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The Treasure of Pancho Villa (1955)
As you can gather from the title the setting for this film is the Mexican Revolution of a little over a century ago. Gilbert Roland is a commander in the service of Pancho Villa and Villa is getting rather low on funds. So he and his
men which include American adventurer Rory Calhoun rob a bank and come away with a lot of gold pesos.
Roland is moved by the ideals of the revolution as is Shelley Winters an American schoolteacher. But Calhoun is looking out for number one. He's a mercenary who fights for pay and there's a lot of lucre that he and Roland have now. Winters may be a revolutionary, but Calhoun gets her mojo going.
In the end it's Calhoun and Roland against a lot of soldiers who want the gold too for various reasons.
Nice routine action film with characters we've all seen a zillion times over.
By the time he got to Bananas, Woody Allen was reaching new heights in absurdist comedy. The idea of covering a South American revolution as a sporting
event certainly was original one. Even getting to the point of getting the voice
of American sports Howard Cossell to join the fun.
Allen is refining his schlepp persona in Bananas. Although he divorced his leading lady Louise Lasser in real life the two worked well together here. Allen tries to get a relationship going, but Lasser is interested in social causes. She has a bleeding heart for the people of the South American country of San Marcos and gives Woody his walking papers.
So off Allen goes to San Marcos as the schlepp from Brooklyn mixes with all kinds of folks there from dictator Carlos Montalban right down to the Che Guevara revolutionaries.
So many absurd moments in Bananas to count. My favorite is ordering takeout for the revolutionary army from a South American version of a Jewish delicatessen.
Definitely a must for Woody Allen.
The Hour of 13 (1952)
Right in the middle
The Hour of 13 casts Peter Lawford as a man who has lived beyond his means in Victorian London and has embarked on a life of crime. He decides with a pair of
confederates to steal a most valuable emerald.
Lawford has thought this one through and at the same time he's doing his thieving there's a madman, a jack the ripper type using a sword is tabbing to death as many of London's bobbys as he can find. Lawford reasons that Scotland Yard is way too busy looking for this maniac to devote too much time to a jewel robbery.
Not telling any more other than Lawford's scheme nearly blows up in his face with all his fine finessing.
This MGM film was done over in the United Kingdom where Lawford returned to the old country to work with Dawn Addams, Derek Bond, Roland Culver, and Michael Hordern. Lawford fits well into the era along with his fellow British players.
Nice slice of late Victorian London.
God Bless Us Everyone
In this Christmas episode of in The Heat Of The Night reporter Judith Robinson
from the Sparta Herald is writing a human interest story about the Sparta, PD
and while Carroll O'Connor is enemies with the editor he gives the other
officers permission to talk.
Which gives us some clips, some funny, some poignant over the hjistory of the program.
In the end it's God Bless Us Everyone.
The Perfect Race (2019)
Run Your Race
Allee Sutton-Hethcoat returns to her role as a high school track coach and
chemistry teacher though we never see her in a classroom. Clarence Gilyard a
track coach at a nearby Christian College and he asks her to join his staff
part time. He wants her to do special training for Brittany Davenport whom she
coached at her high school. This favoritism causes all kinds of problems for
Despite all the Christian platitudes coming from Sutton-Hethcoat and others what are coach was doing was showing a lot of favoritism for her protege. And if Davenport was a race horse and Sutton-Hethcoat was training her and giving the advice she gives her as opposed to a jockey in a race, the racing officials would be down on her quick.
Did the Christiano brothers who made this film realize this?
Benito's best bet
Nehemiah Persoff's sterling performance as Benito Mussolini in his last four days
is what drives this Playhouse 90 production. You really feel like this is a newsreel
camera letting you peek in on Il Duce's private moments.
With Italy devolving into chaos probably Benito's best bet would have been to surrender to the only real authority that existed in Italy in April of 1945 the allied armies. The Americans were only days, hours even from Milan where his Nazi puppet government was headquartered. But he was hoping for rescue from armies that did not exist any more. Although he would have had a formal trial and then been shot,
Persoff is killed with Ilka Windish playing mistress Clara Petacci. Windish plays Petacci as she has come down in history, basically a power groupie. Mussolini and Hitler with Eva Braun had exactly the same taste in women.
Other performances of note are Harry Guardino as a partisan fighter and Erika Remberg as his girlfriend, John Dehner as a Communist partisan, Eduardo Ciannelli as Marshal Graziani, Frank Puglia as Cardinal Shuster who tries to broker a truce.
Persoff should have gotten Emmy consideration for what he does here.
City on Fire (1979)
The night they burned old Montreal down
I hope too much of Montreal where City On Fire was shot didn't burnn too much in
the making of this film. Noting that this was where this was shot you can see many French language signs in this ostensibly American city.
I'm sure a lot of fire newsreel footage got cobbled together to make City On Fire. It's a poor person's version of The Towering Inferno. A few big Hollywood names like Ava Gardner, Henry Fonda, and Shelley Winters who comes out best as a concerned nurse.
Best in the cast is Leslie Nielsen who had the bright idea to build an oil refinery in the middle of his city and when it leaked into the sewers, one spark and BOOM. Leslie is the mayor of this metropolis and is all ready thinking of how best to come out politically.
City On Fire is one mess of a conflagration.
I'm glad to see that this Kinescope version of The Petrified Forest was not lost
after all. Taking the place of Bette Davis and the very unavailable Leslie Howard
are Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda. But the real treat was seeing Humphrey
Bogart reprise his star making role of killer Duke Mantee who holds the other
two and assorted others as hostages while on the lam.
Bacall did not quite capture the innocence of Bette Davis in the film version it just isn't there for her. And no one was ever the worldly intellectual who has lost all faith in humanity that Leslie Howard was on stage as well as the screen.
But the reason o see this is Humphrey Bogart. In fact the 19 years between this teleplay and the film have added even more menace to Duke Mantee. He was a villain in 1936, in 1955 he's the show.
This version is probably closer to what was on stage. Some minor changes and one major change in Natalie Schaefer's character as the banker's wife. I suspect the Code kept her frank proposition to Bogart off the screen.
Still a great play from Robert Sherwood.
Ash Wednesday (1973)
A nip here and a tuck there
So I see Richard Burton hated this film. Well wouldn't go so far as to say I hated it. Still Ash Wednesday wil never rank as one of Elizabeth Taylor's best films.
It plays a lot like The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone. Maybe if someone like Tennessee Williams had written this it would have been better known and acclaimed.
Liz is in Switzerland for a little plastic surgery. A nip here, a tuck there and maybe some of that spark in her marriage to Henry Fonda will have some of that old time zip in it. She amuses herself in the meantime with both Keith Baxter and Helmut Berger.
The results just aren't what she hoped for,
Try as I may I just could not get interested in these rich people and their problems. Henry Fonda looked as bored as I was. At least he got a European vacation for his time.
For fans of the sars only.
The Young Riders: Hard Time (1990)
One terrible town
In this Young Riders episode, Ty Miller and Stephen Baldwin are going through a
town called Prosperity which looks prosperous enough, but people seem afraid.
While Cody and he are separated, the Kid gets into a saloon fight and gets put in
Where he gets to do some Georgia chain gang like time for an undetermined sentence. The town is run by gambler Noel Harrison who's polished demeanor hides a sadistic streak.
Other key roles are played by Cassie Yates and Mark Rolston.
Good story with y Miller taking center stage.
The Young Riders: Fall from Grace (1990)
Broadening Hickok's horizons
After a fight with Anthony Zerbe, Josh Brolin goes to work for Robin Strasser's
bordello. In his later years Hickok was no stranger to those kind of places, but
he's just a Young Rider now, though real handy with a gun.
Seeing how he handles himself Strasser seeks him out. But the bordello isn't the only iron she has in the fire. In fact a friend of Teaspoon's, Raymond Bieri gets killed checking into her activites.
Nice and most explosive shootout as the climax. Stephen Baldwin gets tp show off his sharpshooter skills.
Wild lion in the west
A strange growling is heard by Quince and Mushy and they come upon hunter
Forrest Tucker who's not after puma. An African lion escaped from a circus and he's been roaming these parts for years.
Tucker is like Captain Ahab abd the lion is his white whale. It's gotten very personal between them. For Eric Fleming that herd of his is plenty reason for the lion to hang around and feast.
This Moby Dick adaption is a good one.
Readin', 'Ritin', and Rhythm (1939)
A certain Mr. Jamboree Jones
Two things about this RKO released musical short that I noted. The first was there was a mixture of both black and white acts, something not often seen in those
days. The lead at a black orchestra led by one Lucky Millander whom I did not know
but will try to find out more about.
A white group of five singers, three males and two females called the Quintones did a song Johnny Mercer wrote called jamboree Jones. Mercer recorded it himself and a bit more than a decade after this short subject was released, Mercer pal Bing Crosby did a classic record of it. Quite enjoyable.
Swing music fans will like this.
Frontier Circus: The Good Fight (1962)
Good allies for pacifists
A tired and hungry Ray Daley comes to the T&T Circus looking for food and water
and shelter. He's given a job and Chill Wills and John Derek take a liking to him.
Then they find out that Daley is accused of the murder of a big cattle baron who
has been riding roughshod over a group of pacifist farmers come west.
The pacifists are led by George MacReady who is usually cast as devious and serpentine villains so this role is a departure for him. Daley finds himself accused of murder and though he has fought with MacReady it's not in him to kill.
As it also turns out John Derek has some history with the widow of the deceased . Lisabeth Hush is a southern belle who sees in the cattle empire a recreation of the old south.
Nice performances from the regulars and cast. But it is a cop out in the sense that the pacifists are saved because they have allies who aren't squeamish about using firearms when necessary;.
Parting. such a sweet sorrow
William Schallert and his wife were a beloved couple in Sparta. They owned a second hand bookstore and the wife conducted reading sessions for the kids at
the elementary school and library. So when she's reported shot to death in
their store by Schallert it's a shock especially to Geoffrey Thorne who was
befriended by them when he moved to Sparta as a kid.
I had this one figured almost immediately despite a red herring thrown in by the writers. William Schallert gives one fine performance on many levels.
A pound of flesh
A robbery takes place on what was pay day at Dabbs Greer's factory that is
partially foiled by Sparta PD responding to a silent alarm. John Wesley is arrested
Randall Cobb is badly wounded and Gerald Brown escapes with a lot of loot. The
robbery was Wesley's idea he was the paymaster there at one time and he was also at
one time Denise Nicholas's husband and father of their son Rug Williams.
As Carroll O'Connor explains the citizens of Sparta want a pound of flesh because one of the factory employees was killed and if Wesley is all they have at trial that's what they'll take.
In the meantime Rugg Williams hooks up with Brown out of some misplaced loyalty to his father. The whole thing could end Denise Nicholas's political career.
This is another good one with kudos going out to Denise Nicholas and Gerald Brown.
Also to Dabbs Greer who is one vindictive old man.
Prosper Hoag comes home
Prosper Hoag played by Pierre Perea is coming home to Sparta, released on parole
from Parchment prison. He was involved in a DWI which resulted in nultiple
deaths and injuries. Among them are family of Geoffrey Thorne.
Lawyer Karen Carlson and her husband Greg Mulleavy worked hard for Perea's parole. But it's unpopular enough to be taken up by the Sparta City Council. and everyone there has someone or knows someone who was injured or killed in the DWI..
Perea has aspirations of being a writer now that he's clean and sober. But before that happens someone puts four bullets in him.
The perpetrator is a surprise and the motive is positively biblical.
Newman's Law (1974)
One tough and rigid cop
George Peppard and Roger Robinson play a pair of rugged and honest LAPD
detectives who get themselves caught up in a world of corruption. It's his
very integrity that brings Peppard down
Even like normal gratuities that police often get Peppard scorns. When he and Robinson sniff out a major drug dealing operation and a mafia kingpin is hooked the two get kudos.
But the bad guys aren't stupid and they set up Peppard with planted money and drugs. Even when he's offered a way out with honor reasonably intact he refuses. He just becomes a rogue and a lot of people go down.
Peppard's title character is compared to Dirty Harry and they sure have some of the same biases. But I get the feeling that Harry Callahan was a lot craftier than George Peppard's Newman.
Note in the supporting cast Eugene Roche as a cop who has some very bendable integrity and Teddy Wilson a dope pusher who is busted by Peppard and Robinson which starts the whole story off.
A Peppard film that should be better known.
This episode is a continuation from a Law And Order prime episode where a young
teen model is dead and there are signs of sexual abuse. The first half on
Law And Order showed that the underlying injuries might have been administered
The turf war over the case continues on Homicide: Life In The Streets where Baltimore City Attorney wins custody over Sam Watertson.
Zeljo Ivanek tries the case against the father Tom Tammi. The ending is a surprise all around.
Dan Hedaya is back as the family attorney for the parents and he's one big bag of sleaze, same as he was on Law And Order. I wish they had brought him back on either show, he was that good.
Treat him rough
I think this Frontier Circus episode was borrowed some from the plot of Girl Crazy
where rich and soft easterner Mickey Rooney is sent west to a dude ranch to toughen up. To win Judy Garland was further inspiration for the Mick.
Red Buttons is the son of an old friend of Chill Wills and his father thinks the circus might be just the thing to toughen Red up before he follows the family military tradition and goes to West Point. It's discipline to be sure though a different kind than the military academy.
Red's also got a woman he's trying to impress, lion tamer Gloria Talbott.
Button's leads a good guest cast for this Frontier Circus episode.
Bubba's heart is broken
This episode has Alan Autry involved with the beautiful Kerrie Keane who is
expecting a large inheritance pretty soon. But a bottom feeding attorney Don Galloway wants to cut himself in for the price of Keane's company. She ends
his notions of that rather fatally.
The original theory has a fired handyman being responsible. But soon enough even Autry has to face an awful truth.
Some of Alan Autry's best moments in the series.
Law and Order (1976)
One of the best made for TV films out there containing one of star Darren McGavin's best performances. Law And Order not to be confused with the
popular TV franchise of series is a look at the systemic corruption that occurs in
a police department in this case the NYPD.
It's also about tribalism and the determination of the Irish who as the first wave of immigrants to our shores grabbed a lot of the lower rung municipal jobs in police and fire departments and systematically advanced their own. The O'Malleys of this film like the Reagans of Blue Bloods are our protagonist family and we see what happens over the years in flashbacks to McGavin from being a young patrolman to the present in 1976 as a chief.
I have to say that I have never seen the tribalism better displayed in a film than in this one. The department stepped in and covered up a scandal in the manner of McGavin's father Scott Brady's death way back when. He's now expected to do his bit in a more recent bit of corruption involving a partner of his son Art Hindle.
Some really fine performances are in this impeccably cast film besides McGavin who has a wife Whitney Blake and a mistress TV reporter Suzanne Pleshette. Others outstanding are Keir Dullea as a corrupt cop currently under the microscope with pull, Robert Reed the head of Internal Affairs wwho buries more than he uncovers, Teri Garr as a tragic party girl, Will Geer as a most corrupt mover and shaker who pushes Mc Gavin's career, and James Flavin a captain who gets special consideration for his rapist brother.
This film should be far better known and recognized. One of the best police movies out there.
More Than Murder (1984)
Saving a friend
This full length Mike Hammer mystery has Stacy Keach at his tough guy best saving a friend who happens to be a detective who from what I could tell was there quite coincidentally at the scene of a high stakes poker game that is robbed
and two men killed. Nevertheless Don Stroud who is also shot in the back gets
himself indicted. It throws the film off kilter.
Still Keach is great in the part and other performances to watch for are Verna Bloom as Hammer's secretary, Robyn Douglass as an undercover fed, Tim McIntire as a country singer and Richard Romanus as a federal witness who's not quite kosher.
Still the script could have used some fine tuning.
Going through the buffers
Continuing from part 1 of the story the buffers and underlings are being peeled
away, bit by bit until Sparta's richest man is being stripped of all the people that
do his bidding.
One of the best acted scenes in the series comes when wife Adair Simon confronts husband Jordan Williams with all his misdeeds. Williams stands silent listening to a litany of his sins and lack of character. Unforgettable
Sparta's leading citizen
When Harriet DeLong's sister is killed, Denise Nicholas pushes until she gets
some action. The problem is a jurisdictional one. That is solved very easily when
more murders occur.
It all leads to Jordan Williams a multi-millionaire who is one of the movers and shakers in Mississippi, Among his interests was a nightclub in New Orleans where Nicholas's sister sang back in the day. Back in the day Williams also fathered a child with her.
Like the Corleone family this guy has an empire and many 'buffers' and underlings to dos his discreet bidding, Nicholas is nearly killed.
It's all continued in part 2.