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Cutting Edge Then, Dull Edge Now
21 June 2021
If you can sit still for 90-minutes of endless talk, meaningless close-ups, no action, and just five speaking parts, you might enjoy this downer. Okay, so maybe there's a meaningful subtext hidden somewhere inside all the anxiety, but I was too bored by the one-note characters to care. Instead, I'll leave serious dialogue digging to those folks who somehow got interested. At the same time, there's Nicholson's frequent mugging coupled with Garfunkle's bland disinterest, that show up as meaningless indulgence on somebody's part. On the other hand, the sexy girls come across better both visually and performance-wise, thank goodness.

So why was the bummer so celebrated at the time. My guess is that the results got attention because they broke so many 1930's Production Code taboos that lingered into the early 70's and away from the airbrushed 1950's. In short, the flick was cutting-edge for its time. No need to recount the movie's no-no's here, but they are pretty explicit, even for now. Anyway, I don't remember being so bored by a sexually laden film in my many years of viewing. Maybe the lesson is that tasty spices don't substitute for an empty meal, as appears the case here. Too bad.
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Decoy: The Showplace (1958)
Season 1, Episode 21
A Whiskey And A Girl, Please
16 June 2021
Solid episode. Casey goes undercover in a clip-joint bar where girls get guys to buy them watered drinks for a percentage of the cost. Trouble is one of the bar girls is gruesomely strangled in a neighboring alley, and Casey has to find out who did it and why. Wow, certainly can't say the flick showcases good looks. Between ugly bartender Al (Polan) and homely owner Ben (Charles), their many close-ups had me hungering for the lovely Garland for relief. There's some plot suspense, but the story's more about character than mystery. And I like the twist ending that unexpectedly pivots on character. Anyway, for 1950's TV, the series's shows its unusual nature by taking on tricky subject matter, like scarcely veiled hookers in a low-life bar. So give the entry a look see, along with the series as a whole.
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A Winters Showcase
13 June 2021
Grotesque hijinks aside, the 90-minutes really amounts to a Winters showcase. But it's not the bitchy, brazen type role she was so good at. Instead, she's sweetly cunning, hiding her demented obsession with a dead daughter behind a smiling, generous concern for local orphans. If Aunti Roo is a witch, it's hiding somewhere deep inside. The flick itself builds toward the end, but is otherwise mainly a series of mild episodes strung out inside the mysterious mansion. The acting's good enough; instead, the difficulty's with a screenplay which appears unsure how to fill out the run-time. So we get side-episodes like Albie's phony seance, which is okay in itself, but unfortunately does little to drive the plot or overall suspense. Clearly, the real suspense revolves around the two vulnerable kids, Katy and Chris. Aside from the white-knuckle ending, it's that aspect that needs more suspenseful development, including more tension-building camera close-ups. Anyway, even in its lesser status, the film reminds me of two horror classics: Night of the Hunter (1955) where a innocent-seeming pastor menaces two kids, and Psycho (1960) where another obsessed nut-case preserves his dead mother in skeletal form.

Anyway, the horror flick's a decent time passer, but something of a disappointment given the talent involved.
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Over-Stretched, Despite Lively Garland
13 June 2021
Over-done, over-long victim of 1950's big budget efforts to lure audiences away from their livingroom little screens. Then too, short runtimes were the stuff of little budgets, not big audience ones. Thus, WB spared no expense with lavish sets, stage productions and big-screen photography. All in all, it's a great film to look at. Too bad the runtime is so heavily padded with over-extended and unnecessary scenes, long after we've gotten the point. At the same time, the sparkly Garland shines in her usual effortless way, while a miscast Mason does his best to overcome usual villian-type roles. However, his drab romantic scenes with Garland fail to spark the dramatic part's core.

To me, the high points are several of Garland's hypnotic ballads where the songs are spotlighted rather than the ones having her sing while bouncing around a distractive set. Also of interest are the many behind-the-scenes look at studio movie-making, especially the elaboate set-ups. I've long wondered how crews filmed ocean scenes, and here we get an edifying look.

Anyway, the basic story idea is a good one, and I can see why it's been remade so many times. Here, however, the over-stretch undercuts both the story and Garland's featured vocals. Too bad, but then production is from the movie embattled 1950', when bigger and longer automatically meant 'better'.
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Mr. & Mrs. North: Nosed Out (1952)
Season 1, Episode 6
Pam Dominates Cute Half-Hour
6 June 2021
A race track jockey is murdered and his body turns up, guess where- in Pam and Jerry's new car. So now they've got their own track to pursue.

Next time I go to the races, Pam's going to do my betting for me. What with her mastery of crazy math, I can't lose. Cute episode, more a crime theme than a mystery since we know early on who the killer is. But just give Pam a bag of groceries with some tea leaves and her big-eyed, psychic self will kick in, and crime solved. Then too, with a bag full of tomatoes our girl hardly needs a gun. The spotlight's on Britton here, with Jerry only putting in occasional appearances. So not much cuddling for the romantic twosome. But catch classic blonde vixen Veda Ann Borg in one of her patented trampy roles. Hope she got a good payday. Anyway, there's always something to get your attention, like a script that casually drops in a highbrow word like 'alliteration'! So be sure to catch up with our favorite TV couple as they come back from the track. Now where's my dictionary?
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Fargo (1996)
Maybe I Can Take Off My Parka Now!
6 June 2021
No need to recap the narrative, what with all the bungled schemes that no character, no matter how screwy or smart, can seem to get right.

Ace flick. To me, it's the weirdo characters that make the 90-minutes unforgettable. They're sort of amusing one minute and bloody violent the next. Take Buscemi's nutty crook Carl. He looks like some girl's nightmare date, when not all bloodied up one minute or messing up someone's criminal scheme the next; or Storemare's Grimsrud whose inert face resembles a rock with about that much human feeling; or Macy's scheming car salesman who can't seem to get anything right, including his own driver's license; or finally McDormand's chief cop with her fluttery smile and big eyes-- but don't let her fool you, because behind that girlish expression and sagging birth pouch lies one clever cop, even if she does resemble Jane Fonda's older sister. Together, the main cast is about as entertaining an ensemble as this film freak has seen.

Plus, great credit to the screenwriting Coens that the contrasting elements of violence, amusement, and romance are blended as skillfully as they are. To me, that's about as tough a writing and directing assignment as the movies can dish out. Anyway, maybe I can take off my coat now that the snowy Minnesota scenes have passed. And wow!- what was it like to film in the unHollywood clime amidst all that cold white stuff. I don't think I'll be spending my next winter vacation there. But I will be cranking up the flick again for another round of chuckles and shudders. Thanks Coen's., cast, and crew. See you later.
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Fun on a Dime
30 May 2021
Better than expected. Okay, it's no knee-slapper, but the chuckles keep coming as the two cornpone dimwits manage to stumble their way from one silly misfire to the next. What grabbed me most is how un-telegenic the cast is. It sure ain't Hollywood's usual glamor crowd. Good thing there's the lovely Currie to soften my eyes after all the un-lovelies, especially Lauck (Lum) who looks like me when I forget to shave and the wife threatens to leave. Nonetheless, the pacing's good, the antics non-stop, while the train bearing down on the camera gave me a real jolt. To me, it was a fun look at the past, especially when dimwit Abner looks into the phone receiver instead of talking into it and says to a puzzled Lum, "I've got to see who I'm talking to". Top that cell-phone Hollywood.
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Flawed, But Still Worth Viewing
29 May 2021
Too much of the rapid-fire documentary meanders without sharpening into lasting focus. All in all, a sharper editing job of the many scenes is, I think, really needed. At the same time, that's not to overlook the fairly distinct segments the footage divides into- Trump's unexpected election; Flint's criminal water crisis; labor unrest, along with teachers' strikes; the Florida school shooting; among several others. What, I gather, they all add up to is the generally deteriorating state of America's liberal democracy, symbolized by Trump's right-wing victory and our mounting wealth inequality.

Now these are worthy topics, to be sure. However, as presented, the elements simply gather into a succession rather than sharpening into developmental points. Thus, connections between segments or their individual significance are too often lost amid the rapid flow of scenes. Then too, Moore spends more time on the Flint water crisis than I think is proportionally warranted, likely because as a native of the city he feels a personal relationship. Also, I wish Moore had interviewed a typical Trump voter for better insight into why Trump unexpectedly overcame expert predictions. This is very much an important ommission.

Overall, it's a generally worthwhile documentary despite the shortcomings, and is really not as partisan as many critics think- consider the unexpected segment on Obama, for one. So, for those who care about the general state of the union, give it a try.
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Well Worth Watching
24 May 2021
Unfortunately, I can't rate the 2-hour production since I've seen little comparable to compare it with. Nonetheless, all three segments are well worth watching.

The total time divides into three film components. The first and longest consists of documentary footage of Depression Era ravages. It's something of an overview concentrating on the generally impoverished conditions of a broad segment of the American people. Those long lines of bedraggled, unemployed men summarize the harsh state of the economy and leave a lasting impression. The second segment, about a half-hour, are excerpts from the 1934 film, Our Daily Bread, and dramatize how unemployed drifters can pool their talents to form a working farm and a harmonious way of life. I take it as an ode to a cooperative type alternative economy, an idea popular at the time. The third segment, also about a half-hour, shows how electrification of rural farms, thanks to the government sponsored ERA, greatly improved farm life over the older, more laborious, daily tasks, especially for women's work which was rather neglected by the first two segments. (Also, I now have a new appreciation of the convenient electric lamp next to me.)

Together these three segments make up the overall production. At first I thought the second and third segments were unnecessary since they were more or less staged unlike the real life documentary part. But, on second thought, they do personalize the economic ravages that the documentary overview of the first part cannot. And in that sense, they help establish a more complete illustration of the time.

Several highlights to watch for. Note the documentary comments from the Zuni Indian chieftain, who notes that the economic collapse was ironically brought on by the norms of those who now suffer its consequences. At the same time he implies that less competitive, more harmonious, societal norms would avoid the problem. Note too, in the Our Daily Bread segment how the newly formed cooperative members unanimously acclaim one man as "Boss" of the outfit, an odd delegation of power among presumed equals. Also, rather surprisingly, none of the acrimonious politics of the era appears anywhere among the two hours. Given the churning politics of the time, that omission appears intentional. And how about those loony dance marathons that could go on in unfeeling fashion for hours, days, weeks, and maybe even months, the zombified couples barely moving with only stage-side cots to rest on. I guess it was something for the idled masses to do; I just hope there was big prize money in the offing.

All in all, the unfortunately obscure production is well worth watching, not only for historical value, but for its lessons for today. So give it a try.
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Four Star Playhouse: The Adolescent (1954)
Season 3, Episode 5
Illustrative of Its Time
16 May 2021
So what is it young Phillip (Arthur) is trying to hide from school disciplinarian Miss Coberly (Lupino). He fesses up to drinking more than a few beers at a neighborhood tavern, but the astute Coberly senses something more. But what could it be; he's such an innocent looking kid with a wealthy, if over-bearing, father, and a promising future. On the other hand, I'm not sure I buy the awkward upshot given the build-up. Still the suspense is unusual since nothing sinister appears involved. So what the heck is the kid hiding.

Note the neat touch with the trampy blonde leaving the apartment door as the repectable Coberly passes by; it only takes a second but right away we know Coberly's now in a rough part of town. Also, the theme, I think, fits in neatly with teenage norms of the time when passing quickly into adulthood was prized. Anyway, as expected Lupino carries things in what amounts to an unusual entry in this outstanding series..
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Where's My Radio
16 May 2021
Lively PRC action flick revolving around stolen jewels and two skip-tracing agents trying to recover a portable radio, of all things. All in all, it's a light touch all the way through, as much for amusement as suspense. I guess you have to be a geezer like me to recall how important radios were back in the movie's 1940's. Instead of families splitting up into cell phone users or computer live-streaming, folks gathered around radios for evening entertainment. It was good for the imagination if not for spectacle.

Lead actor Dunn really bounces around, maybe too much, while trying to recover the modest radio after the owner's non-payment. Plus, he's got to compete with premier skip-tracer Dave O'Brien who's on break from his usual six-guns and saddles. Then too why are gangsters so interested in getting hold of that same radio, come heck or high water. There has to be something special about it, but what?

Up to then, I'd never heard of 'skip-tracers' but now I know they're agents privately employed to track down deadbeats. Anyway, the plot's pretty crowded so you may need a scorecard to keep track. Nonetheless, the pacing never drags, along with a delightful Frances Gifford as Dunn's sweetie. All in all, the hour amounts to another slice of easy entertainment, B-movie style, without being anything special.
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Solid Entry
8 May 2021
Solid Kids knock-about. So can the guys clear their buddy Danny (Jordan) from the cops who're mistakenly holding him as a killer. Good thing the Kids have Navy man Butch (Beery) on their side, especially since he knows Morse Code. The antics fly fast and furious in typical Kids style, from Glimpy's fractured English, to Mug's 'pop-em' style leadership, to Scruno's big-eyed run-around. And catch lovely actress Gillis' sweetly demure Sylvia and the way she emotes with subtle eye shadings. Too bad she didn't have a bigger career. Then too, note the great supporting cast of Hollywood vets: Lawrence as the coldly mastermind McGaffey, O'Brien taking a day off from saddle and six-gun as a cop, and Robinson as the officious chief cop. It's also a good look at fashions from that early war-year of 1942, along with crowded studio streets not expected from these low budget productions. And, oh yes, one more note: over time I've gleaned that any time I see a purported city street blocked off at one end, it's really a studio street, as it is here.

Nonetheless, the Monogram production amounts to an ace hour of nutty entertainment from a crew of guys who deserve a lot more than Hollywood obscurity. So catch up with it if you haven't already.
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A Riveting Central Core
3 May 2021
Not a movie to catch if you're feeling down. Those scenes in the dayroom where the afflicted patients mingle are almost scary. Each woman acts out her own version of mental derangement, from hollering, to yelling in-your-face, to grabbing and shoving. Looks to me like the Pittsburgh Steelers are needed to keep order. In fact, I can't understand why therapeutic science would allow such intermingling among the psychologically afflicted. Just what the therapeutic effects might be is beyond me. Actually the tormented images brought back similar ones from the 1948 flick, The Snake Pit, that scared the heck out of me as a kid, except this 1977 epic should maybe be called The Demon Pit. I guess this movie's ironic title was so as not to scare off prospective viewers.

Actually what holds the movie together are outstanding performances by the two leading actresses, Quinlan and Andersson. I don't think I've seen a more emotionally affecting turn than Quinlan's, as her teenage Deborah poignantly struggles with inner demons she imagines as some kind of tyrannical barbarians. Aside from that inner struggle, we unfortunately know little about her or why she has lost her grip. Or for that matter do we know much about any of the many characters roaming the halls. Coming to Debbie's aid is psychiatrist Dr. Fried portrayed winningly by Swedish actress Andersson. She's low-key in her methods and between the two there's a growing magnetism that brings us back from the scenes of torment. To me, Quinlan at least deserved an Oscar nomination as I don't think I've been so moved in 70 years of movie watching as by her huggable presence. Also, it's good to see vintage actress Sylvia Sydney picking up a payday. Forty years earlier and that fine soulful actress could have succeeded as the poignant young Deborah.

(In Passing: Though it passes by quickly, note Deborah's unconventionally hairy armpit, showing her rejection of a significant gender norm. It also shows production's careful attention to minor detail.)

All in all, the movie's too exotic for me to rate on the usual scale. But, despite the histrionics and foggy chairacter backgrounds, you may want to catch its engagingly sensitive core.
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Promising Start That Soon Flattens Out
1 May 2021
Plot- a souless eastern movie studio takes over an old Hollywood monster-making studio and fires the production employees. But they haven't foreseen make-up artist Harris' 25-year devotion to his craft or his secret formula that turns his fake monsters into killers. So Harris ain't leaving his job easily.

Clever premise that unfortunately flattens out with too many pointless scenes between story-driving episodes. Those early studio scenes behind a movie shoot are grabbers for old flick fans, as is the power grab by arrogant magnates taking over the old studio. I especially liked the skimpy forest set-up that sort of covers a monster lurking behind. No wonder those old movies I am addicted to were such cheapos. Trouble is these revealing episodes soon give way to a spot-lighted Harris showcase, along with too much drab police procedure. Unfortunately neither does much to build suspense. Still, it's good to see movie stalwart Morris Ankrum picking up a payday in his usual authoritative role. Anyway, I could have definitely used more eye candy in place of Harris's endless close-ups.

All in all, it's an imaginative premise that fails to develop its unusual potential. Too bad an efffective re-write didn't exploit that potential. Nonetheless, I've got to admit that any flick that headlines two such unknowns as Harris and Brinegar merits some kind of recognition.
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Grant Manages Amid Shabby Production
26 April 2021
Too bad the cheapo's a shabby looking production that undercuts Grant's usual polished presence. Basically, the flick's a feel-good storyline that sends the audience home in a happy mood. After all, 1936 was not an easy Depression era year. Grant plays a wealthy idler who's slowly going bonkers in his idleness. So a stern doctor bets him a bunch of Grant's money that he can't go a year as a simple working man earning no more than a living. As a result, Grant's pride is provoked, so he accepts the bet. Then, as a working man, his dormant good inner nature comes out as he sees the many grass-roots needs among a struggling general public, and seeks to help them with his own money, keeping none for himself which would violate the terms of his wager. Thus, he's reborn in a meaningful and happy way, especially when he hooks up with pretty working girl Brian.

All in all, except for Grant, the acting is pretty wooden, along with gaps in the narrative that may well result from choppy editing between the longer British version and the shorter American, (IMDB). I'm not surprised the flick remains an unknown in the actor's outstanding canon. So, unless you're a loyal Grant fan or want to feel uplifted in a shabby way, skip it.
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Fill-er-up, Cutie
25 April 2021
Plot-- a bunch of sexy gals, boyfriends and a cycle gang take over a failing gas station and run competition against the powerful station owner across the street. So guess who's got the advantage.

Too bad my highschool graduation wasn't like the movie's dress-dropping ceremony. Then maybe I wouldn't have had to get drunk after the long boring speeches. And, oh wow, what a great bunch of gas station cuties whose tops sort of come and go, while the shorts cling tighter than their shapely skins. And guess who stands out front the station to get drivers' attention-- I'll be pulling in any second now. OK, the flick's not exactly a cerebral exercise, but I do like the way the youngsters unite to make a go of their gas pump enterprise, sort of like talent at the grassroots . Plus, it ain't easy since they're up against faceless big business pulling strings behind the station across the street. And get a load of Mr. Friendly who runs the station across from them. He's about as friendly as a kick in the pants, with a mug ugly ennough to rattle a statue.

Anyway, good to see old timer Huntz Hall picking up a payday after all those years with Leo Gorcey and the Bowery Boys. All in all, the fick could have used tighter editing and snappier direction; nevertheless it's a fun way to pass an evening, especially for the guys. Meanwhile, I'll be checking out my neighborhood for a Joe's where I can at last 'fill 'er up' the way I've always wanted to!
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Four Star Playhouse: The Wallet (1954)
Season 3, Episode 4
Boyer Shines in Loose Drama
18 April 2021
Generally speaking, it's a feel-good entry in the outstanding 4-Star series. Boyer may be just a head waiter, but he's also a free-spending aristocratic type at heart, utterly devoted to his afflicted wife (Palmer). One night he retrieves a customer's lost wallet, promising to return it the next night during work. Then, that same first night, his wife's suddenly taken to the hospital and in typical fashion Boyer wants the best accomodations for her. Trouble is he's already deeply in debt because of his free spending ways with no financial recourse left. Plus his generally worthless son (Campbell) steals money to help pay for Mom. Then Boyer notices the wallet and it's full of money, an apparent solution to his and the son's problems. But stealing money will also devastate his aristocratic pride. So what will he do.

Boyer's excellent in a role tailor made for his elevated persona. However actor Campbell appears too old and too unlike the parents to be plausible, an apparent case of miscasting. All in all, however, it's an engaging conflict between the values of pride and devotion, even if rather loose in its drama.
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The Venusian (1954)
Listless Sci-Fi Despite Twist Ending
18 April 2021
Too bad the movie's generally so dull up to the tension-filled last few minutes. Trouble is the Stranger (Dantine) from planet Venus is made too blandly agreeable from the outset. There's no real hint of ambiguity in his apparent desire to tame earth's atomic war potential that could even permeate Venus's far-off atmosphere. At least some hint of possible hidden plans would have generated the kind of suspense badly needed. Instead, we get a lot of static talk between Venus's emissary and American officials that basically goes nowhere until the end. Then too, director Balaban unfortunately films in straightforward pedestrian fashion, minus both action and atmosphere, elements that would at least have lifted results beyond stage play appearances. On the other hand, at least we know that even proto-humans from Venus have romantic inclinations, as Miss North (Neal) finds out in her confused reaction to the handsome visitor. However, I am beguiled by the rather sprightly, unusual looking Marigold Russell as Gretchen, the cafe go-fer. Hers struck me as an unusually beguiling presence for the time. Then too, Dantine as the Stranger gets a break from being the period's all-purpose Nazi, even if as an emotionless extra-terrestrial.

Anyway, the ending amounts to a neat twist, along with a subtle version of who's to blame. So if you can put up with all the static talk, the upshot may be worth waiting for.
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Fury (2014)
Repetative Hokum That Gave Me A Headache
11 April 2021
If you like lightning tracers, mass killing, no plot, and two repetitive hours of runtime, then this is your piece of meat. Of course it helps if you're a teenage boy with no knowledge of real warfare or death. Frankly the general outlines made me think of the cowboy flicks of my youth, where cavalry killed massed indians, no one cried out in agony or even bled, and the good, Bible-carrying guys always won. The battlefield logic here must have been hatched in somebody's cowboy movie dream, where the enemy simply crowds together waiting to be mowed down. On the other hand, at least this 2014 version doesn't prettify the guys or their battle-field surroundings, so maybe there's some progress in teen entertainment after all. But for those who take the two-hours as mere entertainment, remember that at a subliminal level you're being prepared for future wars, where good guys always win, death is quiet, heroes are made, and mass killing really isn't so bad after all. Regrettably that's apparent here, even if the visuals are colofully spectacular. Anyway, for this now 81-year old, it looks like few things change after all, especially in Hollywood.
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Four Star Playhouse: Interlude (1954)
Season 3, Episode 3
Outstanding Entry in an Outstanding Series
10 April 2021
Absolutely engaging little character drama, whose two lead performers couldn't be better. Woodward's timid little wallflower, Vicki, made me want to reach through the screen and hug her. As a neglected upper-class school girl, her unmet emotional needs are almost heart-rending. Those early scenes of her isolation really set the stage for what follows. No wonder the actress went on to an Oscar-rated movie career.

Then, wandering down to the docks one lonely night from a dateless prom night, Vicki meets personable boat-owner Chris (Powell) and they soon share friendly talk over a common interest in boats. All in all, he's a sensitive and caring divorced man with needs of his own. Thus he quickly senses her needs, while she responds in kind, and soon they bond. Happily now, Vicki emerges from repressed wallflower into blossoming young woman. It's an odd but caring relationship, especially for the conventional 1950's.

But the question soon becomes what direction will the relationship eventually take. After all he's at least 20-years older than the emergent Vicki. Still, they soon dance closely together in almost romantic fashion; so what's the next step. Anyway, stay tuned, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I wasn't, especially since the upshot was unconventional for the time.

All in all, the entry remains an outstanding one for an outstanding series, so don't miss it.
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American Experience: The Battle of Chosin (2016)
Season 28, Episode 8
Pulls No Punches
4 April 2021
Despite summary rejections by some reviewers, the documentary is not about the politics of the Korean War or why our troops got trapped in Chosin. Sure, MacArthur got careless driving up to the border of China after his brilliant landing manuever at Inchon. However, it's pertinent for the docu to wonder, in passing, whether he really thought the Chinese would not massively intervene when thousands of US troops suddenly arrive on their border.

All that aside. What a shocker the docu footage is of the terrible suffering, freezing cold, and dwindling supplies, the Marines endured in Korea's extreme north in late November, 1950. Thankfully, there's no censoring of the frozen bodies or gasping breath that spread across the scattered mountains and canyons of Inchon. How gutsy of the final edit to retain that horrifying footage. Nonetheless, what courage and fortitude the Marines showed in combatting not just the Chinese but the sub-arctic conditions. There's very little blood flowing from wounds amidst those freezing temps, while the dead lie frozen in grotesque positions that are unforgettable. Conditions are further illuminated by aged survivors of that woeful campaign, who testify to their own personal experience amidst the carnage. Even though it's many years later (2016) their emotions remain movingly on high.

All in all, this is two hours of graphic display of why war is hell, regardless of rights and wrongs. So don't watch unless you're prepared for a reality seldom, if ever, shown. And above all, whatever one thinks of the war and its conduct, let's not forget these men who struggled so valiantly amidst that "forgotten" war.
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Father Knows Best: Betty Finds a Cause (1958)
Season 4, Episode 33
An Unusual Entry
3 April 2021
The series entry amounts to a Donahue showcase as the charming young actress runs persuasively through a range of emotions. The 30-minutes is also notable for raising a deeper issue than the skillfully feel-good series usually does.

Old man Emery (Ruysdale) has preserved an obstructive high hedge around his aging house in the Anderson family's city. In fact, it's sort of like a barricade to keep the forces of newly arriving 50's suburbia separated from him and his cloistered nostalgia for the old days. Trouble is the high hedge is causing constant traffic problems for neighborhood cars that have trouble seeing past the obstruction. But despite persuasive efforts, old curmudgeon Emery refuses to even trim the growth. Instead, he's sticking to his island come heck or high traffic. In fact, he reminds me of an old-time cattle baron resisting the onslaught of newly arriving farmers. After all, times do change for better or worse. So to me, the entry has a certain unexpected historical resonance.

Anyway, Betty (Donahue) is inspired at school to take on civic betterment causes no matter how dim the prospects for winning. So she decides to take on Emery and his inviolable hedge. Given her determination and winsome charm, it's an unswervable force meeting an umnmovable object. Happily, the upshot's reasonably credible given the factors involved. So, give the series sleeper a try for both the plot and the talented Miss Donahue.
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Some Quality Despite The Slow Spots
28 March 2021
No ned to recap the complex time-hopping plot.

Guys, don't worry about the future- the women are all cuties and in short skirts, no less. The sci-fi flick has touches of quality, but is too talky and actionless to really register. In charge is ace director Edgar Ulmer (Detour {1945}), so the generally good acting and skillful use of futuristic sets are not surprising. However, I'm surprised his expertise with film noir doesn't produce more atmosphere than it does. Instead, Ulmer films in straightforward fashion which only emphsizes the cluttered screenplay. Nonetheless, there are a couple of unexpected surprises near the end indicating the flick aims at more than comforting drive-in fare. Just how much it succeeds is up to the viewer to decide. All in all, given the short filming schedule and meagre budget, the overall result shows genuine effort at quality. So give the 75-minutes a try if you can get over the slow spots.
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Democrats Have No Reason To Rejoice
28 March 2021
Two sections of the documentary stand out. The first (at the beginning) verifies from mental health experts what many already know: namely, that Trump is a psychopathic narcissist. After all, how many normal people make outlandishly egotistical statements about being the best at just about everything. Check out the docu footage of Trump's public pronouncements if you doubt me.

Second is the brief account of the ex-president's relative popularity despite his obvious mental flaws. Commentators' remarks are on target attributing that response to basically white working people's unhappiness with a declining economy and rising despair over the future. I'm glad the commentators don't disparage Trump's supporters as stupid or deplorable. After all, looking for relief amidst despair is a perfectly natural reaction. What the account doesn't want to do, understandably, is to opine who or what's to blame for the decline. That, of course, would shift topic away from Trump's mental unfitness.

So let me suggest that the Democrat party's 40-year retreat from working class issues is mainly to blame for the space Trump demagogically strives to fill. After all, neither nature nor politics tolerates a vacuum. So who can blame the ex-president for moving into the political vacuum Democrats largely created. At the same time, Trump doesn't remedy the despair by pressing for legislation like a livable minimum wage, universal health insurance, or similar working class improvements. Such, of course, would materially alter festering conditions that he exploits. Instead, he directs resentment toward cultural elitism and racial equality, and away from widening wealth inequality. Of course, elitism and equality are already viewed by many as threats to white supremacy and perhaps even to America's global reach. So it's coastal elites and protest movements that amount to his principal targets. In short, he's not creating, he's exploiting, and perhaps most importantly, to the fattening advantage of corporate America and the wealthy.

Anyway, agree or not, be sure to catch the documentary. It's illuminating at best, and unsettling at worst. So gird your loins, it's not a comforting sight.
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Better Than The Title Suggests
22 March 2021
Plot- an army officer is accidentally exposed to radiation causing him to grow to 6o-foot proportions with a deformed half-face. When the army transports him from Mexico to LA for treatment, he breaks loose causing panic. At same time his sister tries to rescue the giant from the tragedy that has befallen him. So what will happen.

The sci-fi cheapo's definitely a cut above the usual '50's monster flicks. It''s well-crafted (note how well scenes are staffed and directed); also, special effects with the giant are expertly matted onto conventional background giving fairly realistic effect; then there's good nuanced acting, especially Fraser; along with an ending that's not predictable since the giant is somewhat sympathetic. Most of all is the unusual plot where there's a '50's monster not predictably evil, despite the panicked crowds. In a general sense, the flick can be taken as having a deeper layer that puzzles the audience as to what they think their reaction should be to a monster that's not really one. After all, does the giant kill anyone or does the screenplay purposely maintain his basic innocence beneath the grotesque form. Anyway, see what you think.

All in all, I was somewhat surprised by the drive-in flick's unexpected dashes of quality. Meanwhile, Maltin's unreliable Classic Movie Guide only rates the cheapo a 1.5 out of 4. I'd definitely give it a 2.5 or maybe better. So, don't let the teen-age title fool you. It's much better than the usual drive-in fare, along with a number of surprising qualities.
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