Saturday, September 30, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Doomed to Die (1940) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I wrapped up watching the Mr. Wong Blu-ray collection from Kino Lorber with the fifth film in the series, DOOMED TO DIE (1940).

DOOMED TO DIE was shown here under the alternate British title MYSTERY OF THE WENTWORTH CASTLE.

The Wentworth Castle is a ship owned by Cyrus Wentworth (Melvin Lang) which tragically sinks, killing hundreds.

Soon thereafter Wentworth also dies suddenly. Dick Fleming (William Stelling), who is engaged to Wentworth's daughter Cynthia (Catherine Craig), is the chief suspect in Wentworth's death and is arrested by San Francisco Police Captain Street (Grant Withers).

Street's friend, eminent private detective James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff), isn't so sure he has the right man; Wong and Street's friendly nemesis, reporter Bobbie Logan (Marjorie Reynolds), set about working other angles of the story.

I targeted the correct suspect early on, but it's a nice little 68-minute mystery which I enjoyed. I've quite liked this set and am sorry the series came to an end here, at least as far as the Karloff Wong films are concerned.

There was one more movie in the series which isn't in this set, PHANTOM OF CHINATOWN (1940), which starred Keye Luke as James Lee Wong. Grant Withers returns as Captain Street. I have a TCM recording of that movie and hope to review it here in the fairly near future.

Catherine Craig, who plays Cynthia, acted throughout the '40s. Offscreen Craig was the wife of Robert Preston, whom she married the same year DOOMED TO DIE was released. The Prestons were married until his death in 1987; she died in Santa Barbara in 2004.

The cast also includes Henry Brandon (THE SEARCHERS), Richard Loo, Guy Usher, Kenneth Harland, Maxine Leslie, and Tristram Coffin.

DOOMED TO DIE was directed by William Nigh and filmed in black and white by Harry Neumann.

The print is a new master from a 2K scan of the fine grain. Like the other films in this set, it looks and sounds quite good, especially considering it's a "Poverty Row" film released by a long-gone company.

Links for the reviews of the other films in this set: MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938), THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG (1939), MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN (1939), and THE FATAL HOUR (1940).

This set is recommended for fans of "B" mysteries and Boris Karloff.

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

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...Following last spring's TCM Classic Film Festival, the Hollywood Legion Theater ceased any repertory theater screenings and was not part of recent festivals such as Noir City Hollywood or Cinecon. I heard through the grapevine there were issues with the Legion not wanting to continue to pay a professional projectionist. Reporting from The Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times indicates things at Post 43 are a mess. It was also interesting to learn they dismantled their drive-in theater last June in order to make more money from Hollywood Bowl parking. I hope they can fix the issues and get back to screening classic movies, as it's a remarkable venue.

...Last week Netflix mailed out its final DVDs.

...Here's a look at the cover for the Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-ray release of ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (1959). It releases December 5th, with a commentary track by Alan K. Rode.

...Thanks to donations from hundreds of people, the remains of the late Oscar-winning actor Edmund Gwenn (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET), discovered earlier this year in the vaults of Chapel of the Pines crematory, will soon have a niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

...Recent reviews: CineSavant Glenn Erickson has reviewed the new Warner Archive Blu-ray release of WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951)...Glenn also reviewed the new Criterion Collection release of LA BAMBA (1987)...Cereal at Midnight has reviewed Audie Murphy in Kino Lorber's KANSAS RAIDERS (1950)...At Comet Over Hollywood Jessica reviewed the obscure SARGE GOES TO COLLEGE (1947), part of the Monogram Teen Agers series.

...I've reviewed many of the short Streamliners movies released by ClassicFlix in recent years. ClassicFlix will now gather the contents of all six of the previous sets for a four-disc, 22-film collection. It will be released December 12th.

...A deluxe edition of the soundtrack for THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) is coming later this year, including tracks recorded by Christopher Plummer. Plummer was dubbed by Bill Lee in the movie. Details were published by Entertainment Weekly and Variety.

...The Criterion Channel has a great October lineup, including 10 films starring Linda Darnell.

...Ed Zwick, creator of one of my favorite TV shows, THIRTYSOMETHING (1987-91), has a memoir coming out next year from Simon & Schuster.

...Happy 92nd birthday to Angie Dickinson, born in North Dakota on September 30, 1931.

...I enjoyed this new interview with Victoria Principal, Pam of TV's DALLAS.

...Notable Passings: David McCallum, star of MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS, has died at 90. He was also part of the large cast of the excellent movie HELL DRIVERS (1957). McCallum's NCIS colleagues paid tribute last week...Michael Gambon has died at 82. I especially enjoyed him in a small role as King George V in THE KING'S SPEECH (2010).

...Please note that there will not be an Around the Blogosphere This Week column next weekend, when I'll be attending the annual Lone Pine Film Festival. Around the Blogosphere This Week will return on Saturday, October 14th.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my September 23rd roundup.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

New at Classic Movie Hub: The Lone Hand (1953) at McCrea Ranch

In this month's Western RoundUp column I share a wonderful August evening at McCrea Ranch.

The occasion was an outdoor screening of THE LONE HAND (1953), starring Joel McCrea and Barbara Hale.

Jimmy Hunt, who has a large role in THE LONE HAND as McCrea's son, was at the ranch to watch the film with us and share his memories, making it a very special event indeed.

In my column I share some highlights of Jimmy's discussion with host Wyatt McCrea, and I also give my thoughts on seeing THE LONE HAND for the first time in a number of years.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to read the column, and thanks, as always, for reading!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018; January 2019; February 2019; April 5, 2019; April 30, 2019; May 2019; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019; January 2020; February 2020; March 2020; April 2020; May 2020; June 2020; July 2020; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; January 2021; February 2021; March 2021; May 2021; June 2021; June 2021 (No. 2); July 2021; August 2021; September 2021; November 2021; December 2021; December 2021 (No. 2); January 2022; February 2022; March 2022; April 2022; May 2022; June 2022; July 2022; August 2022; September 2022; November 2022; November 2022 (No. 2); January 2023 (No. 1); January 2023 (No. 2); March 2023; April 2023; May 2023 (No. 1); May 2023 (No. 2); June 2023; July 2023; September 2023.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Appointment With a Shadow (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW (1957) is one of three films in the Kino Lorber Dark Side of Cinema XIV Collection.

The set also includes ONE WAY STREET (1950), starring James Mason and Marta Toren, and the previously reviewed UNDERCOVER GIRL (1950) starring Scott Brady and Alexis Smith. To my knowledge this set is the first time any of these films has been available for home viewing in the United States.

I first saw APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW in 2013 at the Noir City Hollywood Film Festival. At the time I thought it was pretty good and admired the way director Richard Carlson and actor George Nader tackled the subject of alcoholism.

That impression stood as I took a fresh look at the movie over a decade later. It's admittedly sometimes more difficult to watch than entertaining, especially early on as the reporter played by Nader struggles not to drink, but all in all it's a solid film.

Penny (Joanna Moore), the reporter girlfriend of Paul (Nader), attempts to give him one last chance at career success by tipping him off to a major story. Her hope is that he'll be so driven to investigate the story that he can stay off the bottle for the day, and that that day might lead to Paul remaining sober in the future.

It's a tall order, but Paul overcomes temptation and stakes out the arrest of a major mob figure, only to realize that the police have killed the wrong man. The problem is no one will believe the word of a drunk.

It's a tough little film, but the short 72-minute running time and the interesting crime story helps the viewer stick with it.

The plot, involving a mobster (Frank DeKova), who's supposedly had plastic surgery, is intriguing, with Virginia Field giving a lively performance as the mobster's moll. At times Field seems to be channeling Audrey Totter, but that's not a bad thing!

Brian Keith gives a warm, likeable performance as Penny's police lieutenant brother, who thinks she's wasting her time trying to help Paul but is nonetheless willing to help her out.

Moore is a bit pallid as Paul's hopeful girlfriend, but she's the only weak link in the lead cast. It doesn't help that screenwriters Norman Jolley and Alec Coppel give Penny some unrealistic expectations about a single good job turning Paul's life around.

That said, the actual depiction of Paul's battle, including his typing up notes for how to stay busy for the entire day and avoid drinking, underscore what a significant long-term challenge he's facing. Nader, who has many wordless scenes of struggle, is quite good.

While not a favorite film, it's nonetheless worth seeing, and I'm glad it's finally readily available thanks to this Dark Side of Cinema set.

This is one of a handful of films directed by actor Richard Carlson. It was filmed in widescreen black and white by William E. Snyder.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by David Del Valle and David DeCouteau.

Look for a review of ONE WAY STREET here at a future date.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Father's Little Dividend (1951) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive Collection has done a wonderful thing this summer, rescuing two MGM films starring Elizabeth Taylor from public domain.

The first title was THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS (1954), which I reviewed in late August.

The other film is FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1951), the sequel to FATHER OF THE BRIDE. FATHER OF THE BRIDE had a lovely Warner Archive Collection release in 2016, reviewed here.

FATHER OF THE BRIDE was released in May 1950, and the same cast and crew quickly gathered to make a sequel, released less than a year later, in April 1951.

Like THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS and a handful of other MGM titles of the era, including MR. IMPERIUM (1951), FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND accidentally fell into the public domain due to legal errors. It's never had an official DVD release and has been available for the last few decades in iffy prints from a variety of sources.

For this beautiful release the Warner Archive Collection presents a new 1080p HD master from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. It looks absolutely wonderful and is a "must buy" for fans of the film and cast. I'm grateful to finally have this movie available in a lovely print!

This time around newlyweds Kay and Buckley Dunstan (Elizabeth and Don Taylor) invite their parents for dinner at their little apartment. The parents (Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Moroni Olsen, and Billie Burke) quickly learn that they are to be grandparents!

Stanley (Tracy) has a particularly difficult time realizing that, just as he's feeling "free" of children, the next generation is arriving. While navigating his own adjustment, he also helps the young parents-to-be as they deal with a new home, hovering in-laws, newfangled birth ideas, and hormone-induced emotions.

Truth be told, while I like both movies very much, I think of the two films FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND is my favorite. The film's pace is sprightlier, with its 82 minutes a full 10 minutes shorter than the original film, and the story is a little more fluid.

The original film plays almost as a series of vignettes, crossing off the checkpoints on the way to the wedding day; while this film also has the expected moments depicting a baby on the way, returning screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett present what feels to me like a more relatable story.

I have one question: When the baby is christened by Rev. Galsworthy (Paul Harvey) -- the same minister who conducts the wedding in the original film -- and the baby is named, how is it that the name was a surprise? What were they calling the baby for the first few months of his life?!

Tracy and Bennett, who first worked together in ME AND MY GAL (1932) nearly two decades previously, continue to make a believable couple whose interactions are enjoyable to watch. The two Taylors are also cute as the young couple, and pros Olsen and Burke are perfect as Buckley's parents.

The rest of the cast is tops, with returning faces also including Russ Tamblyn, Tom Irish, and Marietta Canty. Hayden Rorke plays Kay's obstetrician, and look for a young Dick Martin as one of the baby's godfathers in the christening scene.

I even noticed that a friend and most of the bridesmaids from the first film, played by Jacqueline Duval, Erin Selwyn, Wendy Waldron, and Janey Fay, return as baby shower guests in the sequel! I love that attention to detail.

Like the first film, the movie was directed by Vincente Minnelli and filmed in black and white by John Alton.

Extras on the Blu-ray disc consist of the trailer; the Tom and Jerry cartoons JUST DUCKY (1953) and JERRY AND THE GOLDFISH (1951); and the Pete Smith Specialty BARGAIN MADNESS (1951).


Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Amazon Warner Archive Collection Store, Movie Zyng, or from any online retailers were Blu-rays are sold.

Tonight's Movies: The Oyster Princess (1919) and Meyer From Berlin (1919) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Fans of the great director Ernst Lubitsch have had a special treat from Kino Lorber this summer with the release of a pair of two-film sets of Lubitsch silents.

The first set, reviewed here, contains two films released the same year, THE OYSTER PRINCESS (1919) and MEYER FROM BERLIN (1919).

The second set has THE DOLL (1919) and I DON'T WANT TO BE A MAN (1918).

All four films have commentary tracks by Lubitsch scholar Joseph McBride, author of the 2018 book HOW DID LUBITSCH DO IT? Together they comprise what some might term "film school in a box," a chance to study several early Lubitsch films alongside one of the director's biographers. (Scott Eyman also wrote a wonderful Lubitsch book, LAUGHTER IN PARADISE; the McBride and Eyman books are both "essentials.")

I'll note here that I was fortunate to see McBride speak at a Lubitsch series at UCLA the year of his book's publication. THE OYSTER PRINCESS (1919) was one of the films I saw in that series; my review from that screening is here.

THE OYSTER PRINCESS is labeled "A Grotesque Comedy," and indeed, watching it underscored my memories from 2018 that Lubitsch's silent films are quite different tonally from his later work.

While a sound film like TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932) is a lighter-than-air souffle, Lubitsch's European silents are something else again, melding dark and distasteful elements alongside some genuinely amusing comedy. Seeing his early work provides fascinating insight into how Lubitsch's style developed over time; as the years went on he dropped crass bits for greater -- and much more effective -- subtlety.

THE OYSTER PRINCESS is Ossi (Ossi Oswalda), the spoiled brat daughter of the American "oyster king" (Victor Janson).

Father and daughter are in Europe, and Ossi throws a tantrum demanding to marry a prince. Her father obliges by "buying" her the impoverished Prince Nucki (Harry Liedtke). Ossi unknowingly marries his friend Josef (Julius Falkenstein), believing him to be the prince, then meets and immediately falls for the real prince.

The film's short 60-minute running time helps keep the movie a mostly good time, though some of the same scenes which bothered me last time around had not improved in the past five years. I also still laughed at some of the funnier moments, such as Ossi preparing for her marriage by learning infant care. There's also a delightful scene with hordes of people dancing the foxtrot.

The score for this film was performed by Aljoscha Zimmermann and Ensemble. According to one source I found, it was recorded in 2006.

The second film in the set, the 58-minute MEYER FROM BERLIN (1919), was completely new to me.

I found it mildly entertaining; while it's a lesser film, it's of historical interest in part as Lubitsch himself starred in the title role. 

Lubitsch plays Solly, an egotistical womanizer who persuades his doctor to order him to rest in the Alps, away from his wife (Paula Orff). His wife is quite pretty, so it's a bit puzzling that Solly not only wants to leave her behind but chases after multiple women, including Kitty (Trude Troll).

Solly reluctantly agrees to climb a mountain as part of courting Kitty, but needless to say things don't go as planned, given that Solly's wife and Kitty's sweetheart (Heinz Landsmann) show up in hot pursuit.

I found the film a bit tiresome as Solly is such an oddball, from the very long feather in his alpine cap to his simultaneous social awkwardness and arrogance.  The film's fast pace works in its favor, and I also loved the film's beautiful colored tints which change from scene to scene.

Both movies in the set were filmed by Theodor Sparkuhl; Alfred Hansen is also credited on MEYER FROM BERLIN.

The new organ score for MEYER FROM BERLIN was composed and performed by Brett Miller.

Given how short the movies are, this is a one-disc set. The prints of both films look quite good, especially considering that they are each over a century old. MEYER FROM BERLIN, in particular, has age-related "bubbles" and other marks, offset by the previously mentioned lovely colors. Especially considering how many silent films no longer exist, I feel fortunate that these films have been preserved looking as good as they do.

The sole extras are the previously mentioned commentary tracks by Joseph McBride.

I'll be reviewing Kino Lorber's set containing THE DOLL and I DON'T WANT TO BE A MAN at a future date.  (Update: Here is the review of that set!)

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

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...The 2023 Classic Film Reading Challenge hosted by Raquel Stecher at Out of the Past has come to an end. She's posted a final roundup of book reviews. I'm very pleased to say that not only was I able to complete the challenge this year, but I was one of the prize winners! I'm excited that Kino Lorber's new Special Edition of FORCE OF EVIL (1948) will be arriving in the near future. Raquel will be scaling back next year and the challenge will be self-directed. I'm very appreciative of all the time and effort she's put into hosting the reading challenge over the years!

...Toby Roan, author of A MILLION FEET OF FILM: THE MAKING OF ONE-EYED JACKS, has announced he will be providing the commentary track for ONE-EYED JACKS (1961) for Viavision Imprint's upcoming collection of Marlon Brando films. It will be released in late December.

...Coming in December from the Criterion Collection: THE RED BALLOON (1956), a rainy day staple of Southern California classrooms when I was growing up.

...The Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture has debuted a James Garner exhibit featuring items donated by the Oklahoma native's family. Garner's daughter Gigi was among those recently celebrating the exhibit.

...Powerhouse Indicator has announced a quartet of great-looking releases for December 11th: HONOR AMONG LOVERS (1931), AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY (1931), LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932), and DESIRE (1936). They're loaded with great extras which are likely to make anyone who already owns any of these titles consider "double-dipping."

...Marco Lopez, a regular on TV's EMERGENCY! in the '70s, will be visiting the Los Angeles County Fire Museum in October. Last year I attended a wonderful 50th anniversary tribute to the series hosted by the museum in Cerritos.

...A Kickstarter campaign is underway for 1920s AESOP'S FABLES cartoons, which will be released by ClassicFlix.

...Hallmark has unveiled details of its 2023 Christmas slate, which will include a whopping 42 films. Details available at Variety and Entertainment Weekly. Among the good-looking films are A BILTMORE CHRISTMAS (2023), A MERRY SCOTTISH CHRISTMAS (2023), CHRISTMAS IN NOTTING HILL (2023), HOLIDAY HOTLINE (2023), A NOT SO ROYAL CHRISTMAS (2023), and HAUL OUT THE HOLLY: LIT UP (2023), a sequel to last year's popular HAUL OUT THE HOLLY (2022).

...VCI Entertainment, which has released numerous DVDs I've purchased over the years, has just launched a streaming service.

...Speaking of streaming, Amazon plans to start running commercials on its service in early 2024. Skipping commercials will require an extra fee. Is it just me or is streaming turning into cable TV? Between services adding commercials and significantly reducing content, I'm certainly glad I'm not among those who jettisoned their DVD collections for the "convenience" of streaming, in the belief that "everything" would one day be available to stream. The reality has proven to be far different.

...Recent film reviews: CineSavant Glenn Erickson has reviewed the new Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray release of THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929), which he says is "historically priceless." Look for a review here in the near future...At Comet Over Hollywood Jessica reviews a Deanna Durbin favorite, MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938)...John McElwee of Greenbriar Picture Shows looks at Durbin's HERS TO HOLD (1943), costarring Joseph Cotten...Toby reviewed Johnny Mack Brown in COLORADO AMBUSH (1951) at 50 Westerns From the 50s. It's part of the Warner Archive Collection's Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 4...and at Riding the High Country Colin reviews RIVER LADY (1948), starring Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, and Rod Cameron.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my September 16th roundup.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Quick Preview of TCM in November

It's time for a quick look ahead at the November schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

Gloria Grahame will be the November Star of the Month. Grahame's films will be shown on Tuesday evenings. 

There are still a number of unannounced Grahame titles, but the lineup will include the TCM premiere of NAKED ALIBI (1954), costarring Sterling Hayden.

The November Noir Alley schedule kicks off with the TCM premiere of a big favorite of mine, ABANDONED (1949), starring Dennis O'Keefe, Gale Storm, Raymond Burr, and Jeff Chandler.

ABANDONED will be followed by CRY TERROR! (1958) and STRANGE BARGAIN (1948). The Noir Alley film for Thanksgiving weekend has not yet been announced.

The November Spotlight on Fridays is titled "After Dark," with a number of the titles yet to be announced. The month's Special Theme is Bruce Lee.

As is often the case, Thanksgiving Day will feature family favorites including NATIONAL VELVET (1944), SPENCER'S MOUNTAIN (1963), and LITTLE WOMEN (1949).

There will be several memorial tributes in November, including Alan Arkin on the 6th, Jim Brown on the 10th, Harry Belafonte on the 19th, and William Friedkin on the 26th.

November programming themes will include hotels, small towns, 1933, weekends, military musicals, acting sisters, Paris, Tarzan, and ghosts.

Filmmakers honored with multifilm tributes include William A. Wellman, Ann Rutherford, Busby Berkeley, Anatole Litvak, June Allyson, Eleanor Powell, and Ralph Bellamy.

I'll have much more about the November schedule posted here around Halloween. In the meantime, TCM will be celebrating the centennial of actor Charlton Heston in October.

Update: For more on TCM in November 2023, please visit TCM in November: Highlights and TCM Star of the Month: Gloria Grahame.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Human Desire (1954) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

HUMAN DESIRE (1953), directed by Fritz Lang, was recently released by Kino Lorber in a Special Edition Blu-ray.

I first saw HUMAN DESIRE a dozen years ago, in 2011, and while I liked certain aspects of the film on that first viewing, my overall reaction was somewhat tepid.

In the ensuing years many people I respect have spoken about the film with enthusiasm and I wondered if I'd feel differently seeing the movie in a new context. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray was the perfect opportunity to revisit it, and as it turns out, I did like the film considerably more on this second viewing.

As on my first watch of the movie, I found the film visually enticing; the train sequences and locations are absolutely great. What changed for me was that the plot completely exasperated me the first time around -- I described it as "Stupid People Doing Stupid Things" -- but on this viewing I was willing to "lean into" their problems and found it intriguing rather than annoying.

The plot concerns Jeff (an uber-handsome Glenn Ford), a Korean War vet who returns to his small town and his job as a railroad engineer.

Jeff has the potential for a nice life, with a good, steady job, and Ellen (Kathleen Case), the lovely daughter of his best friend Alec (Edgar Buchanan), clearly has a crush on Jeff and sees him as marriage material.

Jeff says he wants a simple life of fishing and going to the movies, but then he falls hard for the married Vicki (Gloria Grahame) when he sees her on a train and his life quickly gets very complicated.

Unfortunately, Vicki's husband Carl (Broderick Crawford) has just killed a man on that very train, and when Jeff lies at the inquest about seeing Vicki and Carl near the dead man's compartment, he's soon in over his head.

Vicki has more than a little similarity to Phyllis in DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), and she'd like to be free of Carl -- permanently. And she certainly doesn't want to take care of it herself...

Spoiler alert: Those not wanting to know more about the plot might want to stop reading here until seeing the movie. I don't give the entire ending away but do discuss some aspects of it.

While I was frustrated with Jeff's stupidity on the first viewing, this time I could better understand how Vicki enticed him, and I also realized that he was under her spell for much less time than I remembered before he snaps out of it and realizes he's being played. Rather than being annoyed by his succumbing to her temptation in the first place, this time around I was glad he had the smarts to extricate himself before it was too late! It comes as a significant relief.

Jeff has a great moment near the end where he pulls the cord and sounds the train horn, symbolically reconnecting with Ellen, who blew the horn earlier in the movie when she and Jeff had an important conversation. Combined with Jeff's rapprochement with Alec, seen as Alec lights Jeff's cigarette with his pipe, I found the ending much more satisfying. I also liked that the movie didn't drag on, but clocks in at a pitch-perfect 91 minutes.

Crawford's bullying husband was about as boring as the first time, but I found Grahame fascinating. The passage of a dozen years definitely gave me a fresh perspective on her performance and her character, especially having seen Grahame in numerous films in that time frame.

In fact, the Grahame films I watched since my first viewing of HUMAN DESIRE included the phenomenal THE BIG HEAT (1953), the previous film she'd made with Lang and Ford. My great admiration for that film definitely impacted my willingness to give HUMAN DESIRE a new look.

Instead of finding her "poor me" staring-into-space routine tedious, I enjoyed watching a master manipulator at work. The layers of Vicki's character are fascinating; when the film begins she's bored but willing to help out by going back to work when Carl loses his job. Of course, her boredom probably plays into that noble gesture...

Vicki seems genuinely reluctant when Carl pushes her to beg a powerful man for his job back...but then she does what she feels she needs to do. And once Carl kills, all bets are off -- and she finally has a good excuse to drop their marital relationship.

HUMAN DESIRE was written by Alfred Hayes, inspired by a novel by Emile Zola.

The supporting cast includes Diane DeLaire, Grandon Rhodes, John Maxwell, Olan Soule, Dan Seymour, and Peggy Maley.

Ford and Crawford, incidentally, would reunite a couple years later in the Western THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956).

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray shows off the superb, gritty black and white photography of Burnett Guffey. It looks great.

Blu-ray extras consist of the trailer; a gallery of three additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a brief featurette with actress Emily Mortimer speaking on the film which was carried over from the Columbia Film Noir Classics II DVD release.

This special edition also includes reversible cover art and a cardboard slipcase.


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

Monday, September 18, 2023

Tonight's Movie: The Fatal Hour (1940) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE FATAL HOUR (1940) is the fourth of five films in the Mr. Wong Collection, available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

I've been gradually watching the films over the course of the last couple months and found them a pleasant surprise. They may be low budget "B" films, but sometimes a short little movie like a Mr. Wong film is exactly what I want at the end of a long day.

THE FATAL HOUR might be my favorite in the series to this point; it's a 68-minute film with a well- constructed plot. The movie was known in the UK as MR. WONG AT HEADQUARTERS, which I think might be a better title.

Like the previous film, MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN (1939), THE FATAL HOUR also benefits from the presence of Marjorie Reynolds as newspaper reporter Roberta "Bobbie" Logan.

As the movie begins, Police Captain Bill Street (Grant Withers) learns an old friend and fellow officer has been found murdered.

The dead man has been investigating smuggling on the waterfront, and before long Bill and private detective Mr. Wong (Boris Karloff) are investigating a costume jewelry shop which might be a front for sales of valuable jade.

Unfortunately more deaths occur before the mystery is solved; the interesting solution involves a newfangled remote-controlled radio.

I enjoy Karloff as the eternally unruffled, observant Mr. Wong; it's fun to watch his mind work as he sifts through clues.

Reynolds also adds quite a bit. I particularly liked that when Bobbie learns of the death of Bill's close colleague, she drops the sparring which is typical of their relationship and offers Bill genuine sympathy and help. Similarly, Bill's true feelings for Bobbie are apparent in the final scene.

The solid supporting cast includes Lita Chevret, Charles Trowbridge, Richard Loo, Craig Reynolds, Elsa Janssen, I. Stanford Jolley, and Jason Robards (Sr.).

The movie was directed by William Nigh and filmed in black and white by Harry Neumann.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print is a new master from a 2K scan of fine grain film. It's a tad soft in spots, but overall it's very good. Sound is also strong. It kind of amazes me that we now have these Monogram Pictures films available looking so good!

Previous reviews: MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938), THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG (1939), and MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN (1939). I'll be reviewing the last title in the set, DOOMED TO DIE (1940), in the near future.

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

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Wichita (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive Collection has just released a Blu-ray edition of a favorite Joel McCrea Western, WICHITA (1955).

McCrea plays Wyatt Earp in this film directed by Jacques Tourneur. Tourneur had previously directed McCrea in the great STARS IN MY CROWN (1950) as well as in STRANGER ON HORSEBACK (1955).

The story finds Earp reluctantly taking on the job as marshal of Wichita after a child is killed by the shooting of an unruly mob of cowboys.

The townspeople initially support Earp, only to later fear that in cleaning up the town, he's simultaneously ruining a significant amount of their business. Wyatt, however, won't back down, and a shocking betrayal by the town doctor (Edgar Buchanan) combined with another death eventually wins Wyatt the gratitude of Wichita citizens.

I wrote extensively about the film back in 2013, and I wrote more about it in a Classic Movie Hub column on Wyatt Earp films in 2018. I'd like to refer readers to those essays for further details on the story and my critical impressions of the film.

As I noted in 2013, director Tourneur takes a number of familiar elements and orchestrates them into "something more special than the norm, starting with a solid, well-paced script and Joel McCrea's firm, gallant performance."

Vera Miles appears as Wyatt's sweetheart, and the deep cast includes familiar faces such as Lloyd Bridges, Wallace Ford, Robert J. Wilke, Jack Elam, Keith Larsen, Mae Clarke, Walter Coy, Carl Benton Reid, and John Smith.

My favorite supporting performance is Peter Graves as Morgan Earp; he's handsome and charismatic, and I only wish he'd had a larger role.

WICHITA runs 81 minutes. It was written by Daniel B. Ullman based on his own story.

The movie was filmed in CinemaScope and Technicolor by Harold Lipstein; Lipstein and Tourneur do a particularly impressive job filling the wide canvas, starting with an opening shot of McCrea appearing as a horseman on the distant horizon.

The Blu-ray print and sound quality are outstanding, as is typical of the Warner Archive Collection.

Disc extras consist of a pair of Tex Avery cartoons, DEPUTY DROOPY (1955) and THE FIRST BAD MAN (1955).

This is a good month for Warner Archive Blu-rays starring McCrea and his wife, Frances Dee, as LITTLE WOMEN (1933), in which Dee played Meg March, has also just been released on Blu-ray. Look for a review here at a future date.

WICHITA is highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Amazon Warner Archive Collection Store, Movie Zyng, or from any online retailers were Blu-rays are sold.

Newer›  ‹Older