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1 - Suspiria � (1977, Dario Argento)
2 - Black Sunday � (1960, Mario Bava)
3 - Creature from the Black Lagoon � (1954, Jack Arnold)
4 - The House with Laughing Windows � (1976, Pupi Avati)
5 - I Walked with a Zombie � (1943, Jacques Tourneur)
6 - The Wicker Man � (1973, Robin Hardy)
7 - The Black Cat � (1934, Edgar G. Ulmer)
8 - Eyes Without a Face � (1960, Georges Franju)
9 - The Island of Lost Souls � (1933, Erle C. Kenton)
10 - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre � (1974, Tobe Hooper)
11 - Les Diaboliques � (1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
12 - Mad Love � (1935, Karl Freund)
13 - Night of the Demon � (1957, Jacques Tourneur)
14 - The Haunting � (1963, Robert Wise)
15 - The Innocents � (1961, Jack Clayton)
16 - Deep Red � (1975, Dario Argento)
17 - The Invisible Man � (1933, James Whale)
18 - What Have You Done to Solange? � (1972, Massimo Dallamano)
19 - Kill Baby�Kill � (1966, Mario Bava)
20 - Son of Frankenstein � (1939, Rowland V. Lee)
21 - Blood and Black Lace � (1964, Mario Bava)
22 - The Lodger (1944, John Brahm)
23 - Bride of Frankenstein � (1935, James Whale)
24 - The Devil's Rejects � (2005, Rob Zombie)
25 - Cannibal Holocaust � (1980, Ruggero Deodato)
26 - The Mummy � (1932, Karl Freund)
27 - Frankenstein � (1931, James Whale)
28 - Audition � (1999, Takashi Miike)
29 - Son of Dracula � (1943, Robert Siodmak)
30 - The Mask of Fu Manchu � (1932, Charles Brabin)
31 - Horror of Dracula � (1958, Terence Fisher)
32 - Le Boucher � (1970, Claude Chabrol)
33 - The Wolf Man � (1941, George Waggner)
34 - Onibaba � (1964, Kaneto Shindo)
35 - Pit and the Pendulum � (1961, Roger Corman)
36 - The Thing from Another World � (1951, Christian Nyby)
37 - The Curse of the Crying Woman � (1963, Rafael Baledon)
38 - The Thing � (1982, John Carpenter)
39 - The Descent (2005, Neil Marshall)
40 - The Legend of Hell House � (1973, John Hough)
41 - The Old, Dark House � (1932, James Whale)
42 - Black Sabbath � (1963, Mario Bava)
43 - The Plague of the Zombies � (1966, John Gilling)
44 - Night of the Living Dead � (1968, George A. Romero)
45 - Peeping Tom � (1960, Michael Powell)
46 - Spoorloos � (1988, George Sluizer)
47 - Black Christmas � (1974, Bob Clark)
48 - M � (1931, Fritz Lang)
49 - King Kong � (1933, Merian C. Cooper)
50 - The Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton)
51 - Spider Baby � (1968, Jack Hill)
52 - Alucarda � (1978, Juan L�pez Moctezuma)
53 - The Hound of the Baskervilles � (1959, Terence Fisher)
54 - The Spiral Staircase � (1945, Robert Siodmak)
55 - Tenebre � (1982, Dario Argento)
56 - Tombs of the Blind Dead � (1971, Amando de Ossorio)
57 - The Black Pit of Dr. M � (1959, Fernando Mendez)
58 - Who Saw Her Die? � (1972, Aldo Lado)
59 - Opera � (1987, Dario Argento)
60 - All the Colors of the Dark � (1972, Sergio Martino)
61 - Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter � (1974, Brian Clemens)
62 - The Bird with the Crystal Plumage � (1970, Dario Argento)
63 - High Tension � (2003, Alexandre Aja)
64 - Mill of the Stone Women � (1960, Giorgio Ferroni)
65 - The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh � (1971, Sergio Martino)
66 - The Omen � (1976, Richard Donner)
67 - Halloween � (1978, John Carpenter)
68 - The Hills Have Eyes � (1977, Wes Craven)
69 - The Scarlet Claw � (1944, Roy William Neill)
70 - A Tale of Two Sisters � (2003, Ji-woon Kim)
71 - Shock Waves � (1977, Ken Wiederhorn)
72 - The Masque of the Red Death � (1964, Roger Corman)
73 - Cat People � (1942, Jacques Tourneur)
74 - Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key � (1972, Sergio Martino)
75 - House of 1000 Corpses � (2003, Rob Zombie)
76 - The Queen of Spades � (1949, Thorold Dickinson)
77 - Daughters of Darkness � (1971, Harry Kumel)
78 - The Abominable Snowman � (1957, Val Guest)
79 - The Exorcist � (1973, William Friedkin)
80 - Village of the Damned � (1960, Wolf Rilla)
81 - Dressed to Kill � (1980, Brian De Palma)
82 - Mystery of the Wax Museum � (1933, Michael Curtiz)
83 - The Girl Who Knew Too Much � (1963, Mario Bava)
84 - The Ninth Gate � (1999, Roman Polanski)
85 - Witchfinder General � (1968, Michael Reeves)
86 - Horror Hotel � (1960, John Llewellyn Moxey)
87 - Scream of Fear � (1961, Seth Holt)
88 - Don't Torture a Duckling � (1972, Lucio Fulci)
89 - The Ghost Breakers � (1940, George Marshall)
90 - The Man Who Changed His Mind � (1936, Robert Stevenson)
91 - Mark of the Devil � (1970, Michael Armstrong)
92 - The Changeling � (1980, Peter Medak)
93 - The Unknown � (1927, Tod Browning)
94 - Let Sleeping Corpses Lie � (1974, Jorge Grau)
95 - Red Queen Kills 7 Times � (1972, Emilo Miraglia)
96 - Dark Water � (2002, Hideo Nakata)
97 - The Body Snatcher � (1945, Robert Wise)
98 - The Curse of the Werewolf � (1964, Terence Fisher)
99 - Venus in Furs � (1969, Jess Franco)
100 - Race with the Devil � (1975, Jack Starrett)
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A Bridge Too Far (1977)
"I'm awfully sorry, but I'm afraid we're going to have to occupy your house."
A Bridge Too Far tells the story of Operation Market Garden - the Allied attempt to gain control of strategically important bridges in Belgium and Holland so they might more easily punch holes in the German lines. As far as WWII movies go, this one seems to be as, if not more, historically accurate as any you'll find. And I think that's one of the film's real strengths - it's not a rah rah war movie. In this one, just as they did in real life, the Allies fail. Not something you usually see in a Hollywood film. There's also a certain degree of realism in the battle scenes. The violence is often unrelenting. People get hurt, they bleed, they suffer, and they die. Again, something that's often not seen in the usual sanitized WWII film from this period.
The film features just about anybody who was anybody (as long as they were male) making movies in 1977. The cast is huge. Whether I cared for their characters or not, I found the performances of Michael Caine, Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Hopkins, and Maximilian Schell particularly enjoyable. I can't say the same for Robert Redford (who had too much of a 70s look and vibe) or scene-chewing Elliott Gould. Neither performance worked for me.
Finally, as much as I've always enjoyed A Bridge Too Far, it's not perfect. My biggest complaint is that at 175 minutes, that's at least a half-hour too long. Surely there were things and scenes that could have been edited out. For example, you could cut all scenes featuring James Caan and it wouldn't change the movie much at all. Not only do his scenes have little to do with anything else in the movie, his race through the forest where he's able to elude about half the German army is ludicrous.
The Saint: The Golden Journey (1962)
Simon tours Spain and displays his misogyny along the way
Simon is set to be Best Man for one of his closest friends, Jack. However, he's not very fond of the bride-to-be, Belinda (Erica Rogers). She's a spoiled, selfish, arrogant, entitled brat. Simon decides she needs to be taught a lesson in humility. Through some backhanded doings, Simon forces the ill-equipped Belinda to join him on a 100 mile trek through the mountains of Spain, with the wedding location as their destination.
Obviously, I'm not much of a fan of The Golden Journey. Because of the misogyny on display and the beyond ridiculous, but ultimately predictable plot, this episode doesn't work for me. First, to call Simon's treatment of Belinda cheavanistic and cruel would be a gross understatement. When he's not putting her over his knee to spank her (yes, spank her), he's either pushing or pulling her, yelling at her, and forcibly kissing her. Sure, she's a horrible human being, but no one deserves to be treated like that. Nice going, Simon. Second, I don't care how good of a friend the unseen Jack is, why would Simon want to go through all this trouble and bother? He gives up seven or so days of his life for an uncomfortably long journey with a woman he can't stand. It makes absolutely no sense to me.
One of the few highlights I'll mention is Erica Rogers. This is her second appearance in The Saint. While I didn't care for either of her characters, as an actress, she's outstanding. Even with the mistreatment her character suffers in The Golden Journey, she and Roger Moore have an undeniable screen chemistry.
The Saint: The Effete Angler (1962)
"Waiter! Bring me a double scotch and a large glass of milk . . . mixed!"
Simon heads to Miami for a fishing vacation. In no time, he meets Gloria Uckrose (Shirley Eaton). Gloria tells Simon that, like him, she and her husband are in Miami to fish. However, after meeting Mr Uckrose, Simon becomes suspicious. And, he's proven right when an attempt is made on his life. Gloria comes to Simon and asks him to run away with her, but can she be trusted?
I was going to call The Effete Angler an average, routine, 5/10-type episode, but then came the twist. Was I ever caught off guard! I'm sure some viewers will have seen it coming, but I didn't. It's nothing that will change your life, but it's still a nice twist. The plot is okay, but nothing to write home about. What the Uckrose's are actually up to is far less important than Simon figuring it all out. Other highlights for me include: (1) Shirley Eaton, obviously. This was her second appearance in The Saint and I always appreciate seeing her in anything. For me, she is the epitome of the 60s/early-70s. (2) Moore's acting during the scenes where Gloria tries to get Simon to run away with her. The doubt on his face is perfectly subtle, but gets the point across. Nice job.
One last thing, even as a much younger, pre-James Bond man, Roger Moore looks awkward in fight scenes. I think he's just too tall and refined looking to realistically pull it off.
The Outpost (1995)
"Loose ends come back to haunt you."
A group of government scientists working in an abandoned bunker in the middle of the desert fortuitously come across a wounded man on the brink of death. I say "fortuitously" because not only are they miles from civilization, but they just happen to be working on an experiment to reanimate the dead (or some such nonsense) when a test subject miraculously falls into their laps. As expected, the man regains consciousness and goes on a killing rampage, knocking-off the scientists one-by-one. The man-creature, who they've ridiculously named THOR, needs some sort of substance that can only be found in the human brain (it kind of reminded me of all those movies from the 50s where the monster needed pineal juice). Anyway, our heroes are of course trapped in the bunker with no way out. And that's pretty much it . . well, except for the phallic-like thing that comes out of THOR's mouth that he uses to do his mind ripping.
Mind Ripper proves the point that Wes Craven would attach his name to any old garbage for a paycheck. I admit that there are a couple of nice, creepy moments, but overall, this one's not very good. The film gets off to such a slow start that it just about put me to sleep. The first 20 or so minutes are excruciatingly dull with people you don't know doing this you don't understand in a bunker that has all the visual appeal of the inside of a trash can. The acting is a mixed bag. I thought Lance Heriksen and Claire Stansfield were fine, but then you have Natasha Wagner's often laugh-out-loud line delivery. She's not helped at all by the script which gives every character clunky, silly dialogue. As for THOR, I thought Dan Blom was fine as long as he was scuttling about on all fours, but he's really not much of an actor. And his creature make-up was mostly laughable. Finally, the ending is uber-predictable. Who didn't see bad son Scott suddenly making a 180 turn to save the day? And who couldn't have predicted THOR's unwillingness to just die so the movie could (mercifully) end?
Chinatown at Midnight (1949)
A pretty poor script
Thug and thief Clifford Ward (Hurd Hatfield) knocks-off a shop in Chinatown to get his hands on a valuable jade vase. In the process, he kills two innocent store employees. The police start going through clues and Ward feels the heat.
Overall, I wasn't overly impressed with Chintown at Midnight. The acting is fine, the San Francisco locations add a nice touch of reality, Ward is an appropriately ruthless killer, and the final chase is nicely filmed. But there are so many "silly" moments, that I found myself laughing a time or two - not what you want out of a noirish police procedural. Here's a list of some of what I'm talking about, but please note - SPOILER WARNING:
1. Why say anything into the phone? You've just killed two people, why put the cops on your tail so quickly? Just hang-up the phone or, better yet, run away.
2. There's one scene where the police have Ward trapped in a dark building, This leads to a fairly intense shootout. Ward runs into an alley, ditches his gun and overcoat, and joins a nearby bread-line. The cops enter the same alley and don't so much as glance at the four or five guys getting dinner. What incompetence!
3. There are at least three (and maybe four) instances where the cops might have captured Ward without incident if they didn't rush into every situation like bulls in a china shop. Example - thinking they might catch Ward returning to his rooming house, the police decide to stake-out the place. Instead of quietly assuming their positions, three police cars come barreling from different directions and park directly in front of the house, all but blocking the street. Real subtle work. (This is the moment I actually found myself laughing.)
4. In the final shootout, Ward runs up some stairs toward the roof. A policeman is waiting for him. Ward tries to shoot but his gun is obviously empty. Instead of taking the now unarmed Ward into custody, the cop on the roof unloads on him with a tommy-gun. Talk about unnecessary force. But I suppose the writer and director wanted Ward to go out in a hail of bullets regardless of how ridiculous the circumstances.
There are more examples I could cite, but you get the idea. These "silly" moments really undo what was otherwise a tight, tense thriller. It was never going to be a great movie, but Chinatown at Midnight never had a chance with this script.
The Circus Queen Murder (1933)
"It's a well known fact that cannibals differ from the rest of us in their dietary customs."
Police commissioner Thatcher Colt (Adolphe Menjou) has had it up to here with New York crime. Wanting to get away and recharge the batteries, he sets off with his secretary for a vacation in the middle-of-nowhere upstate New York. There, Colt runs into a traveling circus and murder. Not much of a vacation.
It's unfortunate that The Circus Queen Murder suffers from such a poor storyline, becuase there's a lot here to like. The film looks absolutely fantastic and the acting is as strong as you'll find in a "B" from this era, but there's not much to work with when it comes to the story. First, the film's title gives away far too much, destroying any hope of suspense. Second, the killer's identity is a given throughout the film, destroying any hope of mystery. Third, the film's pacing is a mess. I'm convinced that director Roy William Neill did the best he could, but without much to work with, the film tends to bog down from time-to-time (who am I kidding - parts of the film are downright boring). Fourth, our hero, Thatcher Colt, doesn't really do much. He knows who the killer is and he knows who the intended victim is, but does nothing about it. He pretty much sits back and lets the murder happen. Which leads to - fifth, the ending is complete bananas.
In the end, the best I can rate The Circus Queen Murder is a very average (and maybe even generous) 5/10.
Finally, I'm not an expert on pre-code films, but I generally get a kick out of them. It's amazing to me what filmmakers could do and get away with in 1933 that they couldn't just a couple years later. Marital infidelity, blood, risque wardrobes, and even something as innocent as Colt and his secretary traveling together would have most likely been axed by the Code. Interesting stuff.
The Saint: The Element of Doubt (1962)
Where's The Saint?
Simon isn't very happy with a hoodlum getting off free or his win-at-all-costs attorney. So, Simon decides to take matters into his own hands in the name of justice.
There's nothing really wrong with The Element of Doubt, but (and I'm starting to sound like a broken record) it doesn't feel like an episode of The Saint. In this case, Roger Moore's Simon Templar isn't even involved until there are only about 15 minutes left. There are at least 30 minutes of runtime where I all but forgot Moore was even in the show. The courtroom drama is fine and reasonably entertaining, but without Simon, it's not really The Saint.
A couple other things that bothered me: (1) Everyone seems upset by defence attorney Carlton Rood's (a nice performance from David Bauer, by the way) courtroom tactics. I don't get it. He doesn't do anything any other competent attorney wouldn't do. His role is to represent his client to the best of his ability and, if possible, get the charges dropped against, And at that, he's successful. Does he do anything illegal? No. Does he do anything unethical? Maybe, but it's up to the prosecuting attorney to object and deal with. Rood shouldn't be blamed because he out-foxed and out-maneuvered the prosecuting attorney while he sat on his hands. (2) Once Simon finally does make an appearance, his plan to seek justice is so obvious and so juvenile that there's no way it should have worked. A smart guy like Rood would have seen through Simon's plan and that ridiculous accent straight away. I just wasn't impressed with anything The Saint did in this episode.
Laser Mission (1989)
"You see, with the Varbeek diamond and my laser, I can create a nuclear weapon."
Like a lot of people, I stumbled across Laser Mission in a $1 DVD bin at a discount store several years ago. I finally got around to watching it recently and what a total bonkers, but fairly enjoyable experience. The plot is a hot mess, but here goes: A CIA mercenary (as the theme song reminds us over and over and over), Michael Gold (Brandon Lee), is hired to (a) rescue a world renowned laser scientist and (b) retrieve one of the world's largest diamonds. It seems that said scientist can somehow use the diamond and his knowledge of lasers to create a nuclear weapon (I think).
Laser Mission is another of those movies that further proves my ratings are based on entertainment value and not the quality of the production. In all honesty, Laser Mission is a total mess and pretty much a dumpster fire. In addition to the confusing plot (for example, just try to figure out what country these people are supposed to be in - go ahead - I dare you), the movie features some incredibly poor editing, ridiculous dialogue, dodgy acting (those ever-changing accents are a hoot), lame special effects, amateurish action sequences, groan-inducing attempts at comedy, lead actress Debi Monahan's screechy voice, and, despite the title, nary a laster in sight. However, regardless of this list of negatives, I found Laser Mission not just watchable, but mostly entertaining. I think all of the craziness I've listed, when combined, created something that's just good fun.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but I was amazed to see Ernest Borgnine pop up in a dog like Laser Mission. I've enjoyed Borgnine as an actor since I first saw McHale's Navy in reruns as a child. Despite the ridiculous script, he gives it his all. He easily outacts everyone in the cast.
Happy Death Day (2017)
"Who takes their date to Subway?"
Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) discovers she's stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over. She wakes up in the same unfamiliar dorm room, makes the same walk across campus, has the same conversations and interactions, and is inevitably murdered. To get on with the rest of her life, Tree will have to unmask her killer before she dies yet again.
This is another of those movies that I sincerely doubt was intended for people in my demographic. But it works for me. I enjoy Happy Death Day more and more with each viewing. I've now seen it three times and my rating keeps going up. What makes it special? I find the writing incredibly witty and clever. Time loop movies and television shows have been done to death, but this one feels fresh to me. I appreciate the fact that the filmmakers didn't shy away from the inevitable comparisons with Groundhog Day. Instead, they were actually smart enough to include it in the movie. And I love the blend of horror and comedy. The combination is not always easy to get right and few movies excel at it the way Happy Death Day does.
In addition to the writing, Happy Death Day is blessed with a top-notch cast. Jessica Rothe is a real standout. She (and everyone involved in the film) does an excellent job presenting her character's transformation and growth throughout the film. She goes from the typical sorority b%#@h you can find in most any slasher to a well-rounded young woman with a real heart. It's all nicely done. Rothe is joined by Israel Broussard as Carter Davis - pretty much a doofus, but all-around good guy. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where their relationship is headed.
Finally, I called Happy Death Day a horror / comedy. And while that's true, the movie's really more of a rom-com now that I think about it. Sure, there are a few creepy moments and some real laugh-out-loud bits, but it's more about Tree and Carter's relationship than anything else. And a cuter couple you won't find (did I really just use the word "cuter").
The Meg (2018)
"Meg versus man isn't a fight . . . it's a slaughter."
A group of scientists descend to the deepest part of the ocean. Unfortunately, they run into trouble (in the form of a giant, thought-to-be-extinct megalodon) and are stranded. A rescue is attempted and is successful. But on the way back to the surface, our band of interpret heroes / explorers is followed. What do you think it could be?
My quick review of The Meg - Big dumb fun (quite a bit of it actually), but little else.
My main problem is that just about every aspect of The Meg is predictable. Plot twists, character backstories, romance angles, the fate of Rainn Wilson's Morris - there are very few surprises. The most predictable thing, however, is (even though it's painfully obvious, I feel compelled to say SPOILER WARNING) the second meg. With at least 45 minutes of runtime left, who didn't see that coming? END SPOILER WARNING.
I"m not overly familiar with Bingbing Li, but I want to see more. She's a legitimate bright spot in The Meg. As for Jason Statham, he's Jason Statham. You get what you expect. Rainn Wilson has some good moments (I especially enjoyed the Shark Week bit), but ultimately, he wears out his welcome and I wanted to see his character die. And could Sophia Cai be anymore cute? What a little actress!
Special effects were hit or miss. Some of the meg close-ups were obviously CGI. However, the scene with the giant squid, for example, looked fantastic to me. Set design was nice. The underwater station looked appropriately "cool".
The Falcon Takes Over (1942)
"Oh, the great Falcon! I haven't seen you in half a dozen murders!"
An ex-wrestler is released from prison and starts looking for his girlfriend. Problem is that dead bodies seem to turn up wherever he goes. The Falcon is on the case - if he can stay one step ahead of the law himself.
Despite anything negative I may write, overall, I've enjoyed The Falcon Takes Over each time I've had the opportunity to watch it. George Sanders is in fine form, Lynn Bari and Allen Jenkins make solid sidekicks, the movie moves at a fantastic pace and is never dull, and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. Sounds pretty good so far, right?
But there are a couple of issues I have that put a damper on things. First, there are large gaps in the plot that are never filled in or explained. Based on what we see, there's simply no way the Falcon (or the police for that matter) would know what move to make next without making wild, but accurate, guesses. A lot of it just doesn't make sense. Second, there's Helen Gilbert as Diane Kenyon. I"m not sure when I've seen a supposed femme fatale that I was more unimpressed with. She annoyed me more than anything else. But in the end, The Falcon Takes Over is so generally fun and likeable that it's fairly easy to overlook these issues and just enjoy.
One more thing, I find it odd that there are only five credited actors in the cast. Turhan Bay, George Cleveland, and even Ward Bond (whose Moose Malloy is at the center of everything that happens) don't make the "credit cut". Odd.
Pressure Point (1997)
After CIA operative Sebastian Dellacourt (Don Mogavero) botches an assassination attempt, he's tried and sentenced to jail. Sometime later, one of Dellacourt's old bosses offers him a chance at freedom if he'll complete one last mission - bust up a dangerous militia bent on destroying the US government.
I think I've rated every movie I've seen from Edgewood Studios a 3/10. For Pressure Point, there are so many problems I could point to that it's really not worth the time and/or effort. The screenplay, the dialogue, the acting, the fight choreography - it's all so hopelessly pathetic. I suppose, however, that one of the biggest problems with Pressure Point is lead actor (and writer) Don Mogavero. He's pretty much the antithesis of an action star. No offence meant toward the man, but Mogavero looks more like he should be playing an accountant rather than a CIA hitman. He's got a dad bad, a disappearing hairline, and all the athletic grace you'd expect from a middle-age white dude. Now that i've written that, I realize he doesn't sound that dissimilar to me. Hey, maybe I'm an action star and I just don't know it!
There are many, many little things about Pressure Point that left me scratching my head. Things like: What's up with the total lack of security at that maximum security prison? I think I saw a total of three guards - and two of those were on a smoke break. Or, where is this film supposed to be taking place? Vermont? Delaware? Who knows? Or, is it really that easy to steal a helicopter from a group of law enforcement agents? It's like taking candy from a baby. Or, could Dellacourt's prison escape have been any more awkward looking? He can't run very fast, he has all the jumping ability of a walrus, and he's wearing a prison outfit that's about three sizes too big. Smooth it ain't. Or . . . well, you get the idea. From an empty six-pack of Diet Coke used as a weapon to sticks of dynamite in a microwave, there's a lot here to ponder.
Finally, I want to mention two things in Pressure Point that I actually enjoyed. First, Steve Railsback easily acts circles around everyone else in the cast. He also makes a fantastic baddie. The movie might have been better had he had more screen time, but i'm sure they didn't have the budget for that. Second, it was "nice" spotting Matthew Bruch in a small role. If you're a "fan" of the Edgewood Studios' classic Time Chasers, then you're all too familiar with Bruch. Go Castleton!
The Saint: The Arrow of God (1962)
Welcome to the Bahamas!
Simon is invited by an old friend to spend some time with her family and friends at their home in the Bahamas. Among the group is a nasty piece of work named Floyd Vosper (Anthony Dawson). He's a journalist who enjoys exposing the secrets of the rich and powerful. It seems he has something on every guest. So, it's not terribly surprising when Vosper turns up dead.
I've about decided that a lot of these early episodes have a different sort of "feel" to them. In the case of The Arrow of God, it has more in common with an Agatha Christie story than what I expect from The Saint. You know, everyone in the household had a reason to kill the victim, but everyone has an alibi. Here, though, instead of a stuffy detective, Simon solves the case and delivers what amounts to the drawing room denouement. And much like Christie, the solution to whodunit is riddled with holes. But seriously, I could care less. It was so much fun watching Simon get to the bottom of things that I wasn't overly bothered with a plot issue or two.
One of the things that makes this one so good is the acting. I'll start with Anthony Dawson. His portrayal of Vosper is an absolute blast to watch. Every word out of his mouth is like acid. It's no wonder he meets his untimely demise. Good stuff. I was also impressed with Elspeth March as Simon's friend Lucy. I thought she did a nice job of expressing an array of emotions throughout the episode. Finally, I'll mention Honor Blackman. She's solid. It's pretty cool to see three actors (Dawson, Blackman, and Moore) who would go on to memorable performances in the James Bond films sharing screen time in an early episode of The Saint.
The Saint: The Pearls of Peace (1962)
From New York to Mexico
Simon agrees to help finance a friend's ill-fated pearl hunting operation. Years later, he receives word that his friend is living in Mexico and wants to pay back what he owes. Simon heads to Mexico to investigate and is shocked at what he finds.
I know I'm only six episodes into The Saint, but The Pearls of Peace is not what I've come to expect from the series. For lack of a better word, it doesn't feel like the other episodes I've seen. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, it's just different. Instead of the usual action/crime/drama genre classification I would use to describe The Saint, this episode is more like a drama/romance w/ a dash of crime. The story is told in flashback style with Simon little more than a background character for most of the episode. He really doesn't do much until the episode is almost over. Again, not that any of this is bad, just different. One thing that's not different is that, in the end, Simon's on-hand to save the day. However, the little switcheroo that he pulls wasn't nearly as clever as it was meant to be. The con was way too easy to predict. And, I could have done without that sappy final monologue. It's a real low point for me.
There are a couple of acting highlights I want to point out. First, Dina Palsner is fantastic as Consuelo. She gives a very refined, dignified performance and creates a believably loving character. Second is Erica Rogers. Has there ever been a more uncaring, selfish gold-digger than Rogers' Joss Hendry? I think that the contrast between these two characters is a real strength of The Pearls of Peace.
The Saint: The Loaded Tourist (1962)
From Rome to Geneva
After unsuccessfully thwarting a murder, Simon agrees to help the victim's 16 year-old son, Alfredo, discover why his father was murdered and find those responsible. The trail leads to a stash of valuable jewelry and a surprise suspect.
Overall, The Loaded Tourist is a pretty standard episode. It's solid enough, but it's nowhere near as outstanding as some of the others. Once in Geneva, the episode moves at a good pace and held my interest throughout. Highlights include a con that Simon and Alfredo are able to pull on the killers. It's a treat watching as their plan unfolds. There are also a few plot twists near the end that really help make this one better than average. One of the weaker moments in The Loaded Tourist was, of all things, the murder scene. The staging of the murder and its aftermath (including the discovery of the missing briefcase) felt clumsy to me.
The supporting cast is a mixed bag in my eyes. Guy Deghy and Barbara Bates (what a tragic story) really stood out. Both are rock solid and work well with Moore. On the other end of the spectrum is Joseph Cuby as Alfredo. This kid got on my nerves right from the start. Sure, some of his suspicions were proven true, but did he have to be so whiny?
The Saint: The Covetous Headsman (1962)
Top notch episode
During his seven hour flight from New York to Paris, Simon befriends a woman on her way to meet her long lost brother. Upon arrival, she learns that her brothe's been murdered. Fearing for her safety, Simon agrees to look into things. And wouldn't you know it, Simon's right. It's not long after Simon starts his investigation that the woman is kidnapped by a Nazi sympathizer.
The Covetous Headsman is easily the best episode I've seen so far. This one could have easily been fleshed out into a full length movie. There's a lot packed into the 49 minute runtime. The writing is very strong. There are plenty of twists and turns and a real sense of danger. The story kept me guessing until the very end. Roger Moore is on top of his game and is much more believable in the action scene that he would be later in his career. Barbara Shelley makes the perfect woman in peril. She's outstanding. The rest of the cast, especially George Pastell, are more than up for the task. Overall, a really nice piece of television.
Two more things before I end this:
1. Not unlike another IMDb comment I read, I was bothered throughout by the notion of Simon working with the French Resistance during WWII. Based on Moore's age in 1962, Simon would have been somewhere around 16 years old I'm not sure how realistic that might have been.
2. I always love seeing 1960s-era everyday life. In this episode, we're treated to some interesting shots of the now renamed Idlewild Airport and the streets of Paris. I can't seem to get enough of this stuff.
Wicked Stepmother (1989)
"It didn't work, did it, Dorothy? This is reality, not MGM!"
Writing a plot summary for this one is difficult. If you're unfamiliar with the movie, Wicked Stepmother's star, Bette Davis, left after several days of shooting. The script was rewritten, creating a fairly disjointed experience. Because of that, I'll just try to go through some "highlights" of the plot. Miranda (Bette Davis), a chain-smoking witch, marries Sam (Lionel Sander) while his daughter, Jenny (Colleen Camp), is on vacation. Miranda turns the house upside down, making Jenny's life miserable in the process. But just as you're getting accustomed to Miranda and her witchy doings, she disappears and is replaced by her daughter, Priscilla (Barbara Carrera). Priscilla continues the reign of terror. Can Jenny put a stop to Priscilla before her whole family is destroyed?
If the stories I've read are true, I don't blame Bette Davis one bit for walking out on Wicked Stepmother. It's pretty much a gigantic mess of a film. The script is a disastrous jumble of poorly thought out ideas, some of the acting is incredibly weak, most of the comedy doesn't work, and the special effects are as lame as you can find. Why would someone of Ms Davis' stature want to be involved in something like this? The scenes in which she does appear, however, are easily the best part of the film. Even in her last, admittedly limited role, she plays "catty" as well as anyone who ever appeared on screen.
I'm sure that a lot of the issues I have with Wicked Stepmother come from director Larry Cohen's efforts to save the film after he lost Ms Davis. And while there are moments here and there that worked for me (the bits with the stunning Barbara Carrera and Lionel Stander are quite good), most of it is difficult and often embarrassing to watch. For example, watching miscast Tom Bosley talk to a shoebox is cringey and painful. And, you know you're in trouble when you see credits that list Richard Moll as a "Special Guest" (at least I think that's the way he's listed - I really can't be bothered to go back and look it up). None of his shenanigans were in the least bit funny to me. In the end, regardless of why it's bad, it's still just a bad movie.
Finally, including pictures of Joan Crawford was a stroke of genius and something far more clever than the rest of this mess.
Pursuit to Algiers (1945)
"Oh, so the old girl has lost her emeralds, eh?"
Holmes and Waston are engaged to escort a foreign royal back to his home country. As you would expect, there are those who would like to see them fail.
If you read what's been written about Pursuit to Algiers across the internet, you'll quickly discover that many feel this is among the worst of the Rathbone Holmes' films. While I certainly understand the arguments against the movie, I at least find enough enjoyment in it to give it a 5/10 rating.
The problems with Pursuit to Algiers are many. Start with the ridiculous manner in which Holmes and Watson are contacted. Why not just approach Holmes? Why go through all the unnecessary cloak and dagger? It's all so silly. Next, Holmes spots the baddies straight away. He even catches them red-handed (literally) on at least two occasions trying to kill either him or the royal under his protection. Why not do something about it? Why let these guys go free to carry out another attempt? It's preposterous. Then there's the whole subplot about the stolen emeralds. Even though Holmes says he's not interested when he and Watson hear about the robbery, you just know they'll get brought back up. And, it's not hard to spot who has them. Next, there are a number of ship passengers that unnecessarily act like suspicious criminals. In real life, these harmless people would most likely come across as harmless people. Most people don't act that shady when going about their daily lives. Finally, not that any of these Holmes' films had huge budgets, but you can tell Universal was cutting corners. Filming aboard what is supposed to be a ship is about as cheap as you can get with no large sets and a minimal cast. Throw in some uber-thick fog to hide other deficiencies and you can save even more money. Oh, I wrote "finally", but one last thing - Rathbone looks tired. There's no sparkle to his performance. It looks to me like he's ready to move on to something else.
Regardless of these issues, there are still things I enjoy each time I've watched Pursuit to Algiers. Instead of a long list as I did with the weaknesses, I'll limit this to my absolute favorite moment. I've seen this film on at least three occasions, but that ending never fails to catch me off-guard. There's a twist near the end that somehow works on me everytime. An ending that effective is worth something when it comes to a rating.
Murder in the Blue Room (1944)
The mystery is as obvious as the comedy
A party is held in a house that has been closed since a mysterious death occurred in one of the bedrooms known as "the Blue Room". Believing he might be able to solve the mystery, one of the guests asks to spend the night in the very same fateful room. The next morning, it's discovered he's disappeared. Has the Blue Room claimed its next victim?
To say I'm disappointed in Murder in the Blue Room would be an understatement. Going in, the film had so much going for it. The old, dark house setting, mysterious deaths, secret passages, and maybe even a ghost. All the trappings are there for a good movie. And don't misunderstand my rating, there are bits here and there that I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, what Murder in the Blue Room doesn't have is a good script. To begin with, the mystery parts of the film are way too easy to solve. The movie all but announces the murderer's identity from the very beginning. Second, the only thing more obvious than the mystery is the comedy. I don't mind comedy mixed with my old, dark house movie, but only if it's good comedy. Most of what is meant to be funny here comes from a trio of wannabe Andrews Sisters. The jokes are so hamfisted in their delivery that you can spot them from a mile away. This kind of comedy just doesn't work for me.
Finaly, there's one other thing that really got under my skin while watching Murder in the Blue Room that I want to mention - that ghost. What was the point? It wasn't frightening, it wasn't funny, and it had no bearing on the mystery. Why add it to the movie at all? Despite all of the other issues I had with the film, I might have seen fit to rate Murder in the Blue Room higher had that ridiculous ghost not been included.
One of the absolute worst
While at the beach one day, PJ Smith (Sandra Shuker) meets a small, talking alligator. He's on the run from an exploitative carnival owner and only wants to find his way home. PJ agrees to help, but she'll have to stay one step ahead of the carnival owner, his henchman, and a female ninja (whatever?).
There are bad movies and then there are BAD movies. Rollergator falls into that second category - BAD. Someday, I might sit down and make a list of the 10 worst movies I've ever seen. I can safely say that Rollergator will be on that list. While watching Rollergator, it's hard to fathom that it was made by full-grown, human adults. Everything about the movie (and I'm being generous by calling Rollergator a "movie") is as bad as you can find. While I could write pages about the problems found in Rollergator, I'll limit this to just one. Never in my life have I seen a movie, especially a "modern" movie, with such poor sound. There are times where I literally couldn't decipher what was being said because the ambient noise drowned out everything else. I could see lips moving, so I knew they were saying something. What, though, I have absolutely no idea. I could record something on my phone that would have infinitely better sound quality.
While I could also easily criticize the writing, directing, special effects, fight choreography, and just about everything else, one thing I will not say anything bad about is Sandra Shuker in the lead role (unlike acting buffoon Joe Estevez). Admittedly, she's not very good, but I'm not going to blame her. First, she's really not an actress. This is her only acting credit. It looks like she was thrown into this movie and received little help from the rest of the cast and crew. Second, she appears to be giving it her all. You can see she's trying. That's worth something in my book.
"Santos is dead. You remember Santos? This is his sister."
Vietnam vet Bobby McBain (Christopher Walken) agrees to help the sister of the man who rescued him from a POW camp at the end of the war. He recruits some of his old army buddies and heads off to Columbia. Their mission - bring down the naco-backed Columbian government. Sounds pretty simple, right? Lots of explosions follow.
I know that McBain is a favorite of some "bad" movie fans, but it never quite works for me. I'm not sure why, but I think I missed something akin to a real plot. McBain features one action set-piece after the next with very little in the way of story to connect these sequences and help make any sense out of the whole thing. For example, McBain and Co need money to finance their operation. Next thing you know, they're extorting a mob boss and, almost instantly, have a $10 million bankroll. How did all that happen? The movie has a terribly disjointed feel to it that I didn't care for. Also, I had a hard time buying Walken and his buddies as mercenaries. First, Walken has never reminded me of an action movie lead. Second, these guys have been out of the military for 18 years, but 'we're supposed to believe that they're able to topple the Columian government? I'm not buying it. Finally, when things aren't being blown up, I found McBain horribly dull. When the film does take time for exposition, it's amazingly boring. Overall, I didn't enjoy McBain nearly as much as I had hoped.
One last thing, there is one scene in McBain that is so jaw-droppingly stupid, it has to be seen to be beleived. I won't spoil it, I'll just say that I've never seen an Air Force jet taken out of the sky in such a ridiculous manner. It's laugh-out-loud funny and, for me anyway, one of McBain's "highlights".
The Hidden Hand (1942)
This one deserves to be better known
Lorinda Channing helps her insane brother escape from an asylum. She intends to use him to frighten her other relatives who she feels are only out to get her money. Intending to leave the majority of her fortune to her secretary, Mary Winfield, Lorinda is convinced she'll also need protection from her crazy family. But can you really trust an homicidal maniac bent on killing again?
I'm not really sure why The Hidden Hand isn't better known. It's one of those Warner "B" films that seems to have unfairly dropped into relative obscurity. I'm not sure I was even aware of its existence until last night. Too bad, because it's a ton of fun. It's got so much going for it. First, Milton Parsons plays mad brother John perfectly. He expertly alternates between hilarious and downright creepy. To me, it looked as if Parsons was having the time of his life. His name might not be familiar, but he's a character actor that I'm sure most fans of 1940s-era films have run across. Second is Willie Best. I always feel it necessary to defend enjoying Best, so I'll do so again. While I do not appreciate the stereotypical and sometimes degrading roles he was given, he's as good a comedian as you'll find. HIs timing is impeccable. The missing sandwich bit near the beginning of the film had me just about laughing out loud. In fact, he steals just about every scene he appears in. Finally, as I've said countless times, I always enjoy an old, dark house movie. This one comes complete with secret passages, moving panels, and other surprises. Add to that a madcap script, dead bodies that appear and disappear, and an atmospheric thunderstorm and you've got a winner in my books.
One last thing, being a Warner Brothers' film - even a "B' film - it all looks great. Director Benjamin Stoloff and cinematographer Henry Sharp certainly knew what they were doing.
The Ghost That Walks Alone (1944)
What with the title?
My short and sweet plot summary: Newlywed Eddie Grant (Arthur Lake) gets mixed up in murder and a missing body while on his honeymoon. Much (supposed) hilarity ensues.
The Ghost That Walks Alone is billed as a comedy/mystery. I have problems with both parts of that description. For the comedy part, if you're a fan of Arthur Lake's Dagwood Bumstead, you might enjoy his antics in The Ghost That Walks Alone. If, like me, you find his brand of comedy insufferable, you're most likely not going to enjoy the film. I'm sorry, but I just can't stomach the man. He's so annoying. As for the mystery elements, well, there really isn't much of a mystery. The film's idiotic would-be sleuths spend more time trying to hide the body than solving the crime. Instead, the murderer just sort of reveals himself in the finale and confesses to everything. No real detective work needed. That's probably a good thing because I'm not sure any character in the film displays the intelligence or common sense you'd find in an average second-grader. The whole thing is a disastrous mess.
One last thing - what's with the title? Not only is there no ghost in The Ghost That Walks Alone, there's not even mention of a ghost or anything remotely supernatural. Talk about a misleading title.
The Octopus vs The Octogenarians
Instead of a long, drawn-out plot summary, this is all you really need to know - a giant octopus terrorizes a seaside town.
Has there ever been a film that inspired more imitators than Jaws? Some, like Grizzly, I genuinely enjoy. Some, like The Last Shark, are so bad that I find them highly entertaining. Then there are the ones like Tentacles - movies so bad, they're just bad.
So what makes Tentacles so bad. Well, the list is longer than one of the film's insufferable scuba diving scenes. 1. I'll start with plot threads that go nowhere. For example, throughout the entire movie, we're treated to scene after scene of discussions regarding the construction of an underwater tunnel. It all leads to absolutely nothing. 2. The special effects are generally horrible. There's a scene near the end involving killer whales. Even considering the murky quality of the cinematography, it's more than obvious we're looking at hand puppets. 3. Speaking of cinematography, that brings me to my next point. The film finale is so poorly lensed that it's often impossible to tell what we're watching. 4. I'll call this one The Disappearing Stars. The films touts John Huston, Shelley Winters (complete with comically oversized sombrero), Henry Fonda, and Claude Akins as stars of the film. All are gone about half-way through and Tentacles turns into Bo Hopkins' film. Fonda's role, in particular, is little more than a couple of cameos. And most of the "stars" look about as excited to be in Tentacles as I was watching it. 5. The movie includes some laughable voice dubbing. Normally, dubbing in Italian movies doesn't bother me. I usually consider it part of their charm. But that's not the case here. I've heard Cesare Danova's voice in other films. He sounds nothing in real life like he does in Tentacles. I actually laughed-out-loud it was so ridiculous. 6. Really, I could do this all day, but what's the point. It's a bad, bad movie.
There are, however, three things about Tentacles that I did like. One, I have a soft spot for European films from the 60s and 70s and Tentacles literally reeks of Italian cinema. Whether it's the dubbing, the odd phrasing, the ever-present harpsichord music, or all of the supposed Califonrians with Italian accents, there's no denying the film's origins. Second (and third), despite the poor quality of most of the special effects, there are two scenes that actually manage to work. First, there's a scene where the octopus peers into a diving bell that's truly frightening. Second, there's a scene where one of the female characters (and I can't be bothered to look up which) is lifted out of the water by an octopus' arm. It's easily the film's visual highlight. If all the effects were as good as these two, Tentacles might have been a much better movie. As I said before, however, it's a bad, bad movie.
The Falcon's Brother (1942)
The one with two Falcons
The Falcon, Gay Lawrence (George Sanders), is headed dockside to meet his brother, Tom Lawrence (Tom Conway), who is arriving from South America. What he doesn't know is that before the ship docks, his brother has been declared dead. The cause of death - suicide. Knowing that something's up, The Falcon follows the woman who found his brother's body to an upscale dress shop. But before he can question the woman, she's also killed. After Gay is put out of commission by a hit-and-run, Tom steps out of the shadows to take over the case.
The transition from Gay to Tom is handled as smoothly and deftly as any transition I can think of. It helps that George Sanders and Tom Lawrence were real life brothers. Because of their familial similarities, it's easy to believe that Gay and Tom are also brothers. While I think I prefer George in the role, Tom more than holds his own and is about as enjoyable in this film and the Falcon films to follow.
The plot in The Falcon's Brother is about as good as any you'll find in a "B" from RKO. The mystery is a fun one with plenty of suspicious characters and interesting clues. In fact, the magazine clues were as solid as any I've seen in any film of this type. It's quite enjoyable to watch Tom and Company go through their paces and put the pieces together. I also got a kick out of the dress designer talking about how the gowns were made in compliance with government regulations concerning the amount of material that could be used given the war time era the film was made. It's just a small thing, but it was an interesting insight into 1942. My biggest complaint is the way the finale feels rushed. It seems that a lot of these comedy/mystery films did a good job of leading you right up to the end and then blew it.
Sanders and Conway are joined by an especially strong cast given the film's limited budget. Jane Randolph is a standout. I'm glad to see she comes back in the next film. And I thought Keye Luke was very funny as The Falcon's butler, Jerry. The bits where he purposefully plays up the Asian stereotypes of the era to his advantage are quite good.