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6/10
Early work by Joseph H. Lewis
2 February 2003
Joseph H. Lewis, who went on to become one of the leading directors of B movies in the 40s and 50s, here directed Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan and the East Side Kids as they head for the country as members of FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. The story is a pot-boiler about bad-boy Gorcey's reformation, which takes place more in the boxing ring than in the work camp. The boxing scenes are pretty weak, but the rapid editing and a long tracking shot suggest Lewis's later stylishness. Not that much of a movie, but a reasonably diverting way to spend 61 minutes.
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General Electric Theater (1953–1962)
An early James Dean TV performance, now available on DVD
9 August 2002
James Dean is the only reason to view this film, a dark, grainy kinescope of a 1954 General Electric Theater adaptation of Sherwood Anderson's classic short story, "I'm a Fool." You can't help but notice his remarkable command of his voice, his facial expressions, and especially his body. And he was only 23 years old! It is tempting sometimes to think of Dean's posthumous fame as a product of his tragic death, but he was the real thing, a brilliant, instinctive artist who would have rivaled Brando and Newman as the leading actor of his generation if he had survived.

Unfortunately, this adaptation departs significantly from Anderson's story, perhaps due to budgetary. Live TV drama was a low budget affair, and that probably didn't matter much if the material was appropriate to the form. But Anderson's story was so good that it seems a shame to change it, and especially to leave out key scenes.

If you're interested in seeing a very good version of "I'm a Fool," check out the one that Ron Howard starred in for PBS's 1970s "American Short Story" series. Howard is no James Dean, but he is a more than proficient actor, well suited to the part, and everything else about this second version of "I'm a Fool" is far superior to the one in which Dean starred -- including the color photography and video transfer. So far as I know it isn't available in DVD, but the VHS version remains in circulation.

And read Sherwood Anderson's short story, too. It is a small masterpiece by a great American writer whose work hasn't often been adapted to film.
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Time Limit (1957)
7/10
Engrossing Korean War Court-Martial Drama
26 July 2002
Richard Widmark exudes concern and empathy as an army colonel investigating the circumstances behind a charge of treason. The film also contains effective performances by Richard Basehart, as the accused traitor, a major who shares a secret he is unwilling to reveal, and a young Rip Torn as a lieutenant who is also willing to keep the secret even though he knows it will lead to a miscarriage of justice. The film is based on a play, and Karl Malden, in his only directing assignment, tries hard to open it up, but most of the scenes take place in Widmark's office, and there are way too many point of view shots of one person talking while another listens. Malden does make effective use of a few flashbacks to a frigid P.O.W. barracks in North Korea, and there are some interesting shots of the military base at Governors Island in New York City, but the film suffers somewhat from staginess. Piercing, discordant, almost alarmingly loud music by Fred Steiner punctuates scenes in the P.O.W. camps, where a complex mixture of motives lead to actions that have devastating consequences.
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7/10
Winning Depression Era Romantic Comedy
24 June 2002
The Depression era comes alive in this film about a waitress (Wynne Gibson) who falls in love with a street-fighting hoodlum, Red Branagan (William Gargan). When Branagan goes to prison for beating up some cops, Aggie is left broke and on her own, eventually meeting Adoniram Schlump (Charles Farrell), a rich sissy from Upstate trying to make it in the big city. Under Aggie's tutelage, Schlump takes on Branagan's identity and his combativeness. Then the real Branagan gets out of prison....

Gibson and Gargan are particularly good as a couple of tough New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, and Farrell (reminiscent here of Harold Lloyd, whom he slightly resembled) comes alive as a neurotic rich boy who finds success as a brawler. The film's use of slang is especially entertaining -- dated, but colorful. (Aggie tells Schlump: "Stop talking like a lollipop. Use some words with hair on them.")

Can't help wondering whether the film's clever title would have been possible a year or two later, with the coming of the Production Code.
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6/10
Improbable, Mildly Entertaining Victorian Thriller.
21 June 2002
Peter Lawford stars as Nicholas Revel, a jewel thief who is mistaken for a serial killer of London police officers. To clear himself, Revel has to catch the real killer. An improbably plotted, cliche-ridden, mildly entertaining mystery with Lawford as his usual handsome, debonair, bland self. Not much action except for an effective fight between Revel and the murderer at the film's climax. The cast wanders through a foggy, gaslit studio set that looks like it was left over from a Sherlock Holmes film. This sort of story has been done worse, but it has been done better, too. Mostly it has been done too often.
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7/10
Fast-moving, well-acted B Western
14 June 2002
Entertaining Western set in the early months of the Civil War. Stage coaches connecting Union states in the East with Arizona and California are being hijacked by Southern sympathizers. Grif Holbrook (Rod Cameron) and Barney Broderick (Wayne Morris), employees of the stage line, work together to find the hijackers while they compete for the affection of bookkeeper Kate Crocker (Kay Buckley). Plenty of action -- fist fights, gun fights, chase scenes -- and some unexpected humor too, revolving around the rivalry between the two men. Nothing the least bit original here, but plenty of excitement and some laughs as well.
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If you enjoy pulp stories, you'll like Reported Missing.
26 April 2002
Count the pulp magazine conventions in this one: a mysterious invention, disappearing airliners, a mysterious masked villain, a stalwart hero who is a pilot and an inventor, his two buddies who provide a little (very little) comic relief, and a pretty stewardess who is the hero's girl friend. Oh, yes, and the FBI man who appears in the nick of time and helps the hero save the day. Somehow it all adds up to an entertaining B movie, so long as you don't look too hard for plot holes or object to pretty basic production values. Stock footage of vintage 1930s airplanes provides another point of interest.
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Don't Look for Historical Accuracy
12 April 2002
Don't look for historical accuracy, but this story of history's best-known self-confessed lover leading a rebellion against foreign tyranny in late 18th century Sicily has great sword play, romantic intrigue, good photography and a surprisingly big-budget look. Mexican actor Arturo Cordova is a smooth, athletic lead. American Lucille Bremert plays the feisty aristocrat who schemes to win his heart, and exotic Turhan Bey is the second lead who dies for love. The film is fun while you are watching it, but it is disappointing to learn that in 1973, when the movie allegedly took place, Casanova was a 68-year-old librarian living in Bohemia.
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8/10
Funny, Enjoyable
5 April 2002
A funny, entertaining B movie about two loggers, played by George Reeves and Ralph Byrd, who are competing to move logs and win the hand of a faithless girl. Lyle Talbot plays the oily crook who tries to fix the competition and steal the girl. Reeves, who later gained fame playing Superman, was a good comedian with an easy manner in front of the camera. Byrd, who had been Dick Tracy in a number of serials, was a less engaging actor, but the two men seemed to have a good time playing off each other. Nice footage of the North Woods and logging operations, even if it appeared to be canned.
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6/10
Funny -- Tasteless, But Funny
12 June 1999
The second Austin Powers film had quite a few moments that were as funny as the first one. Unfortunately, it had a lot of scatalogical humor which the first film did not have. One or two scenes were downright sickening. IMHO, Mike Myers should stick to the penis jokes and leave the poopie jokes to lesser filmmakers.
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Heat of the Sun (1998– )
Most Enjoyable Mix
22 February 1999
This series mixes genres and conventions in a most enjoyable way. It has elements of police procedural, hard-boiled detective story, historical mystery, and colonial soap opera. Trevor Eve is fun to watch as Tyburn, the tough, incorruptible British cop who is both repelled and amused by British society in 1930s Nairobi, Kenya, while refusing to become enmeshed in its racism and decadence. The lovely Susannah Harker is under-used as his aviatrix girl friend. The rest of the supporting cast is highly effective. I am not an expert on the period, but the stories give a good flavor of life as it was lived in that place and time.
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5/10
Slow-moving love story
16 January 1999
I might have enjoyed At First Sight a lot more if it had edited down to about 100 minutes. It moved slowly, and although there were some good scenes scattered throughout, there were slow patches between them. Most of the acting was good, although whenever I see Bruce Davison in a movie looking meltingly sincere and sympathetic it makes me long for Stallone or Schwarzenegger.

I hate that phrase "chick flick" but I must admit that my wife enjoyed this film a lot.
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Vampires (1998)
7/10
A superior vampire film
5 November 1998
An entertaining vampire film with strong characters and a better-than-average plot. In his leather jacket, John Lennon shades and jeans, James L. Woods is an iconic vampire hunter in the employ of the Catholic Church. Sheryl Lee is the most fetching victim of vampirism since Winona Ryder in Francis Coppola's Dracula. Recommended.
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