Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Extra Picture Perfect Wednesday:
Beware the 31 Nights of Halloween!

Starting Friday, October 1, 2010,
at Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!

Picture Perfect Wednesday: Gloria Stuart

Gloria Stuart was one of the untold number of talented actresses who came close to stardom, but who never got that perfect part to launch from. She appeared in a couple dozen movies in the 1930s and 1940s, mostly from Twentieth Century-Fox and Universal Pictures before leaving the film business to return to stage acting and, later, a successful career as an artist. She returned to screen fame late in life when she had a role in James Cameron's mega-hit "Titanic."

Born on July 4, 1910, Stuart passed away on September 26, 2010. Matthew Coniam posted a nice farewell to her at Movietone News.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hitchcock revisits early style in 'Stage Fright'

Stage Fright (1950)
Starring: Jane Wyman, Richard Todd, Michael Wilding, Marlene Dietrich, and Alastair Sim
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A flighty acting student (Wyman) tries to help a friend she thinks she's in love with (Todd) when it looks like he is being drawn into a murder cover-up by a manipulative diva (Dietrich). Things get even more complicated when she realizes she is actually in love with the police detective working to solve the murder (Wilding) and when she comes to fear that her friend was more than just an innocent bystander in the murder plot.

Although made in 1950, "Stage Fright" feels more like the movies Hitchcock made in the 1930s like "Young and Innocent" rather than his other films from around this same time, such as "Strangers on a Train". Maybe it's because of the English setting and characters, but for some reason, the mix of humor-to-suspense, the pacing of the story, and even the outcome, gives the film a tone that Hitchcock will never again use. Perhaps, as is suggested on the DVD commentary track, this film was Hitchcock's "goodbye" to England and that early part of his career, even if it came roughly a decade after his relocation to Hollywood. Everything I found so pleasant, charming, and oh-so-early-20th-century British about Hitchcock's early films are present in this

Some viewers may not like the quaintness of the film's characters, most of whom feel like they belong in an Agatha Christie novel, or perhaps even a detective novel directed at teenaged girls what with the central character been an independent-minded, if a naive and prone to over-romanticising everything, girl who is out to do the right thing, her way. (Although as far as that goes, this may well be one of the more "girl-friendly" mystery movies I've come across.)

However, it is that very quaint, old-fashioned nature of so many of the movies characters that make the villains seem all that more evil and twisted when their natures and motives come to light. The character played by Richard Todd--our young heroine's original love interest--seems all the more terrifying and threatening when his full psychopathic nature comes to light because he is surrounded by such otherwise gentle and fundementally well-mannered people. It is one of the most intense scenes in any Hitchcock film.

Another thing that works far better than it has a right to is the insta-romance featured in this picture. I've complained about this plot device in many films before--the one where characters meet and instantly fall in love because supposedly their Fated to be True Loves but in reality it's Dictated By Plot Needs--but here it actually works. Maybe I can buy into the sudden and complete romance between our heroine and the police detective because of the old-fashioned atmosphere that permeates the film, or maybe it's because of the clumsy and realistic way their relationship gets its start, but it was for once one I could buy into, and one that I found myself caring about when it looked like it was going to fall apart.

It could also be that I buy into the insta-romance because Jane Wyman's Eve and MIchael Wilding's "Ordinary" Smith are so likable both in the way they are acted and the way they are written that even my cynic's heart gave way to well-wishes and romantic impulses. The characters are charming and the actors have great on-screen charisma. Wyman and Wilding make perhaps one of the best couples to ever grace a Hitchcock film.

There is really only one downside to "Stage Fright", and it's one that critics and Hitchcock himself has slammed it for. The film opens with a "flashback" that we later learn isn't entirely true. Hithcock reportedly stated that he later regretted starting the movie that way, and critics have commented that a film should never include a flashback that's a lie. Personally, it didn't bother me that much, although I would have liked there to have been a clue or two that demonstrated the lie before it is explained to us so that I might have figured it out on my own, but perhaps my perspective is informed by the fact that I've sat through entire movies that turned out to be lies, such as "The Usual Suspects."

If you love the early Hitchcock movies, you need to check out "Stage Fright". Like so many of his British pictures, this is a sorely under-appreciated effort.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mohammed Monday: Women's Rights

Here's another dreaded cartoon of blasphemy. It originally appeared at Jesus and Mo.

(This week's post is dedicated to Imam Anwar al-Awlaki,
without whom this special series would never have happened.)

The long-running "Jesus and Mo" cartoon strips have been collected in book form. Click here to see the listings at

If you would like to submit an original Mohammed cartoon to appear in this space, email it  to me as a jpg or gif attachment. Your contribution will be as anonymous or as attributed as you choose.

Friday, September 24, 2010

'Midnight Limited' is a train of mystery

Midnight Limited (1940)
Starring: Marjorie Reyolds, John King, and George Cleveland
Director: Howard Bretherton
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A "phantom bandit" is robbing passengers on the overnight night train from Albany to Montreal and then vanishing without a trace. Rail company detective (King) teams with the only person to get a look at the bandit's face (Reynolds) in hopes of bringing him to justice.

Poor John King. The man did have some talent for acting, but it seems like he always was cast against female co-stars who are so energetic they overwhelm him and make him look like a bump on a log when they share scenes. Such was the case in "Half a Sinner" and it happens to him again in "Midnight Limited". King isn't exactly bad, but he can't hold his own against the strong screen presence and powerful personality of Marjorie Reynolds.

King's drab personality stands out even more, because this is a badly done, boring movie. From the sets, to the sound effects (the Midnight Limited must be a marvel in train technology... never before has the world known such a quiet, stable train! All the cars must be mounted on Serta matresses!), to the poorly written dialogue and uneven pacing of the script, there really is nothing here that's done well. Except perhaps the running time. At just over an hour, "Midnight Limited" is dull but not tortorous to sit through.

Only the presense of the always delightful Reynolds and the mysterious drunk played with great flair by George Cleveland make this film watchable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Picture Perfect Wednesday: Anna May Wong

Born in 1905, Anna May Wong (aka Liu-Tsong Wong) was the first Chinese-American movie star. Born to parents who ran a laundry service, her dreams of being an actress overcame both the disapproval of her conservative family and the deeply ingrained racism of the emerging film industry.

Although her name was a big draw with the public during the late silent movie period, and made she made a successful transition to talkies and became an even bigger star, Wong became frustrated with the racist attitudes of Hollywood that kept her from playing truly choice roles. She started making films both in Europe and the United States, thus also becoming the first international Chinese American movie star.

In 1935, Wong traveled to her ancestral homeland of China where she once again discovered that she was once again popular with movie-goers, but treated with disdain by the Chinese film community and even the very government. Once again, she ran head-long into institutional racism, this time from her "own people."

Wong wrote, "It's a pretty sad situation to be rejected by Chinese because I'm 'too American' and by American producers because they prefer other races to act Chinese parts."

In the late 1930s, Wong finally got her chance to play the non-stereotypical roles she had been desperate for her entire career. Paramount featured her in a string of B-movies that let her "play against type" and portray Chinese women who were successful business people or doctors.

As Japanese aggression spread across the Pacific and the facts about their brutality in occupied China came to light, Wong devoted her fame and fortune to assisting Chinese refugees and related causes. During the 1940s, she appeared only in a few movies, but they were all geared toward the war effort against Japan.

In 1952, Wong had her first and only major television role, starring in "The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong." a short-lived detective show for a long-defunct network. No copies of the episodes, scripts, or promotional materials for the program are known to exist. That series was also her final major acting job, as her health began to rapidly deteriorate afterwards, due to a number of ailments brought on by smoking, drinking, and chronic depression. She passed away in 1961 from a heart attack.

Anna May Wong was honored in 1960 with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and an award named after her--the Anna May Wong Award of Excellence--is given out yearly at the Asian-American Arts Awards.

For more about Anna May Wong, check out this interesting website.

You can click here for more pictures of Anna May Wong at Cinema Steve, as well as information about how she may or may not have been the cause of earthquakes in the 1929 and 1942.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making 'The Most Dangerous Game' Boring

Bloodlust (1961)
Starring: Wilton Graff, Robert Reed, June Kenney, Joan Lora, Eugene Persson, and Lilyan Chauvin
Director: Ralph Brooks
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A homicidal madman (Graff) traps two young couples (Reed, Kenney, Lora, and Persson) on his private island and hunts them for sport... and for future display in his trophy room.

A "The Most Dangerous Game"-like riff (or maybe just rip-off) that is sapped of all excitement, tension, and horror by lackluster production values, weak wooden acting, awful dialogue, and an unbelievably stupid script. (Four strapping young people just stand there and listen to Graff as he tells them he's going to hunt them and kill them. Why didn't they just knock him on the head just then and there? More to the point, why would someone like Graff's character who likes hunting people because they're more dangerous prey than animals even WANT to hunt four people so passive they stand there while he gives a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong speech about how he's going to kill them?)

If I'm to be charitable, I would suggest that this script may have been written for a 12-page comic book story for "House of Mystery"--it would explain the speeches that go on forever, as word balloons ever seem to be as verbose on the page than if you read them out loud--but someone decided it would make more money as a movie. And so, they conned, um, CONVINCED Cincegrafik into producing it.

A far more real answer is that the screen writer and director on this project both show a distinct lack of talent.

While there are a few glimmers of something interesting now and then--Graff goes a passable Vincent Price imitation, and has a few almost funny lines... and the revelation of what's in the trophy room is creepy--but any developing potential is quickly squandered through a combination of bad acting and bad script-writing.

This is one movie to just take a pass on. It's so dull that even the "Mystery Science Theater" version is only mildly amusing, teetering on the brink between a Five and a Six rating. (Although, the 'bots do say everything you'll think to yourself if you don't heed my advice. This movie isn't so "bad it's good", it's just bad.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome to the first Mohammed Monday

I explained the "why" of this here and here. I've been raging about Muslim assholes who think they can bully and threaten anyone who doesn't subscribe to their world-view and bizarre ideas of what is and isn't idolatry and blasphemy for some two decades now. I won't be stopping any time soon... unless I'm "disappeared" like artist Molly Norris.

The inaugural Mohammed Mondays cartoon is by South African editorial cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, created as a commentary on "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day".

And if you're so inclined, you can spare me any mealy-mouthed lectures about the "moderate Muslims." I've been watching these fatwa-issuing freaks get bolder and more mainstream and more violent for the past twenty years. I've been watching Western media get more and more timid in the face of their threats. If the "moderate Muslims" haven't done anything to stop them by now, they're not going to.

If you feel inclined to submit a cartoon for inclusion in a future Mohammed Mondays post, you can send it as an attachment to the email address in my profile. But please know that I won't put up any cartoons that depict Mohammed as a pig or a pile of dung or any such thing. I may not buy into the idol-worshiping beliefs of what the news tells me are all Muslims, but I also don't feel the need to pass along stupid stuff like that. (Oh, and a further requirement is that the cartoon must be in black-and-white... although I would imagine that probably didn't need to be said, given the nature of this blog.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Be careful not to wake 'The Sleeping Tiger'

The Sleeping Tiger (1954)
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Alexis Smith, Alexander Knox, Hugh Griffith, and Patricia McCarron
Diretor: Victor Hanbury (aka Joseph Losey)
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A psychotherapist (Knox) invites a wanted criminal (Bogarde) to stay in his home in the hopes of finding a solid treatment for criminal behavior. The experiment starts to go awry when the doctor's sociopathic, bored wife (Smith) starts an affair with the criminal in the hopes that she will run away with her.

"The Sleeping Tiger" is an overblown melodrama with just enough character development and film noir elements to make it interesting. A decent cast also helps the movie along quite nicely.

Dirk Bogarde--as the young career criminal who finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place, but who might find his way to a new life if he can go straight--and Alexis Smith--as a gorgeous and deeply twisted woman who has everything except a soul) give outstanding performances, with Alexander Knox providing a fine backdrop for them to play off, as he plays a bland but unshakably confident man of science who only has thoughts of his experiment.

There's nothing really outstanding about this British excursion into the film noir/crime drama genre, but there's also nothing particularly awful. It's one of those films that's worth checking out if you notice it included in a DVD multipack, or if it shows up on some cable channel, but it's not worth going out of your way for.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cartoonist Molly Norris eradicated by terrorists

Muslim terrorists and those desperate to appease them rather than confront them have successfully eradicated Molly Norris.

Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris goes into hiding after death threat over 'Draw Mohammed Day' -

I believe it is time for me to institute "Mohammed Mondays" on this blog. This can't be allowed to stand.

Let's get this party started. (Yeah, it's Friday, but there's no time like the present when it comes to glorious images of the Prophet Mohammed (may piss be upon him).

(Originally appeared on Irregular Times, Feb. 28, 2006, in an editorial that demonstrates both the insanity of Muslim idolaters and the craven cowardice their accomplices in the press.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Picture Perfect Wednesday:
Paul Gulacy and Blood on Black Satin

This installment features a little more text than usual. Please bear with me.

Of Half-Remembered Horrors....

When I was a kid in the early 1980s, I got my hands on a few issues of "Creepy" and/or "Eerie" magazines and fragmented memories of the art for those stories have stuck with me-perhaps even haunted me--ever since.

One tale involved a guy who was either a real estate broker or just some poor schmuck who's car had broken down, who goes to visit a house on a hill that turns out to be a giant monster. I remember how the runner carpet in the hallway turns out to be a tongue.

Another take involved some kids and a bully who ends up locked in a fridge at the end. I think the art must have been by Tom Sutton, because I remember it being both scary and very ornate.

And then there's the story of a private detective or reporter or something like that who was fighting a killer in a jack-o-lantern mask, as he and a girl were trying to escape the clutches of a Satanic cult. I remember wishing I could have read the whole story--as what I was reading was but one chapter in a multi-part series--and I remember knowing that it would probably have been very cool, because it was by the same artist who was doing the James Bond-esque Kung Fu stuff over in "Master of Kung Fu," Paul Gulacy.

Of Horror Rediscovered....

Some 25-30 years later, I have finally gotten to read not only that half-remembered chapter with the Gulacy art, but the entire story, thanks to Joe Bloke's excellent Grantbridge Street and Other Misadventures blog.

Titled "Blood on Black Satin," it was a three-part series by Gulacy and writer Doug Moench, and it was well worth the decades-long wait. It's ever bit as excellent as the other masterworks these two collaborated on, such as the two "Six From Sirius" mini-series and their run on "Master of Kung Fu". It is perhaps some of the very best material to every appear in "Eerie," even if was printed during the magazine's twilight years in the 1980s.

Joe Bloke has posted crystal clear scans of the stories, and if you're a fan of gothic horror, I recommend you go read them. It's truly great stuff. Click on the links to read each chapter, and click on the sample illos to see larger versions. (The same is true of the scanned pages at Grantbridge Street.

Blood on Black Satin, Part One (from Eerie #109)

Blood on Black Satin, Part Two (from Eerie #110)

Blood on Black Satin, Part Three (from Eerie #111)

Click here to visit Paul Gulacy's website.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

'Halo and Sprocket' is a must-read

Halo and Sprocket: Welcome to Humanity (Amaze Ink/SLG Publishing, 2003)
Story and Art: Kerry Callen (with eight pages of pin-ups by other artists)
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures (Amaze Ink/SLG Publishing, 2008)
Story and Art: Kerry Callen (with five pages of pin-ups and guest strips by other artists)
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

"Halo and Sprocket" is the story of Katie, a young single woman, and her two roommates, Halo the Angel and Sprocket the Robot. More accurately, it's a series of short stories, each revolving around some everyday activity or social convention so commonplace that most people don't even think twice about, but which may seem baffling or downright twisted to someone who has little or no understanding of human behavior or societal conventions.

And in each "Halo and Sprocket" tale, Katie is faced either with trying to explain some "fact of life" to a pair of genuinely interested pupils, or trying to deal with problems that arise from their attempts to implement what they have learned (or think they have learned). These stories are short and straight-forward, and they manage to be very insightful while poking fun at social standards and commonly held beliefs without being cruel, rather sweet in tone without being sappy, and even romantic without lapsing into sentimentality. Callen also shows himself to be master of just about every stripe of comedy, from the lowest of slapstick humor to more convoluted gags involving metaphysics, philosophy, and even the alphabet.

Callen presents his stories with a clean, classical cartoon style, with expert comic timing through sharply written dialogue and perfectly designed panels and pages. It's another one of the countless comics that deserved to a much bigger success that it was. It deserved to consist of twenty volumes, instead of just the two.

The stories in the books run varying lengths, with the longest ones being 14 pages and the shortest ones being as a page, and each being just the right length to deliver Callen's punch lines. The first volume also includes a a collection of sketches and early comic strips that show the creative evolution of Katie and her two unusual roommates.

For more about "Halo and Sprocket," visit Kerry Callen's webite. You can read some Halo and Sprocket strips there, although my personal favorites are "About Face" (in which Sprocket tries to find a way to express anger) and "But is it Art" (in which the gang visits a street fair and Halo and Sprocket learn about artwork) from Volume One, and "Food for Thought" (where the gang goes on a picnic and Halo uses his divine powers to temporarily make Sprocket human) and "Trivial Consequences" (where Katie sets out to first trick Halo into revealing secrets of the Universe and later to simply pull a practical joke on him) in Volume Two.

I think anyone who enjoys gentle, intelligent humor and well-drawn comics will find the "Halo and Sprocket" books worthy additions to their personal library.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's all very Russian...

The Drums of Jeopardy (1931)
Starring: Warner Oland, June Collyer, Lloyd Hughes, Hale Hamilton, Wallace MacDonald, Clara Blandick, and Mischa Auer
Director: George B. Seitz
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When one of the men of the Petrov family makes his daugher pregnant, dumps her, and causes her to commit suicide, but then won't own up to his misdeed, Dr. Boris Karlov (Oland) sets out to gain revenge by seeing them all dead. He persues them halfway around the world, to America, where a secret service agent (Hamilton) and a feisty young American woman (Collyer) end up in the middle of this Russian struggle for survival and revenge.

"Drums of Jeopardy" is a nifty little thriller from the early days of talkies that's jam-packed with meldodrama, action, and humor. Its fast-paced script hardly gives the viewers a chance to realize that just about everything in this film has become almost painfully cliche in the nearly eighty years since its original release, nor does it pause long enough to really let us consider how outrageous and dimwitted the "brilliant" plan of the Federal Agents who match wits with Karlov is. We're too busy hating the slimy Russian nobleman Prince Gregor (Wallace MacDonald) who not only impregnated and dumped a poor girl, refuses to live up to what he's done and ultimately tries to sell out everyone else to save his own skin; admiring the beauty of the resourceful young Kitty Connover (June Collyer), snickering at the comic relief provided by her sharp-tongued aunt (Clara Blandick), and grinning with sinister glee as Dr. Karlov delivers zingers and pulls tricks on the good guys that allows him to take a place among the great villains of movie history 's zingers as his evil plans fall into place (an honor deserved in no small part due to an excellent performance by character actor Warner Oland who is best remembered or playing Charlie Chan and for his role in "Werewolf of London").

Another remarkable aspect of this film that sets it apart from many of its contemporaries is that it has a villain that the viewer can relate to. His daughter was violated and tossed aside by the Petrovs, so, given that this is a melodramatic thriller and we're talking about Russians here, it's only natural he'd take elaborate and final revenge against not only the Petrovs but Russian nobility in general. Karlov is a character who is almost like a tragic hero in his stature within this film and he is must more interesting than most film villains from the early days of film.

I should note that as much as I enjoyed this film, I was a little dissapointed in some apsects of how the story unfolded. I've already commented on the moronic nature of the government agents in the film, but a bigger dissapointment was that Karlov didn't really get his full revenge and we don't get to see that rat bastard Gregor die a slow and painful death. (That alone makes me wish for a remake of this movie. I'd love to see Tim Thomerson as Karlov!)

Speaking of Karlov... yes, the villain of this movie is named Boris Karlov. Given that this film is based on an American novel that was originally published in 1920, I think we can chalk this up to one of those weird coincidences. Karloff was an obscure stage actor touring Canadian backwaters at the time the book was written. (Although at least one source claims that Karloff chose his screen name because of the novel.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Picture Perfect Wednesday:
Some Sugar with the Snails

That's not a long-lost, unacknowledged member of the Beatles, but rather actress Milla Jovovich during one of her many photo shoots as a model.

Although I made his post partly to remind everyone that Jovovich's latest movie, "Resident Evil: Afterlife", opens Friday, September 10, I just realized that I've been featuring her on Picture Perfect Wednesday with near-perfect three month intervals. I think I've just started a new tradition.)

For more Jovovich, as well as reviews of all the Resident Evil movies up to this point, click here to visit the Terror Titans blog.

Monday, September 6, 2010

'Trapped by Television' is an
outdated techno-thriller

Trapped By Television (1936)
Starring: Mary Astor, Nat Pendleton, and Lyle Talbot
Director: Del Lord
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Want to see what contemporary techno-thrillers will look like to your grandchildren? Take a look at "Trapped By Television" and you'll get an insight into the future, as this action-comedy revolves around the latest, greatest, cutting-edge technology of 1936... TELEVISION!

In "Trapped by Television", a techno-geek bill collector (Pendleton) is sent to repo some equipment from a deadbeat (Talbot). The deadbeat turns out to be an inventor who has created the perfect television recording/broadcasting device, so instead of doing the repo job, the bill collector becomes the inventor's assistant, hooks him up with a couple of spunky (if crooked) promoters (led by Astor), and sets him on the path to selling his invention with a major broadcast company that has been attempting to develope their own television device.

Unfortunately, standing between the scientist and his roguish companions are a group of violent techno-thieves who have stolen some designs the broadcast company was developing and intend to sell them back to the company at a huge profit. Will our intrepid heroes gain fame and fortune and advance the technology of entertainment, or will television be their death trap?

"Trapped By Television" features a sharp script, likable characters, and some nice acting. It's fun watch, and it is a great illustration of how much things have changed in our world in 75 years.

It's a fun viewing experience on several different levels, and I recommend it very highly... assuming you can get yourself in a mindset that has television broadcasts as something new and exciting.

(A review of this movie also appears in the "Creaky Classics" chapter of 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See. It contains additional details and trivia about the film and actors appearing in it. It's one of the films included that I enjoy, but that I know many others will not.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Perhaps the butler actually did it this time!

Sinister Hands (1932)
Starring: Jack Mulhall, Crauford Kent, Mischa Auer, Phyllis Barrington, Louis Nathaeux, Gertie Messinger, Fletcher Norton, Phillips Smalley, Lillian West, and James P. Burtis
Director: Armand Shaefer
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A millionaire is murdered at a seance where EVERYONE (including the bulter) could have done it, and had reason to do it. It's up to homicide detective Herbert Devlin (Muhall) to sort through the suspicious characters and find the killer.

"Sinister Hands" is a decent little mystery that plays like an outline of an Agatha Christie novel. The first half sets up the future victim and all the people with reasons to kill him, and the second half is devoted mostly the detective interrogating the suspects as he tries to discover who did it, or trick the killer into revealing him- or herself.

There will be no great surprises in this film if you pay attention as it unfolds and if you've read/seen at least two or three other detective movies. (In fact, one of the things I found most interesting is completely trivial and not even related directly to the movie. It appeared that the characters were wearing unisex bathing suits at the pool party scene. I'd never noticed that men and women's swimwear was that close in style and appearance during the late 1920s and early 1930s. I also found it noteworthy that one of the suspects is a fake spiritualist named Yomurda. With a name like that, he can't possibly be the killer, can he? :D )

This is an entertaining little mystery film that is probably only of interest to big fans of the genre (like me) or those with a deep love of low-budget films from this era (which I also qualify as). It might also be a suitable second feature for a Bad Movie Night, because, while not exactly a bad movie, it is a film that time has passed by and which can give rise to much levity in the right company.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

City Slickers Get Caught in a Hillbilly Feud

Comin' Round the Mountain (1951)
Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Dorothy Shay, and Margaret Hamilton
Director: Charles Lamont
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When small-time talent agent Al Stewart (Abbott) book up-and-coming nightclub singer Dorothy McCoy (Shay) and talentless magician Wilbur the Magnificent (Costello) on the same bill, the two performers realize that not only are they cousins, but that Wilbur holds the key to locating a long-lost family treasure. So, the trio leave the big city for hillbilly country and riches... only to become embroiled in a reawakened backwoods feude between the McCoys and the Winfields.

"Comin' Round the Mountain" is definately one of Abbott & Costello's lesser films. This is partly because it that is also intended as a vehicle for singer Dorothy Shay. She has entirely too many musical numbers in the film (one would have been plenty), and her talent as an actress leaves something to be desired. I also think the hillbilly humor also hasn't aged well... well, or maybe the jokes just aren't that funny. (Although, paradoxically, part of me feels that if the film had spent a little more time on hillybillies fueding and shooting at each other, and gotten rid of some of the romance stuff, the film might have been funnier.)

Leave this one be, unless you're a tremendous A&C fan who must see all their films before your life is complete.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Picture Perfect Wednesday:
When Ninjas Vacation!

That's a publicity still for a 1958 film I came across on Vintage Ninja while trying to decide what movies I'd review in my upcoming Nine Days of the Ninja Blogathon.

No such scene actually appears in the movie, but the smiling faces reflect the very different way ninjas were portrayed in popular culture prior to the 1960s, something I wasn't aware of until I started lining up movies to review for the blogathon. Like zombie underwent a transformation during the 1960s from what they had been to what we now know is "right" today, so did the ninja.

More later. And if you think you'd like to take part in the Nine Days of Ninja Blogathon, drop me a line!
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