminal behind the action appears to be complete moron). But even before that, the character of Clay Holt (Ralph Graves) who started out as a charming, if somewhat self-absorbed rogue, has turned into a detestable and unlikable jackass.

First, there was the way he treated his secretary--she barely rated a kind word from him when she was wearing glasses and frumpy business clothing, but once she was in a party dress and without her "cheaters", he was head-over-heels in love. Was this really an amusing or endearing trait to movie-goers in the 1930s? From the moment Penny (played by Lola Lane) appeared on screen, I thought, "Wow... that's a pretty woman" and the fact that Clay Holt couldn't see that made me think he was either gay or stupid.

And, speaking of stupid, the second thing drags the character of Clay Holt down is his persistent pranking/tormenting of his former partner from his days on the police force, the slow-on-the-uptake Lt. McGinnis (James Burke, in a role he played many times over his career). Not only does he thoroughly obstruct McGinnis's investigation by withholding, and even planting fake, evidence, but he identifies a completely innocent bystander to McGinnis as a person he is seeking. Early in the film, a police official threatens to pull Holt's investigator license... given his behavior over the course of "Ticket to a Crime", not only should that license be pulled but Holt desperately needs to be prosecuted and locked up, since his behavior not only obstructed justice but it endangered both police officers and civilians.

Even if the writers hadn't completely botched the character of Holt, the rushed ending in and of itself ruins what began as a nice mystery picture. The solution to the crime is so simple that the criminal never had a chance of getting away with it in the first place: If Holt hadn't concealed evidence, even McGinnis would have identified the killer well before the disappointing Big Reveal. What's worse, the ending--the entire second half of the movie, actually, is so sloppy and rushed that we don't even find out the reason for why Clay and Penny were hired in the first place.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Picture Perfect Wednesday: Hedy Lamarr

In "Hollywoodland", the time-traveling heroes of "Timeless" went to 1941 to save Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" from oblivion. Along the way, they met Hedy Lamarr (portrayed by Alyssa Sutherland), 1940s superstar and brilliant inventor who came up with the basic idea that led to WiFi.

Here are some promotional stills and glamour shots of the real Lamarr. Maybe I'll dig around to see if I can find some suitable images of Sutherland and feature her on some Wednesday as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sherlock Sunday: The Great Detective on TV

From now until I run out of reviews, I will be giving my take on black-and-white Sherlock Holmes adaptations on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Sherlock Holmes (39 half-hour episodes, produced 1954-1955)
Starring: Ronald Howard, Howard Marion Crawford, Archie Duncan and Kenneth Richards
Directors: Steve Previn (25 episodes), Sheldon Reynolds (9 episodes) and Jack Gage (4episodes)
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

From 1954 through 1955, Ronald Howard starred as Sherlock Holmes, with Howard Marion-Crawford as Dr. Watson, in a 39-episode series that was produced in France with a British cast. The half-hour episode were mostly original stories, with some drawing heavily on some of Doyle's original tales (like "The Case of the Red Headed League," and "The French Interpreter," which was almost a straight adaptation of "The Greek Interpreter"). 

The series is more lighthearted than most Holmes adaptations that don't bill themselves as comedy, with Watson, Holmes and Lestrade taking turns at being the focus of humor, the butt of jokes, and even solving the mysteries at hand.

Ronald Howard's Holmes is a flighty, playful man possessed with an almost juvenile sense of humor. While he is every bit the genius one finds in the Conan Doyle tales, he comes across more like an overgrown child than a man who grows erratic when bored. But he is also probably far more fun to be around than Holmes would have been as he was written by Watson (and portrayed in most other adaptions). In fact, the boyish nature of Holmes as we find him here makes the cluttered rooms at 221B Baker Street seem almost like a clubhouse where he and Watson hang out after school. It's a sense that is enhanced by the good humor and comedy running through nearly every episode.

The comedic touches in the episodes is a nice addition to the Holmes tales, but an even nicer touch is the fact that Watson is repeatedly shown to be smart and capable. On more than on occasion, he even manages to out-do Holmes, primarily because Watson is more down-to-earth and less prone to flights of fancy. Another refreshing aspect to Watson's character is that he more than once stands up to Holmes rather fiercely, refusing to be the brunt of his jokes and on more than one occasion getting Holmes to apologize. In fact, the relationship between Holmes and Watson seems more real in this series than in several other versions, despite the buffoonery and antics.

Another interesting aspect of the series is the way Archie Duncan appears as several different characters throughout. His main role is as Inspector Lestrade, but he also appears as Lestrade's cousin and even one of the villains as the series unfolds.

Like all television series, this one is a mixed bag. Of the 39 episodes produced, a handful are excellent (like "The Case of the Jolly Hangman" where Holmes helps a widow by proving her husband didn't commit suicide, "The Case of the Perfect Husband" where Holmes must save an innocent woman from her psychopathic husband while attempting to prove that he has murdered half a dozen women previously) or "The Case of the Belligerent Ghost" where Watson is repeated assaulted by a dead man), a few are absolutely awful (like "The Case of the Texas Cowgirl" which has a nonsensical plot and a lame mystery, while "The Case of the Thistle Killer" was so weak that Holmes should hang his head in shame for taking so long to solve it), but most are decent little mystery tales. Some have darker tones than others--"The Case of the Perfect Husband" and "The Mother Hubbard Case" are chillers that deal with deadly serial killers, while "The Christmas Pudding" sees Holmes under real threat of death for perhaps the only time in the whole series--but the series can be a great introduction to Sherlock Holmes if you have young kids who are getting into mysteries.

There are a couple of different DVD packages that contain the entire series. I viewed the one issued by Mill Creek. The quality of the source tapes varies from episode to episode, but the sound is generally clear and the picture is only occasionally washed out. It's not perfect, but the three-disk set is very reasonably priced.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Milla Jovovich Quarterly:
Looking Out for Spring

Spring is here. Milla is patrolling the streets, looking to pop a cap in Winter if he dares to show his cold nose again!