Sunday, May 31, 2015

TCM in June: Summer of Darkness

This summer is going to be an especially exciting time on Turner Classic Movies, as TCM launches a two-month film noir festival, the "TCM Summer of Darkness."

Every Friday in June and July will feature a 24-hour film noir marathon, with the evening hours hosted by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller. It's a most welcome return to the network for Muller, who also hosted film noir on Friday evenings last June.

A terrific essay by Muller on film noir is featured on a special "Summer of Darkness" microsite created by TCM. The site also includes the schedule for the entire series.

To make this festival even more special, TCM has partnered with Ball State University to provide a free online course on film noir which begins on Monday, June 1st. Details are all here, and you can read even more about the course by Will McKinley at his blog Cinematically Insane.

Below is the entire TCM lineup for Fridays in June. A majority of the films to be shown in June and July have been previously reviewed here -- very often thanks to theatrical screenings hosted by Muller! Click any hyperlinked title for my review of the movie.

I think pretty much any film in this series will be good viewing, but for each day of the series I've chosen two films I especially recommend, labeled with stars (***). In some cases I've chosen to highlight lesser-known films which are personal favorites, and I've also marked some iconic titles of the genre.

June 5th:

M (1931)

LA BETE HUMAINE (1938)

THE LETTER (1940)

STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940)

HIGH SIERRA (1941)

THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

JOURNEY INTO FEAR (1943)

JOHNNY EAGER (1942)

NORA PRENTISS (1947)

***WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950)

DARK PASSAGE
(1947)

***BORN TO KILL (1947)

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)



June 12th:

THE GLASS KEY (1942)

LAURA (1944)

MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944)

MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)

DANGER SIGNAL (1945)

DETOUR (1945)

MILDRED PIERCE (1945)

DEADLINE AT DAWN (1946)

JOHNNY ANGEL (1946)

THE GANGSTER (1947)

***GUN CRAZY (1950)

***TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951)

NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947)

NIGHT MOVES (1975)



June 19th:

CORNERED (1945)

CRACK-UP (1946)

GILDA (1946)

THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

***THE KILLERS (1946)

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946)

NOCTURNE (1946)

CROSSFIRE (1947)

HOLLOW TRIUMPH (1948)

***MYSTERY STREET (1950)

BORDER INCIDENT (1949)

THE PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA (1951)

GET CARTER (1971)



June 26th:

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946)

***THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947)

THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH (1947)

LADY IN THE LAKE (1947)

***OUT OF THE PAST (1947)

POSSESSED (1947)

ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948)

THE SET-UP (1949)

THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944)

BERLIN EXPRESS (1948)

THE STRANGER (1946)

THE THIRD MAN (1949)

POINT BLANK (1967)


For more on Turner Classic Movies this month, please visit TCM in June: Highlights.

Tonight's Movie: One Foot in Heaven (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (1941) is a lovely piece of Americana available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

The movie was released a few weeks ago as part of a "wave" of Fredric March titles which also included THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944), which will be reviewed here at a future date. In this film, based on a memoir by Hartzell Spence, March plays Hartzell's father William, a Methodist minister.

William and his wife Hope (Martha Scott) are both gentle and sweet-natured, sometimes just barely scraping by as they raise their three children in a succession of run-down parsonages.

While the children (Carlotta Jelm, Peter Caldwell, and Casey Johnson) face a certain amount of community pressure as "preacher's kids," their father is also a reasonable man who will listen to their concerns and even change his mind. And when his oldest son (now played by Frankie Thomas) is the subject of gossip by spiteful parishioners who have lost a turf battle in the church, the minister finds a way to beat them at their own game.

I run hot and cold on Fredric March; sometimes I love him, sometimes I frankly think he's pretty bad. He was nothing less than wonderful as Dr. Spence, who's on his way to a medical career when God taps him on the shoulder and he answers the call to ministry.

He can admittedly be a bit of a tyrant in his own home, most notably playing a trick on his patient wife and giving their third child the name he prefers at the christening, but that simply serves to humanize him. Like all Christians, he's not perfect! But he tries hard.

In one of the film's best scenes, the minister discovers his son was seen by a parishioner exiting a movie theater, which at that time and place was a bit scandalous for a preacher's son. Rather than punishing the boy, who wanted to enjoy some of the same things as the other kids in the neighborhood, the minister decides he'll try to appeal to his son's own good judgment and accompanies him to a movie, intending to point out the film's poor moral examples and discuss why seeing movies is a bad idea.

Father and son attend a William S. Hart Western, and to his surprise the minister becomes as caught up in the story as the rest of the audience, cheering as the hero triumphs over evil. He rethinks his position about a blanket condemnation of movies and even preaches a sermon on it, tying it in to ideas on how to reach the next generation of young Christians. In many ways, that sermon isn't a bit dated.

A scene that did reflect how times have changed is when the druggist (Harlan Briggs) fills the minister in on various people's prescriptions and problems so that the minister can make a list of who needs him to pay a call. (For instance, when told a parishioner has been taking a lot of sleeping pills, the minister makes a note she must be worried about something.)  Can you imagine the modern privacy laws that violates?

The final scene is very moving, as a church the minister has struggled to build is completed and he plays "The Church's One Foundation" on the carillon bells, prompting people to flood to the church from all over town. (The views of the church intercut into this scene are the Methodist church at Franklin and Highland in Hollywood.) It's especially moving as, his work completed, the pastor will soon be moving on -- whether to another struggling church or to Heaven, as he has a weak heart.

As it happens, today is Trinity Sunday, one of my favorite days on the church calendar, and this movie made a particularly lovely way for me to spend the afternoon. That said, the performances, well-written script, and sincere, non-cloying human drama in this film should appeal to viewers of any faith.

ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN was directed by Irving Rapper and filmed in black and white by Charles Rosher. The screenplay of this well-paced 108-minute film was by Casey Robinson, and the musical score by Max Steiner.

The supporting cast includes Gene Lockhart, Beulah Bondi, Harry Davenport, Moroni Olsen, Jerome Cowan, Laura Hope Crews, Mary Field, and Elisabeth Fraser. Look for a young Charles Drake and Gig Young in bit roles.

The Warner Archive DVD is a very nice print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

TCM in June: Highlights

It's already time to look at the June schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

This summer will be extra-special on TCM thanks to the two-month-long "Summer of Darkness" film noir festival which starts on June 5th. Every Friday in June and July will feature round-the-clock film noir and crime titles, with the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller hosting every Friday evening.

I'll have a separate post up soon all about the Summer of Darkness, as well as the free online film noir course sponsored by TCM and Ball State University. (Update: Please visit TCM in June: Summer of Darkness.)

The Star of the Month theme on Wednesday evenings is "Pin-Up Girls." There will not be a separate Star of the Month post for June.

Here's a look at just a few highlights from what promises to be a great month on TCM! Click on any hyperlinked title for the related review.

...The June 1st schedule includes TROUBLE FOR TWO (1936), an unusual film showcasing the chemistry of frequent screen partners Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. It's a unique romantic adventure based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Montgomery is a prince traveling incognito who doesn't realize that the beauty (Russell) who has charmed him is actually the princess he'd been dreading having to marry! His delight in her as they form a team to investigate mysterious goings-on involving a group called the Suicide Club is wonderful. Give it a try!

...Four films directed by the multitalented Dick Powell will be featured in primetime on Tuesday, June 2nd, including TCM premieres of THE HUNTERS (1958) and THE ENEMY BELOW (1957).

...The "Pin-Up Girls" series starts, appropriately enough, with Betty Grable in PIN-UP GIRL (1944), a TCM premiere. The evening's lineup on June 3rd also includes Rita Hayworth in GILDA (1946) and Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS (1946).

...On June 4th there's an eight-film Bulldog Drummond mystery marathon. I've never seen these films, which are all TCM premieres, so my DVR will be working hard that night!

...Toshiro Mifune stars in two Akira Kurosawa films on Sunday evening, June 7th: RASHOMON (1951) and SANJURO (1962).

...A day of eight Alexis Smith films on June 8th includes the very interesting mystery CONFLICT (1945), in which Smith is excellent as the young girl who charms her brother-in-law...so much so that he bumps off his wife in hopes of eventually landing her sister!

...The June 10th "Pin-Up Girls" line-up includes the TCM premiere of Marie McDonald and Dennis O'Keefe in GETTING GERTIE'S GARTER (1945). I know nothing about it but will be checking it out based on my ever-growing appreciation for O'Keefe. Barry Sullivan costars.

...Richard Dix is an actor I am coming to appreciate with continued exposure in films such as THE PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931), IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD (1937), and TOMBSTONE: THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (1942). TCM has a six-film primetime celebration of Dix on June 11th, which includes his Oscar-nominated role in CIMARRON (1930), MEN AGAINST THE SKY (1940), and more.

...Jeffrey Hunter is charming as a young professor who helps Virginia Leith solve her sister Joanne Woodward's murder in A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956). It's on June 14th. The movie also has a gorgeous widescreen '50s look, pure eye candy.

...Don Ameche receives a six-film primetime tribute on June 15th, including TCM premieres of two Ameche films which are real favorites of mine, THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939), costarring Loretta Young, and THAT NIGHT IN RIO (1941) with Alice Faye. I especially recommend those, but it's a great evening from start to finish.

...A day of dog films on June 16th includes IT'S A DOG'S LIFE (1955) starring Jeff Richards and Jarma Lewis, the costars of a film I reviewed last night, THE MARAUDERS (1955).

...Also on June 16th, Gary Cooper and Frances Dee star in SOULS AT SEA (1937), another TCM premiere. This film is part of the TCM Vault Universal Rarities set.

...There's yet another TCM premiere on June 17th, when Cleo Moore stars in BAIT (1954), costarring the film's director, Hugo Haas. John Agar is also in the film. BAIT is part of the June "Pin-Up Girls" series.

...Jeanette MacDonald's birthday is celebrated June 18th. I especially like NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935) and NEW MOON (1940).

...There's a tribute to Evelyn Keyes on June 20th which includes HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), THE MATING OF MILLIE (1948), and 99 RIVER STREET (1953). If only TCM could show one of Keyes' best films, MRS. MIKE (1949). It's a United Artists film costarring Dick Powell which was shown regularly on TV when I was young but which never turns up on TV and is not available on DVD.

...Father's Day on June 21st concludes with an evening of "Fathers on Boats." Only on TCM! The lineup includes STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. (1928) and SHOW BOAT (1936).

...I love the daytime theme on Monday, June 22nd: WWII resistance fighters. The excellent seven-film lineup includes ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY (1943) with Jean-Pierre Aumont and Susan Peters.

...June 24th it's Esther Williams Day! All eight films are fun, but I especially recommend NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949) and EASY TO LOVE (1953).

...Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett, and Warren William star in James Whale's THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1939) on Saturday, June 27th.

...VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964) is a perfect summer movie. Check it out on June 28th and discover why. Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret light up the screen together.

...GIRL RUSH (1944) on June 29th stars Frances Langford and, a few names down in the cast, the young Robert Mitchum.

...A June 30th triple bill of films directed by Lew Landers features THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF (1937), BLIND ALIBI (1938), and CONSPIRACY (1939). (As a side note, the interminably long MAME, premiering on TCM that evening, holds the distinction as one of the very few movies I've ever walked out of when I saw it on a big screen. When an avalanche brought calamity, my Grandpa, my cousin, and I had finally had enough and agreed it was time to go!)

For more on TCM in June, please visit TCM in June: Summer of Darkness, as well as the online schedule.

Tonight's Movie: Seven Angry Men (1955) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey) and his sons are SEVEN ANGRY MEN (1955), a pre-Civil War drama recently released by the Warner Archive.

Massey also played Brown in SANTA FE TRAIL (1940) 15 years before; I saw that Flynn-de Havilland film in the '70s but can't say I remember it.

Massey's Brown starts out in SEVEN ANGRY MEN as someone who seems like a reasonable man who is passionate about freedom for all, with the pro-slavers (led by Leo Gordon at his scariest) as the violent opposition. Over time, however, Brown loses respect for life and starts meting out murderous "justice," raiding and killing.

Various Brown sons are played by fine actors including Jeffrey Hunter, Dennis Weaver, James Best, and Guy "Zorro" Williams; one by one they turn away from their father and his murderous actions. Weaver is particularly moving as a man pushed mentally over the edge by killing.

Much of the story is told through the eyes of Owen (Hunter), who is in love with Elizabeth (Debra Paget). Elizabeth is anti-slavery but believes John Brown's tactics are wrong and ultimately evil; Owen's loyalty to his father is a source of conflict with Elizabeth, as she tries to convince Owen that his father has gone off the deep end and is not the right person to represent the anti-slavery cause.

I was interested in the film mostly because it stars the team of Hunter and Paget, two actors I quite enjoy who also costarred in FOURTEEN HOURS (1951), BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952), WHITE FEATHER (1955), and a movie I especially liked, PRINCESS OF THE NILE (1954). They're an attractive and appealing young couple, and I was glad to have the chance to watch them together again in this.

I wasn't anticipating much from the movie beyond enjoying Paget and Hunter, but it was better than I expected, at least for the first two-thirds or so of the film. Massey initially avoids chewing too much scenery as Brown slowly and fairly subtly descends into madness. The supporting cast is interesting, and the script is pretty good, though it does start to become repetitive as the movie goes on and Brown's sons struggle with supporting or abandoning their father.

Inevitably, sorry history takes over and the film becomes quite grim in the last half hour, tracing the horrors of Harper's Ferry and John Brown's execution. At that point my interest in the film petered out and I was ready for it to end!

The supporting cast includes Larry Pennell, Dabbs Greer, John Smith, Tom Irish, James Anderson, and Ann Tyrrell.

The story and screenplay of this 90-minute film were by Daniel B. Ullman, who wrote some good '50s Westerns including WICHITA (1955) and THE OKLAHOMAN (1957).

The film was directed by Charles Marquis Warren, who specialized in writing, producing, and directing both feature film and TV Westerns; most notably he wrote literally hundreds of episodes of TV's GUNSMOKE.

The movie was filmed by Ellsworth Fredricks, with many shots having a rather noirish dark look.

This is a good-looking widescreen black and white Warner Archive DVD. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

Tonight's Movie: The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Last weekend Kristina and I each watched and reviewed a film from her list of 10 Classics to see in 2015, BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956).

Now we've turned our attention to a film from my 10 Classics list, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958). Be sure to check out Kristina's review of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS at Speakeasy, as she always has interesting insights to share.

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, known as KAKUSHI-TORIDE NO SAN-AKUNIN in its native Japan, was directed by Akira Kurosawa. This was only the second Kurosawa film I've ever seen, following HIGH AND LOW (1963) earlier this year -- which happens to have been another film from Kristina's list!

Prior to seeing HIGH AND LOW, my interest in THE HIDDEN FORTRESS was sparked in part as it is widely credited with being an influence on STAR WARS (1977), which incidentally came out 38 years ago as of May 25th! How is it even possible it was that long ago?!

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS tells the story of Princess Yuki (Misa Uehara), whose kingdom has been lost to war and who is struggling to make it through enemy territory to an allied country. Yuki is guided by the loyal General Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune). A pair of silly, greedy peasants (Kamatari Fujiwara and Minoru Chiaki) accompany them; the peasants don't realize the true identities of Yuki and the general, but are lured to help by the princess's fortune in gold, which she is taking along with her to help rebuild her empire. There are many adventures and narrow escapes as the group tries to make it to safety.

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS was quite an enjoyable film, thanks especially to the imposing presence of Mifune, who surely must be to a Japanese period film of this type as John Wayne is to the Western. He's a towering presence from the very first shot, seen in the distance by the peasants. That said, he was also terrific in the modern detective drama HIGH AND LOW, so he really fits in anywhere. Mifune is an extremely charismatic actor, and I look forward to catching up with more of his work; I'm told YOJIMBO (1961) is a must!

The original three STAR WARS films are among my favorite movies, so it was fun to pick out the STAR WARS influences in THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, with the struggling peasants a clear inspiration for C-3PO and R2-D2. Unfortunately the peasants were also the movie's only weak link; Kurosawa, who does his own editing, should have left more of them on the cutting room floor, as they become tiresome, and paring their parts would have also trimmed the film's 139 minutes to a more manageable length. The overdoing of the peasants, my only significant criticism of the film, made the movie "very good" but not "great" in my eyes.

The widescreen black and white photography of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS by Ichio Yamazeki (also known as Kazuo Yamasaki) includes many stunning shots. In terms of STAR WARS influence, I was struck by the scene where the Princess looks back toward her hidden fortress and sees it ablaze, which felt very much like the moment where Princess Leia watches Alderaan destroyed. The Princess gazing off into the distance early in the film also reminded me of Luke and the setting suns on Tatooine.

One of my favorite moments was when General Tadokoro (Susumu Fujita), whom the general had dueled but refused to kill, switches sides. A foreshadowing of Lando Calrissian in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)?

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is a satisfying adventure film, and seeing it has also served to continue to deepen my interest in Japanese cinema. It's rather exciting to know there are so many great Japanese films still ahead of me to see for the first time.

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is available from the Criterion Collection in a dual-format Blu-ray/DVD set, or on DVD from Criterion's bare-bones Essential Art House Collection.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Marauders (1955) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Dan Duryea and Jeff Richards star in THE MARAUDERS (1955), an oddball Western recently released by the Warner Archive.

I wanted to try this film on the basis of the cast; Duryea, of course, is a favorite, and the previous year Richards had appeared as Benjamin in one of my all-time favorite films, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954). For that matter, leading lady Jarma Lewis had a scene in SEVEN BRIDES, exclaiming "Lem! I thought you'd never ask!" during the opening number "Bless Yore Beautiful Hide."

In 1955 Lewis also appeared as one of Frank Sinatra's girlfriends in THE TENDER TRAP (1955), and she and Richards costarred in another film, IT'S A DOG'S LIFE (1955).

Richards plays Corey Everett, a desert homesteader whose newly dug well makes his property highly desired by powerful ranch owner John Rutherford (Harry Shannon). Rutherford, his son (John Hudson), and his consumptive bookkeeper Avery (Duryea), along with a bunch of mercenaries headed by the one-armed "Hook" (Keenan Wynn), plan to drive Corey out with guns blazing.

Another homesteader (James Anderson), who's giving up and heading east, stumbles onto Corey's property, along with his wife Hannah (Lewis) and their son (David Kasday), just as the invaders launch their first skirmish. Although the man initially seems to be a good sort, helping Corey in the fight, it turns out he's the friendly con man type, and as soon as he can he runs off to Rutherford's camp to try to strike a deal for safe passage for his family -- and is promptly killed for his trouble by the psychotic Avery.

When Hannah later attempts the same thing, she realizes that Avery is a complete loon who's killed her husband, and she tells him Corey has a large group of men fighting with him before she's allowed to return to Corey's homestead with a message. Now Corey, aided only by Hannah and her little boy, must fight off Avery and his "army" of invaders.

The movie is interesting but has a couple of significant problems. The main issue is that Avery is such a crazed maniac, it's rather unbelievable that Hook (Wynn) or someone else wouldn't have gunned him down much earlier in order to stop his reign of terror. He's that bad. Duryea gives his all to an unusual role (a psycho murderous...bookkeeper?!), but it's not a part which calls for the nuances Duryea is capable of bringing to a role, and you just want to see him finally die already.

The other issue is the story's imbalance. I was quite interested in the struggling homesteader, his gradually thawing relations with the bitter Hannah, the subtle development of a new family (it's sort of HONDO in reverse), and Corey's creative weaponry, which fools the men who want his property into thinking he's got a veritable army. If the movie had spent much more time at the homestead and much less time watching the crazy Avery tormenting various men, it would have been a far better film. A more believable enemy would have also made for a more plausible story.

In the end, there was enough of interest that I enjoyed checking the movie out, but it's a flawed film which is not one of the better Westerns I've seen recently. It's probably mostly for those who, like me, are interested in the cast, or for die-hard Western fans who want to see a melding of a familiar theme (strong Western hero, widow, and child banding together) with the really wild (Duryea plus lots of explosives).

THE MARAUDERS was directed by Gerald Mayer, nephew of Louis B. Mayer. It was filmed by Harold Marzorati, who had a fairly short career but had a good Stewart Granger Western, GUN GLORY (1957), among his credits. The movie was shot in Mecca, California.

This nice-looking widescreen DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Pacific Blackout (1941)

Crime movie meets World War II homefront drama in Paramount's PACIFIC BLACKOUT (1941), a creative "couple on the run" film starring Robert Preston and Martha O'Driscoll.

PACIFIC BLACKOUT was released on New Year's Eve 1941, just three weeks after Pearl Harbor. The film mixes "ripped from the headlines" wartime drama with the story of an innocent man trying to clear his name of murder.

Robert Draper (Preston) has always been an upstanding citizen and has made an important contribution to the war effort, but he's accused of a murder by nightclub singer Marie (Eva Gabor), convicted, and sentenced to die.

During a blackout drill the van taking Draper to prison crashes in the darkness and he escapes. He meets lovely, somewhat giddy Mary Jones (O'Driscoll) in a park, and although she knows who he is from newspaper coverage, she takes pity on him and helps him. Mary doesn't believe he could possibly be a murderer, and together they set out first to get rid of his handcuffs and then to figure out why he was set up to receive a death sentence. Hint: Saboteurs!

This 76-minute film was a delightful little treat. Preston and O'Driscoll have great chemistry, and their adventures are similar to those experienced by the couples in later films such as Paramount's FLY-BY-NIGHT (1942) or RKO's HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT (1942) and TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945). I really enjoy that type of film, and the formula works just as well here as it does in the other films mentioned.

O'Driscoll in particular has some nice bits of business; she plays a telephone operator, and her calls to a fellow operator, No. 37 (Mary Treen), provide some key plot points. Mary is also perpetually hungry, even grabbing food off a room service tray before fleeing down the hotel fire escape! Preston falls head over heels for her, unable to believe someone could be so sweet and trusting...and the final scene, where he takes her to a drive-in and buys her a big tray of burgers, is very cute.

The movie is also an interesting illustration of the variety of films studio contract actors made; Preston and O'Driscoll are the leads in this inexpensive "B" film, while a few months later they would each play supporting roles in Cecil B. DeMille's big production REAP THE WILD WIND (1942) for the same studio. Preston had a very nice part in the DeMille film, as Susan Hayward's sweetheart, while O'Driscoll had a much smaller role.

PACIFIC BLACKOUT has great wartime atmosphere, including the opening narrative cards which sternly warn that the movie isn't attempting to emulate the rules of a real blackout.

And just when you think the movie couldn't get any better, the pilot of a plane who doesn't realize he's about to unload real bombs over the West Coast during the drill turns out to be Rod Cameron! That certainly gave me a smile.

The supporting cast includes Philip Merivale and Louis Jean Heydt as the saboteurs, and J. Edward Bromberg has a wonderful turn as a magician-pickpocket who helps Robert and Mary.

The cast also includes familiar faces such as Thurston Hall, Spencer Charters, Cy Kendall, Russell Hicks, Robert Emmett Keane, Sammy McKim, and Clem Bevans. Bess Flowers is listed as a nightclub dance extra but I didn't spot her.

PACIFIC BLACKOUT was directed by Ralph Murphy and filmed by Theodor Sparkuhl. The story was cowritten by Curt Siodmak (I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE).

2015 Summer Classic Film Book Reading List

For the past two summers I've participated in the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge hosted by Raquel at her blog Out of the Past.

I love to read, but since I read a great deal professionally, pleasure reading sometimes tends to take a back seat to other hobbies. The summer challenge has been a great way to make sure I finally catch up with some of the books on my "to read" list!

Anyone is welcome to join in -- the goal is to try to read six film-related books in the three months between June 1st and September 1st.

Here's my list for Summer 2015!

First on the list is THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN by J.R. Jones, which I expect to review in June. The book looks great, and I recently enjoyed meeting the author and hearing him speak at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. (Update: Here is my review of THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN.)


I also plan to review Jacqueline T. Lynch's new book on Ann Blyth in June. I'm so excited that Jacqueline has turned the "Year of Ann Blyth" at her Another Old Movie Blog into a book! It's titled ANN BLYTH: ACTRESS. SINGER. STAR. (Update: Here is my review!)


George Sanders is a favorite actor, and I was delighted to recently receive an e-book version of Sanders' MEMOIRS OF A PROFESSIONAL CAD for review.


THE DETECTIVE IN FILM by William K. Everson was recommended by Kristina. I've had other books by Everson on my shelves for many years, such as his A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE WESTERN FILM. I'm looking forward to checking out his 1970s take on detective movies.


I really enjoyed the introductions by Foster Hirsch at the previously mentioned Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, so when his book THE DARK SIDE OF THE SCREEN: FILM NOIR was mentioned at the festival I immediately jotted down the title. It was first published in 1981; the updated edition I bought has a substantial afterword written a few years ago which discusses films which weren't available to view when the book was written, in pre-VHS, pre-DVD days.


I bought Arthur Lyons' DEATH ON THE CHEAP: THE LOST B MOVIES OF FILM NOIR when it was mentioned by Vienna last summer. I've looked at a few of the entries on various films, but after attending Lyons' namesake film noir festival now I really want to make it a point to read his book on the subject cover to cover.


I've got a rather "noirish" reading list this year! Following past practice, I'll be adding the link for each review to this post as I complete them.

If you'd like to participate, visit Raquel's blog for instructions on signing up and submitting reviews. It's easy!

Thanks to Raquel, and happy summer reading!

Previous summer reading challenge lists: 2014 and 2013.

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