Monday, November 11, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Bounty Man (1972) - A Kino Lorber DVD Review

Clint Walker stars as THE BOUNTY MAN (1972), available on DVD from Kino Lorber.

THE BOUNTY MAN is one of a trio of early '70s Western TV-movies recently released by Kino Lorber. I've previously reviewed the other two films, THE DAUGHTERS OF JOSHUA CABE (1972) and THE TRACKERS (1971).

In THE BOUNTY MAN Walker plays Kinkaid, a tough, no nonsense man who makes a living tracking down outlaws.

When he captures Billy (John Ericson, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK), Billy's girlfriend Mae (Margot Kidder), tags along. Mae is a prostitute who dreams of a better life with sweet-talking Billy, but as she tries to help set Billy free, she gradually comes to realize that it's not exactly a dependable relationship. Meanwhile she increasingly appreciates Kincaid, once she learns more about what's underneath the rough exterior.

Kinkaid, Mae, and Billy are all in for more trouble than they've bargained for when another gang wants to take Billy in for the reward themselves, and they're happy to kill Kinkaid in order to do it.

This is a fairly bland, standard issue Western. The three leads do what they can, with Kidder particularly adding some energy to the proceedings, but it's all a bit perfunctory. The script by Western specialist Jim Byrnes doesn't offer anything new or particularly interesting.

It's a fairly typical Western story of a group of disparate travelers facing down a dangerous enemy in the middle of nowhere. While one of the great pleasures of Westerns is seeing what different casts and filmmakers bring to familiar stories, in this case it's simply not as good as it could be. The film is watchable due to the cast, but all in all it's a very modest film.

Walker and Kidder, as it happened, both passed on last year in the same month, May 2018. Ericson, born in 1926, is still with us.

The supporting cast includes Richard Basehart, sadly unmemorable here, plus Arthur Hunnicutt and Gene Evans.

This 73-minute film was directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. It was filmed by Ralph Woolsey.

The disc includes a gallery of Western trailers and an interview with the director, Moxey. Like Kino's other recently released TV-movies, the print is nothing special but certainly adequate.

While this particular film was a bit of a disappointment, I love the fact that Kino Lorber is making long-unseen TV-movies available for home viewing, and I'm hoping for more such releases in the future.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this DVD.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Not Wanted (1949) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

NOT WANTED (1949), a tale of unwed motherhood largely directed by the uncredited Ida Lupino, is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Lupino replaced the credited Elmer Clifton early in the film's production after he suffered a heart attack. Lupino also cowrote the script along with Paul Jarrico, based on a story by Jarrico and Malvin Wald.

Like some of Lupino's later credited directorial efforts, NOT WANTED tackles a then-controversial topic, having a child out of wedlock. In ensuing films Lupino would also take on subjects such as rape (OUTRAGE) and bigamy (THE BIGAMIST), as well as a realistic look at rehabilitation after contracting polio (NEVER FEAR).

Regular Lupino lead actress Sally Forrest plays young Sally Kelton. Sally doesn't have much direction in life and isn't happy living with her parents (Dorothy Adams and Wheaton Chambers), so it's easy to imagine herself in love with a temperamental pianist named Steve (Leo Penn).

After conflict at home, Sally follows Steve when he moves on from her town, only to realize he has no intention of being serious about her. Fortunately she meets nice-guy Drew Baxter (Keefe Brasselle), a disabled war veteran who works at a gas station; he gets Sally a job and eventually they begin to fall in love, as Sally comes to appreciate Drew's innate decency.

But just after Drew proposes, Sally realizes she's expecting Steve's baby. She moves on again without a word to Drew, eventually finding herself at a home for unwed mothers and facing a very difficult decision.

Needless to say, NOT WANTED is in some ways a rather sad tale. Sally is a rootless young woman with little self-worth whose situation goes from bad to worse; just as she's perhaps found love and a stable relationship, life comes crashing down on her hard. The scenes where she contemplates giving up her baby for adoption, and the emotional problems she suffers in the wake of her choice, are almost too painful to watch.

Thankfully Brasselle is on hand as a man who has overcome his own problems -- not just disability, but the early loss of his parents -- and his character provides hope that in the end, Sally will have a good life. There's a good bit of similarity to the endings of NOT WANTED and NEVER FEAR, as Forrest's character, having wrestled with her inner demons, reunites with Brasselle on a sidewalk.

Former silent film actress Ruth Clifford is also very good as the sympathetic woman who runs the home for unwed mothers. The cast also includes Lawrence Dobkin and Rita Lupino, who were also in NEVER FEAR, plus Ruthelma Stevens and Virginia Mullen.

Unwed motherhood was a topic which occasionally popped up in films of the era, notably HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946) and TO EACH HIS OWN (1946), but the frank treatment of the subject in this film must have been somewhat surprising for audiences in 1949.

Though sad at times, NOT WANTED is also a well-made film which is worth seeing. I certainly wish Lupino had directed more films, as every one I've seen was well-done and also rather unique for the era.

NOT WANTED runs 91 minutes. It was filmed in black and white by Henry Freulich. There's some interesting location shooting in Los Angeles; I'd love to know more about where it was filmed, including the gas station.

Extras on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray include a commentary by Barbara Scharres and Greg Ford plus a "hygiene reel" on childbirth which was inserted into the movie by some distributors. There are also five trailers for additional titles available from Kino Lorber.

NOT WANTED joins three other Lupino films simultaneously released by Kino Lorber, including NEVER FEAR, which I reviewed last month, plus THE BIGAMIST (1953) and THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), both of which I reviewed after theatrical screenings (THE BIGAMIST was reviewed here and THE HITCH-HIKER here). They can be purchased as single titles or in the Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection.

Kino Lorber has also released NOT WANTED on DVD.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

The Lone Pine Film Festival: Final Roundup

It's time to wrap up my coverage of this year's 30th Lone Pine Film Festival!

In past posts I reviewed six of the nine films seen at this year's festival -- along with one I watched at the hotel!

The final trio of films seen were BLAZING DAYS (1927), HOPALONG RIDES AGAIN (1937), and KING OF THE KHYBER RIFLES (1953).

BLAZING DAYS was a short 48-minute silent film directed by William Wyler, starring Fred Humes, Ena Gregory, and Churchill Ross. The movie was preserved by the Library of Congress thanks to it having been directed by the great Wyler.

The plot, involving sheep ranching and a stagecoach robbery, was unfortunately not very memorable, a real rarity for this director. That said, as always I really enjoyed the live musical score by Jay C. Munns.

HOPALONG RIDES AGAIN was the seventh film in the series which started with HOP-A-LONG CASSIDY (1935) just two years previously. I recently wrote about that film at greater length for Classic Movie Hub.

In HOPALONG RIDES AGAIN Hoppy, Windy (George "Gabby" Hayes), Lucky (Russell Hayden), and young Artie Peters (Billy King) are on a cattle drive with a man (Harry Worth) who claims to be a professor studying the area and looking for fossils. In truth, he's a cattle rustler!

It was a particular treat to see this as it was one of four Hoppy films costarring child actor Billy King. I met him at a past Lone Pine festival, and he was a lovely man. He passed away earlier this year at the age of 94. There's a short video on YouTube of part of an interview he did with Rob Word.

This 65-minute Hoppy film was directed by the reliable Lesley Selander and filmed by Russell Harlan, with story and screenplay by Norman Houston. Nora Lane and Lois Wilde costarred.

I previously reviewed KING OF THE KHYBER RIFLES, seen at the festival on Sunday, in 2014. As I noted in an earlier post, we realized when watching the movie that the opening battle scene had been filmed on Whitney Portal Road, looking down at the valley below.

I noted in my original review that it was windy when the movie was shot and much of the dialogue was obviously looped in later, sounding at times as though it was coming from an echo chamber. That made understanding all of the dialogue from the Blu-ray projected at the festival a bit of a challenge, but at least I had a good idea what was happening due to having seen it before! And watching Tyrone Power is never a hardship, even if the film's soundtrack is less than optimal.

Sunday was also the day we enjoyed the parade down Main Street and the closing campfire at Spainhower Park. Click on any photo to enlarge it for a closer look.

I love the local entries which are mixed in with the festival guests:

Stuntman Diamond Farnsworth, the son of the last actor-stuntman Richard Farnsworth:

Darby Hinton (in red) and Robert Carradine rode horseback:

William Wellman Jr. waves to our camera.  He was accompanied by his wife Flossie.

Actor Michael McGreevey:

Jay Dee Witney, son of director William Witney, and his dog Pixel:

Wyatt and Lisa McCrea:

J.C. Munns played live music as he went down the parade route in the back of a pickup!

The delightful John Gilliland in his Hopalong Cassidy costume:

We spent an hour or so at the closing night campfire. There was live music...

...and a farewell speech by Darby Hinton (below right), speaking with master of ceremonies Larry Maurice. Having been a fan of Daniel Boone as a child, it was fun to see Darby in person this year; he seemed like a nice guy who really appreciated his Lone Pine experience.

In addition to appearing in BILL TILGHMAN AND THE OUTLAWS (2019), which screened on the festival's opening night, he is also in the brand-new Hallmark Channel Christmas film CHRISTMAS WISHES AND MISTLETOE KISSES (2019).

The next morning it was time to head home after another wonderful weekend in Lone Pine. We're hoping to be there again next year, and I'd encourage anyone who's considered it to make 2020 the year to attend!

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Last Christmas (2019)

When I saw the trailer for LAST CHRISTMAS (2019) I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I liked the cast, the London setting, and the seasonal angle but couldn't tell if it was a movie that would be for me.

Our oldest daughter saw it yesterday and pronounced it "lovely," adding that it made her homesick for London, where she spent a semester in college. She encouraged me to see it, which I promptly did, and I agree with her assessment. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

LAST CHRISTMAS tells the story of Kate (Emilia Clarke of GAME OF THRONES), who has recently survived a health crisis. She seems to be in the throes of depression and is starting to circle the drain in terms of self-destructive behavior. Friends are exasperated by her thoughtlessness, and it doesn't help matters that Kate has prickly relationships with her sister Marta (Lydia Leonard) and her controlling Yugoslavian immigrant mother (Emma Thompson).

The saving grace in Kate's life is her job as an "elf" at a London Christmas shop owned by Santa (Michelle Yeoh), yet even that is in jeopardy due to her careless attitude. And then Kate happens to meet Tom (Henry Golding), a handsome man with a dazzling smile who helps Kate start to appreciate the beauty of life and the world around her, drawing her out of her funk.

Tom comes and goes from Kate's life with maddening irregularity, but despite their uncertain relationship, Kate starts to move forward in other areas of her life. She finds meaning volunteering at a homeless shelter, helps play matchmaker for Santa and a Christmas-loving customer (Peter Mygind), begins making reparations to her friends, and inches toward having better relationships with her sister and mother.

If only she knew whether she has a future with Tom...

This was a very satisfying film which does a good job mixing imperfect reality and beautiful fantasy in the Christmas wonderland which is London. There aren't pat answers -- for instance, Kate's mother doesn't suddenly turn into an easy person to get along with -- but there's hope and encouragement. The underlying messages of the good feelings which come from helping others and the beauty to be found in everyday life, exemplified by Tom constantly urging Kate to "Look up!" and notice new things, resonate strongly.

The movie is also a love letter to London, the likes of which I don't think I've seen since NOTTING HILL (1999); in fact, London parks, which I wrote about after seeing NOTTING HILL, play a key role in this film as well. The movie showcases many favorite spots in the city -- for instance, I was delighted by a shot of Kate standing in front of Hamleys Toys -- and anyone who loves the city will enjoy the marvelous visuals of the city decorated for Christmas.

This was my first time to see Emilia Clarke, and I thought she was excellent, portraying a flawed character without making her completely unlikeable. Earlier this year Clarke disclosed she had dealt with two life-threatening brain aneurysms after winning her role on GAME OF THRONES, and I wondered if that experience helped inform her performance here, as Kate grapples with a kind of "What's it all about?" post-traumatic depression.

Although their characters don't interact, LAST CHRISTMAS features two actors from CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018), Yeoh and Golding. I love Yeoh, and her character here is much less forbidding; in fact, her crush on the man who loves Christmas as much as she does is downright funny at times.

Golding is impossibly handsome, with a charming smile which causes me to think of Tyrone Power. I hope for good things in his career as he's definitely someone I'd like to see in more films.

Thompson is a wonder, completely disappearing into her loving yet messed-up mother; her frizzy hair and shabby clothes are pitch perfect. Thompson wrote the screenplay with Bryony Kimmings, based on an original story she wrote with her husband, actor Greg Wise.

Thompson and Wise's story has flashes of beloved movies from Christmases past -- a bit of THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947) here, a little IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) there -- while simultaneously being wholly original.

LAST CHRISTMAS was directed by Paul Feig. It was filmed by John Schwartzman, who also shot the excellent THE HIGHWAYMEN (2019), reviewed here last month.

Other reviews for LAST CHRISTMAS seem to be all over the map; some have been poor, while a review by Katie Walsh published in the Los Angeles Times was quite appreciative. I'm glad I took my daughter's advice to go see it, as I had a most enjoyable afternoon, and I hope my readers who check it out will feel the same.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The House on 56th Street (1933) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE HOUSE ON 56TH STREET (1933) is a very good pre-Code melodrama available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Kay Francis stars and is in a majority of the scenes in this 68-minute film. I've watched a significant number of Francis films thanks to the Warner Archive, and I found this one among the most memorable.

Francis plays Peggy Martin, a showgirl who falls in love with and marries wealthy Monty Van Tyle (Gene Raymond). Monty's mother (Nella Walker) accepts Peggy, who lives a blissful life with Monty in their lovely home on 56th Street. The arrival of baby Eleanor seems to cement their happiness.

Alas, Peggy's former "patron," Lyndon Fiske (John Halliday), begs her to see him when he's in ill health. He is obsessed with Peggy and tries to win her back; he won't take no for an answer and threatens to shoot himself. Peggy is attempting to save Lyndon's life when the gun goes off and he's killed. The sad irony is that Peggy is charged in Lyndon's death and sent to jail for many years.

During Peggy's imprisonment Monty is killed in WWI and Eleanor (played as an adult by Margaret Lindsay) is told that her mother died in prison. Upon Peggy's release, a lawyer tells her that her former mother-in-law left her a nice sum of money, as long as she doesn't contact Eleanor.

Peggy meets Bill Blaine (Ricardo Cortez) on a ship and they establish a partnership; Peggy has always had an aptitude for cards and for many years she and Bill make their living playing with wealthy passengers traveling to and from Europe. Then one day Bill takes her to see a speakeasy where they've been invited to work as dealers...and it's the same house on 56th Street where Peggy lived as a young bride.

And Eleanor, who has a gambling problem, will soon have need of Peggy's help, never knowing that she's her mother...

Francis is excellent in this fast-paced film, aging from a glowing young woman in love to a beaten-down inmate to a glamorous, sophisticated, and rather sad card dealer. Thanks to the film's fast pacing and a compelling story, it never becomes drenched in syrup; instead the viewer is interested to see "what happens next."

And boy, the last ten minutes or so are a doozy worth waiting for, a marvelous example of what was different about pre-Codes. I must say I watched with a growing smile as Peggy's speakeasy employer (William Boyd) presented a "solution" to a very delicate situation.

Francis is excellent, and while her wardrobe (gowns by Orry-Kelly) is good, I felt they weren't as "obvious" as in many of the films where Francis dazzles as a clotheshorse. Instead the focus here is very much on the progression of her character over the years, and Francis handles it very well. Her fans will find this film quite enjoyable.

The rest of the performances are solid. I especially enjoyed seeing Lindsay and Philip Reed sharing scenes, over a dozen years before they also costarred in the excellent melodrama HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946).

It's important to note that the William Boyd in this film (seen above with silver-haired Francis) is not the William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame, though stories about this Boyd's dissolute lifestyle inadvertently caused career problems for the other Boyd. This film's William Boyd died in 1935, the same year the "other" Boyd is said to have given up hard liquor in order to accept the role that saved his career -- and then some! The other Boyd would play Hoppy for nearly two decades, becoming a wealthy man thanks to merchandising rights.

THE HOUSE ON 56TH STREET was directed by Robert Florey and filmed by Ernest Haller.

The print seen on this Warner Archive DVD, one of their earlier releases, is scratched here and there but overall is fine, with no major skips or problems to interfere with enjoying the movie. Sound quality is also fine. 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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers (2019)

One of the aspects of filmmaking which interests me most is cinematography. This interest is reflected in my reviews, which always mention the name of the cinematographer. I'm fascinated by cinematographers' varied styles and their ability to create the artistic images we all enjoy on screen.

I was thus deeply interested in a brand-new documentary from Turner Classic Movies, IMAGE MAKERS: THE ADVENTURES OF AMERICA'S PIONEER CINEMATOGRAPHERS (2019). It will debut on TCM this evening as part of the network's centennial tribute to the American Society of Cinematographers.

The documentary focuses on the work of some of the earliest cinematographers and how they literally created an art form with recently invented equipment; indeed, they sometimes invented the equipment themselves!

The cinematographers highlighted in this documentary are Billy Bitzer, Rollie Totheroh, Charles Rosher, William Daniels, Karl Struss, James Wong Howe, and Gregg Toland. Daniels is seen at the right filming Greta Garbo and Gavin Gordon in Clarence Brown's ROMANCE (1930).

Men such as Bitzer and Totheroh came to the movies without experience -- indeed, there was little experience to be had, as movie-making was a brand-new industry. They teamed with filmmakers such as D.W. Griffith (Bitzer) and Charlie Chaplin (Totheroh), learning and creating as they went.

The documentary creates a real sense of wonder contemplating these men who started their work from scratch over a century ago, simultaneously creating art and developing an industry. The film also explores how integral cinematographers were to the creation of great films; that's one of the elements which has always interested me, that a film can have a great director, writer, or actor, but the one thing it must absolutely have to exist at all is someone to capture it on film.

Historians Kevin Brownlow and Leonard Maltin are among those interviewed for the film. (How was I previously unaware of Maltin's 1978 book THE ART OF THE CINEMATOGRAPHER?! Just ordered it.) Brownlow's enthusiasm, in particular, is delightfully contagious. I love the joy he expresses discussing movies; it may sound funny to call a documentary a "feel good film," but the description is apt thanks to Brownlow.

Maltin also has a great moment when he describes how the coming of sound wiped out the art form which had just peaked with SUNRISE (1927); in some ways it's as though cinematography went back to square one, dealing with static cameras -- or even cameras being boxed! -- to deal with sound equipment, though thankfully the industry quickly progressed onward.

Within a span of years cinematographers had to adapt not only to sound but to Technicolor, while also coming up with innovations such as camera movement and deep focus photography; later on, the '50s would bring widescreen and 3D filming. The American Society of Cinematographers provided a place for photographers to discuss their craft with fellow professionals as they brainstormed new ideas.

IMAGE MAKERS is a top-notch documentary which I enjoyed immensely. It's both interesting and educational. Highly recommended.

IMAGE MAKERS is 91 minutes long and is narrated by Michael McKean. The documentary was written by film critic and historian Michael Sragow, whose work includes a biography of director Victor Fleming.

IMAGE MAKERS was directed by Daniel Raim, the documentary filmmaker whose work also includes HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (2015) and IN SEARCH OF OZU (2018).

A short trailer is here:

Sincere thanks to Turner Classic Movies for providing an online screener of this film for review.

Monday, November 04, 2019

TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements

In August Turner Classic Movies announced the dates and theme for the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival.

The 2020 theme is "Grand Illusions: Fantastic Worlds on Film," and the festival will take place in Hollywood from April 16th through 19th.

Today TCM announced that passes will go on sale to the general public on Thursday, November 21st.

Information about pass pricing may be found in my August post or at the festival website.

I note that the Palace Pass does not state which theaters are included, but instead lists what's not included, including the Chinese 6 Multiplex and Club TCM. My assumption is thus that it's probably not yet known if the Egyptian Theatre will be available for the festival if the proposed sale to Netflix is concluded, but I have no additional information on that angle.

The first eight movie titles were also announced today. They include LOST HORIZON (1947), THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947), HARVEY (1950), and SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980).

Visit the festival website's films page for the complete list. Additional titles will be added to the films page over the next few months, so keep checking that link.

I'm looking forward to another great festival in Hollywood next spring!

Previous Post: TCM Announces 2020 Festival Dates and Theme.

TCM Star of the Month: Bette Davis

The November Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies is Bette Davis.

This is Davis's third time as TCM's Star of the Month. She was previously honored in May 1999 and May 2006.

Bette Davis films will be shown every Tuesday in November, beginning at 3:00 a.m. Pacific/6:00 a.m. Eastern, and continuing for approximately 24 hours.

Over 50 Davis movies will be shown, along with a 1983 interview with Johnny Carson.

The complete lineup is below; consult the official TCM schedule for air times in individual time zones.

Please click any hyperlinked title to read my complete review.

November 5th

20000 YEARS IN SING SING (1932)
SO BIG (1932)
EX-LADY (1933)
FASHIONS OF 1934 (1934)

November 12th

JEZEBEL (1938)

November 19th


November 26th

THE STAR (1952)
THE NANNY (1965)

Of all these films my favorite is the classic ALL ABOUT EVE. I also really enjoy her films with George Brent, including the relatively minor films SPECIAL AGENT and THE GOLDEN ARROW, as well as their teaming in the weeper DARK VICTORY.

For more on TCM in November 2019, please visit TCM in November: Highlights and Quick Preview of TCM in November.