Sunday, August 12, 2018

Tonight's Movie: A Strange Adventure (1956) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

A STRANGE ADVENTURE (1956), a widescreen black and white heist film from Republic Pictures, was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

A STRANGE ADVENTURE may not be a very good film, but it's highly entertaining. I really enjoyed watching it, all the more because the Blu-ray print looks fantastic.

It's a fairly simple story, in which glamorous-looking Lynn Novak (Marla English) has been leading on a motel owner's teen son, Harold (Ben Cooper). The truth is that she's part of a gang planning an armored car robbery...and Harold's restored hot rod will be the perfect getaway vehicle!

Al (Jan Merlin) and Phil (Nick Adams) arrive in town and pull off the robbery, killing the guard who was part of the plan in the process. The two men and Lynn then force Harold to drive them up into the mountains, anticipating a snowstorm will cut off the pursuing cops. They don't plan to find a cabin occupied by Luther (Peter Miller), who spends the winter measuring the snow, or Luther's sister Terry (Joan Evans), and hold them prisoner.

Luther must report weather measurements by shortwave twice a week, and if he's not heard from on schedule, someone will show up on a snowplow to check on him...meanwhile the three crooks become suspicious of one another, and for good reason.

The sequence after the bad guys are rounded up is rather truncated -- they were really going to charge Harold as an accessory?! -- but by that point the movie's just about over so I guess it doesn't matter too much!

The movie might be termed "overly obvious" from its beginning, with English's siren leading young Harold on; when Al shows up, there's florid melodrama as he alternates kissing and slapping Lynn. Subtle this film is not...speaking of which, are viewers supposed to be reading something into Phil's constant sniffing? I suspect so.

Despite this movie not having the best script or performances, every scene is entertaining and the 70-minute story zooms forward at a breakneck pace. I suspect director William Witney is greatly responsible for the movie's pacing and entertainment value.

The movie won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I suspect some viewers would understandably latch on to the film's shortcomings, but I took it on its own terms and liked it for what it was. Maybe it's a bit of a "guilty pleasure" but I thought it was good fun and would watch it again. For film fans who like this type of film, this beautiful Kino Lorber print is highly recommended.

The movie was shot in straightforward fashion by Bud Thackery. It utilizes some terrific locations, including a roadside motel pool and a grocery store interior; I love being able to glimpse older grocery store interiors in films such as this or BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961). The movie's look was a definite plus factor for me.

There are also some good winter shots in what I assume are the San Bernardino Mountains, mixed in with soundstage work. I'm anticipating the commentary track will provide more location information.

The commentary is by Toby Roan and Jay Dee Whitney, son of the director, and I'll be listening to it this week. I've heard all of Toby's past commentary tracks and they are always thorough, which is why I'm pretty confident I'll learn more about the locations! Indeed, I noted that Gary W. Tooze at DVD Beaver says it's a "fantastically detailed commentary." Looking forward to it! Kudos to Kino Lorber for providing viewers with a bit of "film school in a box" regardless of the fact it's a minor film; indeed, sometimes tracks for lesser-known movies can be the most interesting and educational.

The disc also includes five trailers for other Kino Lorber releases.

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


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Sounds fun, Laura, and probably a film that would entertain me the same way it did you. Commentary by our Mr. Roan AND William Witney's son is a HUGE added bonus.

I always quite like Ben Cooper. He came along late in the day and I feel he wished he could have been a great western star - he gives off the right 'feel'. But sadly, by then the wagon train had almost passed by.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, I rather suspect you would enjoy this too -- especially if you like Ben Cooper. It's one of those movies that's just plain entertaining. I'm hoping I can start listening to the commentary tomorrow, I want to hear where the motel and the grocery store were located LOL.

Best wishes,

11:57 PM  

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