Review of “Son of Frankenstein” (1939)

trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie night offering, another classic. We watched it with Svengoolie.

Plot:

In a German village, children run down a lane. One pauses to pick up a rock and throw it toward a building where a sign hangs warning Eingang Verboten. A man with wild hair and beard (Bela Lugosi) looks down at them from a broken second-story window, sending them flying.

In the town hall, the burghers debate the problem of the arrival of the new Baron von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone). They remember all too well the death and destruction wrought by the monster, the creation of the Baron’s father, and want nothing to do with any Frankenstein. Nevertheless, the Burgomaster (Lawrence Grant) is determined to hand over a box of papers the old baron left for his son to the present baron. He will meet him and his family at the train when they arrive.

Aboard the train, Elsa von Frankenstein (Josephine Hutchinson) tucks in her son, Peter ((Donnie Dunagan), then remarks to her husband, Wolf, how odd the countryside looks. They’re both excited about their new life, but Wolf notes the castle is haunted because of the misdeeds of the creature his father created. He blames the horrors on the blunder of his father’s assistant, Ygor.

It’s pouring rain when they arrive. A sea of umbrellas meets them. True to his word, the Burgomaster gives the Baron the chest of his father’s papers. The Baron addresses the townspeople, but they fade away.

At Castle Frankenstein, Butler Thomas Benson (Edgar Norton) tells him he had to hire staff from out of town. None of the local people will work in the castle. The Baron reads from his father’s papers, which promise to divulge the secrets of his work before a portrait of old baron. Outside, the rain continues unabated. Over Wolf’s shoulder, the viewer can see the face of the same man with wild hair and beard who frightened the children earlier now looking in through the window.

Inspector Krogh pays a visit to the household to warn the baron that while he is protected as long as he is in the castle, he remains in danger.  Six men have been murdered recently. None of the murders have been solved.

 The inspector’s right arm is wooden. He pushes it around when he needs to hold things, like a monocle, while he polishes it with his left hand. He also promises to come at any time should the baron summon. Wolf says while he did not receive a warm welcome, he does not feel he is in danger. He continues to throw darts at a target. Besides, what proof is there that the monster was all that destructive, anyway?

The Inspector (Lionel Atwill) relates how he lost his arm to the monster while his father shot at it to no avail. The injury prevented him from joining the army, relegating him to the police force of a tiny village.

The next day, Wolf investigates the remains of the old baron’s lab, blown up in the troubles of times past. A gaping hole stands in the roof. There, the same man attempts to kill him by rolling a boulder into him. He misses, as does Wolf when he fires his rifle in retaliation. The wild-haired man is Ygor, his father’s assistant, who talks about himself in the third person. His neck was broken when the town council hanged him and pronounced him dead. They did a poor job of both. He’ll show the Baron something…

He leads him down to the family crypt. There, Wolf finds the coffins of his grandfather and his father, who, according to the inscription, created monsters. He also sees the monster (Boris Karloff) laid out on a slab. Ygor explains he’s “sick” and wants the baron to make him well again.

Thoughts:

This is the third of some eight classic Universal Frankenstein monster movies made between 1931 and 1948. It falls between 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein and 1942’s The Ghost of Frankenstein.

It is moody and somber. The present Baron von Frankenstein admires his father, whom he never knew, though he abhors his legacy of death and destruction. At the same time, he can’t help but be intrigued by his father’s scientific investigations. On seeing the monster for the first time, he cries, “It’s alive!”

Too late, he realizes his error, that Ygor, and not he, controls the monster. To make matters all the more horrifying, he fears for his son—and with good reason.

The interior of Castle Frankenstein is full of shadows. The windows have non-parallel edges. The grand stairway at the entrance winds and bends at odd angles, with steps that grow and shrink in size for no apparent reason. Of course, the walls move and lead to secret passageways.

There is little gore in this movie. Of course, the monster meets a suitably horrible end (I trust I give away nothing), but most of the film is atmosphere and anticipation. It presents a moral dilemma: Wolf knew he was treading on thin ice, and now he can’t get himself out of a quandary he didn’t see (but should have seen) coming.

A lot of this movie would later be parodied so well in Young Frankenstein (1974), but the original is worth watching on its own.

I liked this film. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it available for free download. If you’re interested, though, I’d say it’s worth a rental.



Title: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Director
Rowland V. Lee

Writers
Mary Shelley (suggested by the story written in 1816)
Wyllis Cooper (screenplay)

Cast:
Basil Rathbone…Baron Wolf von Frankenstein
Boris Karloff…The Monster
Bela Lugosi…Ygor
Lionel Atwill…Inspector Krogh
Josephine Hutchinson…Elsa von Frankenstein

Released: 1939
Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Review of “Frankenstein” (1931)

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a film about as classic as they come. The clip you’ve probably seen of Boris Karloff’s (as the monster) fingers twitching while Colin Clive, as Henry Frankenstein, dances around crying, “It’s alive!” is from this movie. The scene is imitated and parodied so often it’s easy to forget where it got started.

Plot:

The movie opens with a stage curtain—as if this were a play—parting. Out steps Edward Van Sloan (who will later appear as Dr. Waldman) and says to the audience:

How do you do? [Producer] Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning: We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation; life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So, if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to, uh, well––we warned you.

The viewer next sees a family in mourning burying a loved one. They’re being watched by a young man (Colin Clive) and his hunchback assistant, Fritz (Dwight Frye). They wait until the family departs. Once the coast is clear, they unearth the buried coffin. For good measure, the young man, a scientist by the name of Henry Frankenstein, orders his assistant to cut down the hanged body of a criminal. The two roll the cart with their prizes to the laboratory in a castle.

Henry plans to stitch together bits and pieces of various dead bodies and reanimate the corpse. He sends Fritz to the university classroom of his old professor, Dr. Waldman (Edward Van Sloan). The good doctor is lecturing with a demonstration on two brains: a normal and an abnormal brain. After class is dismissed, Fritz slips in and picks up the jar with the normal brain. Unfortunately, he drops it, sending brain matter and glass all over the floor. He takes the remaining abnormal brain instead.

Back home, his beloved fiancée, Elizabeth (Mae Clarke), receives a disturbing letter from Henry, telling her that his work must come first, even before her. She worries and confides her concern to old friend Victor Moritz (John Boles). Baron Frankenstein (Frederick Kerr) thinks his son Henry is putting her off because there’s another woman. They decide to go, knowing Henry won’t be happy to see them.

They arrive on a stormy night, the kind that produces lightning enough to animate corpses. Yeah, the timing could have been better.

Thoughts:

Frankenstein originally came out before the Hayes Code, more properly the Motion Picture Production Code, came into effect. There were several scenes and bits of dialogue that were later subject to censorship. For example, when Henry first animates the creature, he cries, “In the name of God? Now I know what it feels like to be God!” This was considered blasphemous, and in most places, the thunder grew pointedly louder when he spoke. Also, a scene where the monster accidentally drowns a little girl, Maria (Marilyn Harris), is cut short. Most modern copies restore the censored scenes.

The monster never becomes articulate, but he is not a brute beast. He expresses joy and wonder at seeing sunlight, turning destructive only when he’s abused. Fritz taunts him with a lit torch, frightening him. When the monster later seeks Henry Frankenstein’s death out of revenge, the audience can understand his motivation. The monster meets his own end (I trust I give nothing away), caught under a heavy beam in a burning windmill. It is a tragedy if a necessity. The townspeople are out for blood after the death of little Maria.

Henry Frankenstein’s sin is tampering with things human beings are not meant to know. He thinks he’s become akin to a god. (I don’t suppose I’m the only woman who watched the scene and thought, Dude, there’s an easier way to create life, ya know…). Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein sins in abandoning his creation, not in its creation per se. The monster is then thrust upon the world as an outcast. The revenge the creature exacts is terrible and complete. Hollywood cannot accept that, of course. There has to be a happy ending.

The movie set a lot of precedents—the castle on the hill with the lightning, the look of the monster (which is still copyrighted by Universal Studios), the elaborate electrical gadgets used to reanimate the corpse, to name a few. (Shelley’s book is deliberately vague on the method of reanimation).

The big draw is Henry Frankenstein’s twisted obsession with reanimating a corpse that he’s sewn together. A little nutty? He’s put off his wedding to the lovely Elizabeth, who cares for him when she has a good argument for moving on. For a moment, it seems like the nutty idea might work. Boris Karloff, without lines, portrays the wonder and delight of any creature might on seeing the world for the first time until he is betrayed.

This is a classic film that has stood the test of time. There is some melodrama, but any horror fan or fan of the weird will enjoy this. I did. I’ve seen it before. I enjoyed watching it this time, and I hope to see it again.

Unfortunately, I could not find it for free download.




Title: Frankenstein (1931)


Director
James Whale

Writers
John L. Balderston (based upon the composition by)
Mary Shelley (from the novel by)
Peggy Webling (adapted from the play by)

Cast:

Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
Mae Clarke as Elizabeth
Boris Karloff as The Monster
John Boles as Victor Moritz
Edward Van Sloan as Doctor Waldman
Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein

Released: 1931
Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes


Review of “Nightmare Alley” (1947)

trailer from YouTube


This was our Saturday pizza and bad movie offering. The movie was good, but boy, was it depressing little film noir.

Plot:

Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Tyrone Power) finds himself fascinated by everything at the carnival. How does one sink so low as to work as the “geek,” eating live chickens?

“It can happen,” says Madam Zeena (Joan Blondell). Stan works as a barker for the mentalist show Madam Zeena performs with her drunken husband, Pete (Ian Keith). Stan is grateful for the opportunity. He feels great sticking it to the rubes. He was “made for it,” in what becomes a tagline.

One night, Stan buys a bottle of moonshine. When Pete comes along, he stows it in a trunk because he doesn’t want to get in Dutch with Zeena. However, Pete is in such a sorry state that Stan reaches inside the trunk and passes the bottle on. The next morning, Pete doesn’t wake up. The empty bottle next to him is not the one Pete bought, but one of Zeena’s stage props, a bottle of woods alcohol.

“Pete wouldn’t drink this!” Zeena says.

Stan looks into the trunk. His bottle is still there.

Stan quickly makes himself indispensable to the carnival, not just to Zeena. Zeena teaches him a code, using words and syllable stresses, she and Pete used when they were on the top of vaudeville in a mindreading act. They charm audiences. Using cold reading techniques, he learned from Pete, talks a sheriff out of investigating the carnival. He makes a play first for Zeena, then for a younger woman, Molly (Coleen Gray), the object of affection of the circus strong man, Bruno (Mike Mazurki). This leads to their expulsion from the carnival.

Stan and Molly marry and set out on their own, using the mind-reading act in nightclubs. They’ve made the big time. They just didn’t count the perception of some in their audiences.

While things are going so well, Stan decides to take things one step further and get into the “spook” business,” that is, communicating with (*cough*) spirit world. He’ll need the help of one more corrupt partner.

Thought:

You can fool some of the people, according to the old saw. Stan has a bit of Icarus in him as well, flying too close to the sun.

This is a cautionary tale and a warning against demon rum and getting too greedy. The main character is unsympathetic, yet he comes from a background that might have lent him some sympathy from viewers. He was abandoned by his parents, raised in an orphanage where he was beaten and abused until he ran away. He’s had to make his own way in the world. Zeena gave him a break.

Three strong female roles play in this movie: first, Zeena, followed by Molly, and finally Lilith Ritter (Helen Walker), a psychologist. Molly is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the movie. She loves Stan, but she is hardly a doormat. At one point, she is ready to leave him.

The story also points out that those deceived by these tricks also enjoy it (to a point) because the deception gives them hope. One might accept harmless little practical jokes as simple entertainment, but the bilking of people out of money for communication with deceased loved ones or “cures” is an entirely different matter.

This movie was a departure for Tyrone Power, who generally played romantic or swashbuckling roles in films such as The Mark of Zorro (1940). (The Razor’s Edge (1946), about a traumatized WWI veteran, another departure, was made when Power returned from active duty after WWII.) Power read the novel on which Nightmare Alley is based, a book of the same name written by William Lindsay Gresham, and thought it would make a great movie. The movie is good, and Power’s acting was praised, but the film didn’t do well at the box office. Perhaps it was too dark a story.

In short, Nightmare Alley is powerful film noir. It’s not for the kiddies, though. There’s no sex or violence to speak of, but the matters it deals with are thoughtful and pretty damn depressing.

This movie is being remade and is schedule to be released in December 2021.

Nightmare Alley can be watched here.





Title: Nightmare Alley (1947)

Director
Edmund Goulding

Writers
Jules Furthman (screenplay)
William Lindsay Gresham (novel)

Cast:
Tyrone Power as Stanton ‘Stan’ Carlisle
Joan Blondell as Zeena Krumbein
Coleen Gray as Molly
Helen Walker as Lilith Ritter
Taylor Holmes as Ezra Grindle
Mike Mazurki as Bruno

Released: 1947
Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Review of “Blood of Dracula” (1957)

From YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a black and white vampire tale set in a girls’ school that involves not even a whiff of Dracula. Forbidden topics include cigarette smoking. The trailer hints at lesbianism, but the movie was made in 1957—you know, before such things existed. An interesting ploy.

Plot:

Eighteen-year-old Nancy Perkins (Sandra Harrison) lost her mother six months before the start of the story. Her father (Thomas Browne Henry) and her shiny new stepmother (EEEW) (Jean Dean) are driving her to the Sherwood School for Girls. Nancy objects and shows it by grabbing the steering wheel from her father and forcing the car off the road. No one is hurt, but dad and stepmom raise understandable complaints. Dad slaps Nancy, then says that while he disapproves of her smoking, one last cigarette can’t hurt her now.

Mrs. Thorndike (Mary Adams), the head of the school, welcomes Nancy with understanding. She realizes this is a strange new environment for her and has placed her with five “very sweet girls.”

Uh-huh.

Those five girls call themselves the “Birds of Paradise,” and, as one of them—Myra (Gail Ganley) — puts it, “Just remember, there’s no such thing as a lone wolf here at Sherwood. We can make life awfully miserable for oddballs.” She goes on to give Nancy the lay of the land. For starters, Myra is the teacher’s assistant in chemistry. Another Bird of Paradise, Nola (Heather Ames), is an English assistant.

And then there’s the science teacher, Miss Branding (Louise Lewis), who’s working on a thesis about the evil capabilities of every human being. Once this is made known, she’s certain it will cause the nuclear scientists to put away their bombs. But she needs a test subject, someone with a little bit of fire, who does things like pulling a girl’s hair when a science demonstration in class goes bad, and she gets injured. All she needs to do is control this test subject with a cat’s eye amulet from the Carpathian Mountains.

Remember, this is for the good of all mankind. And to get Miss Branding’s thesis accepted.

Thoughts:

The Birds of Paradise are something between a sorority and a gang. Myra admires Nancy’s spirit and is a suck-up to Miss Branding. She sets Nancy up to lose her temper in a science class demonstration where she suffers a minor but painful injury. Miss Branding talks her into letting her hypnotize her with that amulet for the Carpathian Mountains. Not only does she no longer feel pain, but she also finds herself subject to Miss Branding’s control.

One night, while the girls are having a party (don’t they ever study?), they annoy Miss Branding as she works on her thesis across the way. She takes out the amulet and puts her whammy on an unsuspecting Nancy. Nancy starts feeling woozy all of a sudden. Housemother and art teacher, Miss Rivers (Edna Holland), breaks up the party. Did she hear men’s voices? Maybe she ignores the open window. She sends Nola down to the basement for supplies for class the next day.

Nola doesn’t make it to that class.

The viewer understands Miss Branding’s frustration with not getting her thesis accepted. The viewer also understands how tightly wound she is and how utterly bereft of ethics she is to use a student, especially a student she knows is troubled and vulnerable, in her “experimentation.”

Nancy doesn’t get much choice in the matter of anything. She lost her mother, her parents dumped her off at the Sherwood School over her protests, the Birds of Paradise pressured her into joining their gang, and now a mad scientist with a wingnut idea for world peace has hypnotized her into a vampire to kill teenagers—especially those who annoy her. It really is a lot for one person to handle. No one will stick up for her. Her story is sad

Her transformation is unconvincing. She gets a high forehead, a widow’s peak that would turn Lily Munster even greener with envy, and eyelashes that would keep the rain out off her face. And then there are the teeth.

Since this movie was made to appeal to teenagers, there is a musical number, “Puppy Love.” Jerry Blaine, who played Tab, one of the guys who crashed the party the Birds of Paradise threw, wrote and performed the song. He also wrote “Eenie, Meenie, Miny, Mo” for I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which has an eerily similar plot to the present movie.

The last line of the movie goes to Mrs. Thorndike: “There is a power greater than science that rules the earth, and those who twist and pervert knowledge for evil only work out their own destruction.” So what’s the next step? “I’ll call the police.”

As for a recommendation: there are no surprises in this movie. There are some reminders as to how long ago 1957 was, of course. It is a short movie, hardly more than an hour. But it’s not an unpleasant way to spend the time if one is not too demanding. There are unintentionally amusing moments. The movie itself is deadly serious. I liked it, but I’m not in a hurry to see it again. Poor Nancy. She didn’t have a chance.

The movie can be viewed on YouTube here.

Title: Blood of Dracula (1957)

Director
Herbert L. Strock

Writer
Aben Kandel (story and screenplay)

Cast:
Sandra Harrison…Nancy Perkins
Louise Lewis…Miss Branding
Gail Ganley…Myra
Jerry Blaine…Tab
Heather Ames…Nola

Released: 1957
Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes

Review of “History of the World: Part 1” (1981)

Vnemployment Insvrance from YouTube

This is our Saturday pizza and bad movie offering, one we’d both seen before but not for many years. We’d tried a new wine, something called a Malbec. To my (*cough*) discriminating palate, it tasted a lot like a cab and was quite yummy.

Plot:

This Mel Brooks farce is told in five historical vignettes centered on 1) The Stone Age, 2) The Old Testament, 3) The Roman Empire, 4) The Spanish Inquisition, and 5) The French Revolution.

The Stone Age opens with men arising at dawn to the overture of Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” After, um, exploring themselves, Stone Age man goes on to invent art—with the inevitable art critic, marriage, and music. The “Hallelujah Chorus” is apparently a lot older than you think.

The Old Testament is brief but explains why there are ten rather than fifteen commandments.

During the Roman Empire segment, Mel Brooks plays Comicus, a stand-up philosopher. He gets a gig at Caesar’s palace before Emperor Nero (Dom DeLuise). Unfortunately, he forgets where he is and tells the wrong jokes. As Comicus says, “When you die at the Palace, you really die.”

Mel Brooks plays Tomás de Torquemada (1420-1498), the first Grand Inquisitor. He is known for the use of torture against those who didn’t convert. Funnily enough, he came from a converso background. (“Torquemada this, Torquemada that. I can’t Torquemada anything.”) The segment is portrayed in a song and dance number that concludes with synchronized swimming that hints at water torture of Jewish victims. It is grandiose, absurd, bizarre, and not exactly in the best of taste.

The final main segment depicts events around the French Revolution. Mel Brooks is King Louis XVI, and the plot borrows from such works as Dumas The Man in the Iron Mask and Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.

A few unexpected “coming attractions” at the very end round out the silly movie: Hitler ice skating, a Viking funeral (you find out why those horned helmets weren’t real), and a final segment obviously influenced by Star Wars.

Thoughts:

I saw this movie way back in 1981 in something called a “theater.” I thought it was hysterical, even if parts crossed some boundaries. It has great scenes. Louis XVI declaring his love for the peasants while skeet shooting with them—as targets (“PULL!”)—is classic. So is the first art critic. These bits can still make me laugh.

Having said that, I can’t say that as a whole, this movie has aged well. For starters, its crude adolescent humor (“Do I have any openings this man might fill?”) and its ridicule of gay men don’t work for me.

While hardly a scene fails to show Mel Brooks’ face, there are many other fine actors in this. Gregory Hines is a tap-dancing, chariot-driving, very-large-joint-rolling Josephus in Rome. Cloris Leachman is a rabble-rousing Madame Defarge. Madeline Kahn as Empress Nympho makes Emperor Nero’s cringe-worthy wind-breaking funny by rolling her eyes.

I wish this film had been as good as I remembered. The high points were really high and enjoyable. Sadly, they didn’t make up for the low points.



Title: History of the World: Part 1 (1981)

Director:
Mel Brooks

Writer:
Mel Brooks

Cast:
Mel Brooks as Moses, Comicus, Torquemada, Jacques, King Louis XVI
Gregory Hines as Josephus
Dom DeLuise as Emperor Nero
Madeline Kahn as Empress Nympho
Harvey Korman as Count de Monet
Cloris Leachman as Madame Defarge
Ron Carey as Swiftus

Released: 1981
Length:  1 hour, 32 minutes

Review of “Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1953)

Trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. Silly.

Plot:

Slim (Bud Abbott) and Tubby (Lou Costello) are American police officers sent over Great Britain to learn British police methods.

Vicky Edwards (Helen Westcott) is a suffragist, leading a rally in a park. Newspaperman Bruce Adams (Craig Stevens) is curious to see the rally, although he doesn’t think much of women getting the vote—at least not until he sees Miss Edwards sing and dance—no suffragist rally is complete without at least one such number, I’m sure. Afterward, he’s happy to sign her petition, including his name and address. He’ll also volunteer his favorite color and note that he likes long moonlit nights on the beach, too, if she’d asked.

Unfortunately for all, the rally breaks into a riot when some gentlemen object to equal rights for women. The ladies are happy to slug any man within reach, including two American police officers who show up to no avail. The viewer sees a feminine foot connect with Tubby’s rear end more than once.

Failure to contain the riot costs Slim and Tubby their jobs. Slim decides the best way to get their jobs back is to solve the string of gruesome murders plaguing London.

The ladies are bailed out of jail. Miss Edwards’s guardian, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Boris Karloff), comes to fetch her. Adams finagles a ride home in Jekyll’s carriage. His paper bailed him, but he wanted to hang around and talk to Vicky. Vicky and Bruce make goo-goo eyes at each other in the carriage ride home, not caring if Dr. Jekyll, the owner of the carriage, is a little crowded.

Once home, Dr. Jekyll descends to his secret lab hidden behind the revolving bookcase. (No evil lair is complete without one.) Here, his inarticulate assistant, Batley (John Dierkes), shows him a newspaper with a headline about the mysterious murder of one of Jekyll’s colleagues. Jekyll knows about the murder. The colleague laughed at his ideas. He had to die. And now this…reporter is making a play for Vicky, but Vicky is his. (EWWW. He raised Vicky. Vicky was his ward.) He injects himself with a serum that will transform him into Mr. Hyde to take care of the young man.

Thoughts:

This is one of several movies the comedy duo Abbott and Costello made with Universal Studios monsters, all of which rely on slapstick, mistiming, and just plain silliness. They also met the Frankenstein monster, the mummy, and the invisible man.

According to IMDB, Boris Karloff did not play Mr. Hyde. That role was played by stuntman Eddie Parker. Karloff would have been about sixty-six when the movie was made, and some of the more athletic scenes—crawling up drainpipes, for example—might have been better played by a younger actor.

While chasing “the monster,” Tubby finds himself in a wax museum, between wax figures of the Frankenstein monster and Dracula, both of whom Abbott and Costello met five years earlier in 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s original, Dr. Jekyll is not menacing but seems to lack all compassion. In many traditional films, Dr. Jekyll is a warm or at least well-intentioned human being who goes astray. In this film, he is menacing and confessional. He is jealous of his ward’s lover (ICK), intolerant of a fellow doctor’s ridicule of his wacky ideas, and vengeful. When he promises to pay the unemployed Slim and Tubby five pounds to stay the night at his place as guards, the viewer just knows it won’t go well.

An hour of slapstick can get tedious for some, so know what you’re getting before you check this out. It’s unsophisticated and silly. But it’s fun.

Regrettably, I could not find this available as a free download.


Title: Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)

Directed by
Charles Lamont

Writing Credits:
Lee Loeb…(screenplay) and
John Grant…(screenplay)
Sid Fields…(stories) (as Sidney Fields) &
Grant Garett…(story) (as Grant Garrett)
Howard Dimsdale…(writer) (uncredited)
Robert Louis Stevenson…(novel) (uncredited)

Cast:
Bud Abbott as Slim
Lou Costello as Tubby
Boris Karloff as Dr. Henry Jekyll…
Craig Stevens as Bruce Adams
Helen Westcott as Vicky Edwards
Reginald Denny as Inspector


Released: 1953
Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Review of “War of the Colossal Beast” (1958)

from YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a sequel to 1957’s The Amazing Colossal Man. It’s worth a second glass of wine to dull the pain.

Plot:

The dramatic over-the-top opening score with piccolos and tympani lets the viewer know within a few frames that this movie will be chock full of melodrama. The first scene shows a young man (Robert Hernandez) speeding along a desert road in a delivery truck—a flatbed with removable sides—looking over his shoulder. What is he running from? He’s clearly terrified. He runs the truck into a pond where it gets stuck. The young man bails from the truck, but falls into the mud of the river and flounders, screaming.

The next scene opens in the fictional sleepy little pueblo of Guavos, Mexico, where the viewer sees burros loaded down with firewood (?). An American car pulls up in front of the police station. An irate American, John Swanson (George Becwar), wants to report the theft of a dark green stake bed truck, loaded with groceries, California license plates. He doesn’t know exactly where it was stolen. It was supposed to deliver supplies to his gun club back in the hills. He hired “a kid” to drive it.

When Sgt. Luis Murillo (Rico Alaniz) asks if he remembers the driver’s name, Swanson hesitates. “Miguel something or other,” he says.

Yeah, that ought to narrow the search.

“Fifteen—sixteen years old, dark, thin about so high.” Swanson holds up his hand.

“Would you know him if you saw him?” the sergeant asks.

Swanson says he would.

They go then to the hospital, which is right across the road. The same young man seen earlier is in bed, in shock. He is no help.

Now, north of the border, in the Beverly Hilton, Joyce Manning (Sally Fraser) watches a fluff piece about a guy in Mexico who can’t collect his insurance because his grocery truck can’t be found.

Joyce has an idea. Her brother, Colonel Glen Manning (Duncan “Dean” Parkin), suffered a dose of radiation from an exploded plutonium bomb some years earlier. He grew to sixty feet tall. It was believed that he died after being shot with bazookas and falling off the Hoover Dam (… a reasonable conclusion), although his body was never found. Joyce thinks he is still alive. She contacts both the Army and Swanson.

The Army sends one Maj. Mark Baird (Roger Pace) to meet with her. Later, she, Baird, and a Dr. Carmichael (Russ Bender) head to Guavos. By this time, Miguel something-or-other is able to say that he was attacked by “big man, like an ogre.”

The Major, Dr. Carmichael, and Joyce go to the place where Miguel was found. They find tire tracks that seem to end, but nothing else, until they realize a large depression in the mud is really a huge… footprint.

This leads to one of the many goofy exchanges in the movie:

Dr. Carmichael: The foot that made that print is about ten times the size of a normal man’s. That would make him about sixty feet tall.

Joyce Manning: Glenn was sixty feet tall!

Big guy, big appetite. Could he be, you know, stealing whole grocery trucks for grub?

Thoughts:

This comes from the Cold War fear of atomic radiation, and as such, the notion of a man made into a giant by exposure to radiation could have made for an entertaining movie. This does not. The dialogue is clunky and seldom believable. Toward the end, at Griffith Park Observatory outside Los Angeles, the Colossus goes on his last rampage, lifting a school bus full of children on a field trip. Outside the perimeter set by the military, one forlorn mother shrieks, realizing her daughter is on that bus. She holds her daughter’s coat.

The last few moments of the movie are in color, as if to say there’s a new world, and they all lived happily ever after.

If you saw the earlier movie, a good chunk of this one will look familiar. When Glen Manning’s story is told in flashback, they reuse footage from the first movie because of course they do.

It was like those making this movie weren’t even trying.

One bright spot was the character of Sgt. Luis Murillo, who, while remaining infinitely polite to blowhard John Swanson, lets the viewer know that he thinks he’s an idiot. Swanson is in the habit of interjecting, “Get the picture?” every thirty seconds or so.

For a newsman covering events at the big end, they use an actual newsman, Stan Chambers (1923-2015), a longtime reporter in Los Angeles.

This could have been a lot of fun, but it was a disappointment.

For the curious, this is available on YouTube here.



Title: War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

Director
Bert I. Gordon

Writers
Bert I. Gordon (story)
George Worthing Yates (screenplay)

Cast:
Sally Fraser as Joyce Manning
Roger Pace as Maj. Mark Baird
Duncan “Dean” Parkin as Col. Glenn Manning
Russ Bender as Dr. Carmichael
 Rico Alaniz as Sgt. Luis Murillo
George Becwar as John Swanson

Released: 1958
Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Rating: TV-PG

Review of “Dial M for Murder” (1954)

trailer from YouTube

We borrowed this from our local library, Main Library | Orange, CA (cityoforange.org) and watched it last week when Svengoolie was a rerun. I’d never seen it all the way and can now understand why it’s regarded as a classic.

Plot:

Tennis star Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) gave up the game at the behest of his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), and now sells sports equipment. She had money. She also had an affair with an American crime fiction writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), but broke it off when he returned to the States a year earlier. She burned all his letters except one. That one disappeared from her purse when it was stolen. She’s received blackmail threats, which she later paid off. She said not a word to her husband.

Now Halliday has come to England and stops by his old friends’ place for a visit.

Telling Margot and Mark he has urgent work to take care of, Wendice sends them out to the movies and meets up with Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson), an old acquaintance from college who has gone astray. Using both leverage and the enticement of a lot of money, Wendice convinces him to murder Margot while he and Mark are at a stag party the next evening. He had Margot’s letter and was the anonymous blackmailer. He is also the beneficiary of her will.

Wendice has an elaborate plan. It seems to work—at first.

Thoughts:

The viewer is engaged throughout, but not necessarily out of sympathy for the characters. None of them is innocent. Tony Wendice, the wronged husband, is the most despicable, plotting not only the death of his wife but, when that fails, her murder conviction.

He’s convinced himself his plan is foolproof. Yep. Of course, it is. The tension—and some humor—comes from the many near misses. When he invites Halliday to the stag party, he assumes Margot will stay in. She wants to go see a movie. Tension already hangs in the air because he’s going out with the guy his wife cheated on him with. Wendice leans on her to continue to organize his old newspaper clippings from his professional life. Unspoken is the reminder that he quit playing tennis because of her—not to mention that he’s entertaining the guy she slept with.

Of course, she doesn’t mind organizing his old newspaper clippings. She wants to do it.

What a manipulative bastard.

Even when his plan goes disastrously wrong, he thinks on his feet. Will his soft shoe be enough to fool that police inspector who, Colombo-like, always has one more question?

The actors are all convincing. Their reactions are logical in illogical situations, and humor keeps the movie from becoming too weighty.

The film and actors have won several awards, including Alfred Hitchcock, who was nominated in 1955 by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.

Most of the action takes place in one room. This hearkens back to its origin as a play by the same name written by British playwright Frederick Knott, who also wrote the screenplay. While there is a lot of exposition—the actors talk a lot—this doesn’t get tiresome. Hitchcock employs several tricks to keep the tension high; the actors move around in the room as they’re talking, pour themselves drinks and such things. The camera also moves, so the viewer sees the actors from above, at eye level, and from below.

This is not one for the kiddies, however. The murder scene is not overly gory, but the subject matter—adultery, capital punishment, conspiracy to commit murder, emotional manipulation, etc., would probably go over their heads.

All in all, mighty fine flick.

I could not find a free downloadable copy of this.





Title: Dial M for Murder (1954)


Director:
Alfred Hitchcock

Writer:
Frederick Knott (screenplay by)

Cast:
Ray Milland as Tony Wendice
Grace Kelly as Margot Wendice
Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday
John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard
Anthony Dawson as Charles Swann
Leo Britt as The Storyteller

Released: 1954
Length:  1 hour, 45 minutes
Rated: PG

Review of “The Velocipastor” (2018)

video from YouTube

My friend Tracy thought I might enjoy this flick for our Saturday pizza and bad movie night. What she must think about my tastes! This is goofy, gory, silly, and has the redeeming quality of not taking itself seriously.

My friend Tracy is a good judge of what movies I will watch.

Plot:

Father Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) is a young priest who witnesses his parents die horrifically when their car explodes outside his church. In the crisis of faith that follows, his older fellow priest, Father Stewart (Daniel Steere), advises him to travel, to “discover how others live.”

“Go where you think God will not follow,” Father Stewart tells him. “If you find him there, you’ll know he’s real.”

Father Jones goes to… China. While hiking in the woods, he comes across a woman (Claire Hsu) with an arrow protruding from her chest and bright red blood running down the front of the white shirt. Concerned, Jones asks, “Are you hurt?”

The woman hands him what looks like the tooth of a large animal and asks him in Mandarin to destroy it, or he will be hunted.

“You want me to have this?” he asks.

She gasps in English, “The dragon warrior,” and expires.

A man dressed in black appears with a bow and arrow. Doug backs away in panic. In doing so, he cuts his palm with the tooth. He faints and wakes up back home. Father Stewart asks him, “The dream again?”

Thoughts:

At the same time, the viewer meets Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), a put-upon working girl whose pimp is the abusive and bombastic Frankie Mermaid (Fernando Pacheco De Castro). One night as she’s working in “the park,” she’s rescued from a would-be mugger by a… dinosaur.

The next morning, she and the human who was once a dinosaur have an awkward and funny conversation. Doug at first believes he’s broken his vow of chastity, only to be shocked to realize he’s killed a human being. Carol tells him this might not be such a bad thing. He saved her. She tells him, “This is the most priestly thing you’ve ever done.” By removing bad people, he’d be helping good people.

This weighty, philosophical, and emotional discussion occurs while the two of them are walking back in forth in the park, Doug wearing a borrowed bright orange dress that’s a bit short. Adding to the whole picture is the dress’s V-neck bodice, which emphasizes the breasts.

The actors utter their absurd dialogue with completely straight faces. Even Doug’s parents seem happy and proud when (in a flashback) they drop “their only son” off at “priest college.”

The lead, Greg Cohan, works perfectly in whatever the role calls for: despair, innocence, maybe being a little slow on the uptake. A surprise, though, is Alyssa Kempinski, the actress who plays the streetwalker Carol. Carol is nobody’s fool, and Kempinski is completely convincing.

In a debate between Doug and his mentor, Fr. Stewart, Doug cites two passages of scripture, Leviticus 24:24 and Matthew 32:6. Heathen that I am, neither one rang a bell for me. I tried to look them up without success—not that my laptop burst into flames as it approached a Bible website. These passages don’t exist. Joke’s on the atheist.

There’s more to this movie, however. An oddball exorcism goes bad, avenging ninjas appear, a flashback to heartbreak in Vietnam, and there’s a matter of sibling rivalry that is settled only in tragedy. The only thing missing is a toll booth.

The special effects are…special. The dinosaur is not merely goofy. It looks like a Halloween costume someone picked up at a party store. Having said that, I’d be willing to bet it was more expensive than the special effects for the car fire that took the lives of Doug’s parents, however.

My one big beef is the music. Whatever they detonated over the opening credits got the mute button from me.

All in all, I liked this movie. I realize it will not be to everyone’s liking. Its absurdity can be off-putting, and the subject matter may be a little sensitive. This is definitely not one for the kiddies. The little sex and nudity in it are abstract and obscured by the damn racket they call music. The gore is unrealistic and absurd, though there is a fair amount of it.

Thanks, Tracy, for an excellent recommendation. My dearly beloved liked it so much he sent the link to a friend of his.  See what you started?

YouTube like free w/commercials:

The Velocipastor – YouTube buy or rent; warns there is potentially inappropriate material and asks for DOB




Title: The Velocipastor (2018)

Director
Brendan Steere

Writer
Brendan Steere

Cast:
Greg Cohan as Doug Jones
George Schewnzer as Doug’s Dad
Janice Young as Doug’s Mom
Daniel Steere as Father Stewart
Claire Hsu as Chinese Villager
Nicholas M. Garofolo as Hobo(as nick Garofolo)
Alyssa Kempinski as Carol
Fernando Pacheco De Castro as Frankie Mermaid

Released: September 28, 2018
Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Word is that yes, a sequel is in the works.

Review of “The Tower Treasure” by Franklin W. Dixon

Image from goodreads.

Plot:

While on an errand for their father, Hardy brothers, dark-haired Frank, 18, and blond-haired Joe, 17, Hardy somehow carry on a conversation over the roar over their 1920s motorcycles. Their father, Fenton, is a private detective, having retired from the New York police force after a sterling career. Joe says, “I wish we could solve a mystery of our own.”

Be careful what you wish for.

A car nearly runs them off the road. They can’t see the driver’s face, but he appears to be a redhead.

They later come upon his wrecked car. There’s no sign of the redheaded man. They end up at their friend Chet Morton’s house to find someone had stolen Chet’s old car (“Queen”). They surmise the thief used it to replace the car he wrecked. But there’s a catch: this man had brown hair. Wait! Could the “speed demon” have been wearing a wig?

They recover Queen. The news comes that someone has robbed the Applegates at Tower Mansion! The boys assume the thief is the same wig-wearing Queen-stealing man because… well, why not? The Applegates, crusty brother and sister Hurd and Adelia, blame their caretaker, Mr. Robinson, and fire him. Robinson confesses to knowing to combination to the family safe and coming into a lot of money recently. He insists he came upon both honestly and is honor-bound not to disclose the source of his money. Frank and Joe know Mr. Robinson’s son, Perry, from school and don’t believe he is capable of theft. They set out to prove their friend’s father innocent.


from goodreads

Thoughts:

The series takes place in the fictional port town of Bayport in an unspecified state somewhere along the eastern coast of the United States. The main character, Frank and Joe, attend Bayport High School, but their academic endeavors seldom get in the way of their sleuthing.

While no one will confuse this with great literature, a redeeming point is that Frank and Joe, despite their almost clairvoyant ability to connect events, nevertheless have to work hard to solve this riddle. They follow a few dead ends, fully convinced they’ve got it this time. This makes the boys less godlike and engages the reader more than if they were simply following the boys to the solution.

On the downside, while Mr. Robinson is out of a job, he’s moved his family to a poor part of Bayport. The boys find his house—the neatest and tidiest on the block—amid dilapidated shacks with ill-clad children running in the yards. The Robinsons don’t belong there! Unlike all the other poor people, who—you know—apparently deserve to be there.

As is expected, all is made right in the end.

The Tower Treasure
is the first book in the original Hardy Boys Mystery Series which lasted for some fifty-eight volumes published from 1927 and 1979. Canadian journalist and filmmaker Leslie MacFarlane (1902-1977) ghostwrote some twenty-one of those volumes. Contracted authors, such as MacFarlane, followed an outline supplied by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager of several children’s series including Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins. As are the current Hardy Boys books, The Tower Treasure was published under the penname, Franklin W. Dixon.

In 1959, Harriet S. Adams (1892-1982), a daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, revised the text and shortened the books from twenty-five to twenty chapters. Stratemeyer had passed away in 1930. The story itself remained essentially the same. The first thirty-eight volumes in the series were revised and shortened, and outmoded words updated. Also, racial references were changed to reflect changing times. (That is, the casual racism of the 1930s was replaced by the casual racism of the 1950s…)

Overall, I found this book engaging, even with its faults. There is humor. I enjoyed it, even knowing there are better books out there.



Sources:
The Hardy Boys Original Series
Who Wrote the Hardy Boys?
_____


Title: The Tower Treasure
Author: Franklin W. Dixon
First published: 1927, rev. 1959