Friday, July 17, 2020

Week of July 18-24, 2020

To answer these trivia questions, please email me at

Brain Teasers:

From the English language version of which Italian Western comes the line, "For five thousand dollars I'd take you to China and I won't even ask your name."?

From the English language version of which Italian Western comes the line, "But you told me it's bad not to trust a friend, but to trust a friend is bad, too."?
No one has answered this question yet.

Which Italian Western featured the song "Heart of Stone"?
No one has answered this question yet.

Which Italian Western, in its English language version, has the line, "God bless his soul. Aw the hell with him."
No one has answered this question yet.

Which American actor, who played Hercules, was awarded the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports 
Award on February 9, 1978?
No one has answered this question yet.

Which American actor, who made an Italian Western, appeared in a Broadway show with Carol Channing?
John Black knew that it was Steve Reeves who appeared with Channing in 1955's THE VAMP.

Which American director of a Western shot in Spain worked as a Film Editor for Universal Pictures in the 1930s?
Bertrand Van Wonterghem knew that it was Paul Landres, the director of SON OF A GUNFIGHTER.

What John Ford directed movie featured a plot idea also used in A REASON TO LIVE A REASON TO DIE?
No one has answered this question yet.

Which Italian Western, in its English language version, has the line, "Now it's your turn, Monetero."
George Grimes knew that it was VADO... L'AMMAZZO E TORNO, aka I'LL GO... I'LL KILL AND I'LL BE BACK, aka GO KILL AND COME BACK, aka ANY GUN CAN PLAY.

And now for some new brain teasers:

Complete the lyric, "Stranger. Stranger. Who knows ____ ____? Stranger. Stranger. What is you name?"
Can you name two Westerns directed by Marino Girolami in which a main character is a priest?
From the English language version of which Italian Western comes the line, "Faster. You can bet your last dollar on it."

Name the movies from which these images came.

John Black, George Grimes and Bertrand Van Wonterghem identified last week's frame grab of Marilu Tolo and Charles Southwood in ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

Charles Gilbert, Bertrand Van Wonterghem and George Grimes identified last week's frame grab of Fay Spain and Mimmo Palmara in ERCOLE ALLA CONQUISTA DI ATLANTIDE, aka HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS, aka HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came? 

Bertrand Van Wonterghem and George Grimes identified last week's frame grab of George Eastman in ANTROPOPHAGUS, aka THE GRIM REAPER.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

No one identified the above photo yet.
Can you name from what movie it came?

I am interested in knowing what movies you have watched and what you enjoyed or not. So please send me an email at if you'd like to share. Here's what I watched last week:


Chernobyl (2019) - This is the most powerful indictment of the Soviet system that I've seen since L'AVEU, aka THE CONFESSION (1970). Because of that, it is not surprising that some Russian critics accuse the series of having a Western bias. Masha Gessen in The New Yorker criticized the series for "its failure to accurately portray Soviet relationships of power... There are a lot of people throughout the series who appear to act out of fear of being shot. This is inaccurate: summary executions, or even delayed executions on orders of a single apparatchik, were not a feature of Soviet life after the nineteen-thirties. By and large, Soviet people did what they were told without being threatened with guns or any punishment... Resignation was the defining condition of Soviet life. But resignation is a depressing and untelegenic spectacle. So the creators of Chernobyl imagine confrontation where confrontation was unthinkable—and, in doing so, they cross the line from conjuring a fiction to creating a lie. The biggest fiction... is Khomyuk herself. Unlike other characters, she is made up—according to the closing titles, she represents dozens of scientists who helped Legasov investigate the cause of the disaster. Khomyuk appears to embody every possible Hollywood fantasy. She is a truth-knower: the first time we see her, she is already figuring out that something has gone terribly wrong, and she is grasping it terribly fast, unlike the dense men at the actual scene of the disaster, who seem to need hours to take it in. She is also a truth-seeker: she interviews dozens of people (some of them as they are dying of radiation exposure), digs up a scientific paper that has been censored, and figures out exactly what happened, minute by minute. She also gets herself arrested and then immediately seated at a meeting on the disaster, led by Gorbachev. None of this is possible, and all of it is hackneyed. The problem is not just that Khomyuk is a fiction; it’s that the kind of expert knowledge she represents is a fiction. The Soviet system of propaganda and censorship existed not so much for the purpose of spreading a particular message as for the purpose of making learning impossible, replacing facts with mush, and handing the faceless state a monopoly on defining an ever-shifting reality. In the absence of a Chernobyl narrative, the makers of the series have used the outlines of a disaster movie. There are a few terrible men who bring the disaster about, and a few brave and all-knowing ones, who ultimately save Europe from becoming uninhabitable and who tell the world the truth. It is true that Europe survived; it is not true that anyone got to the truth, or told it. The Harvard historian Serhii Plokhy’s 2018 book on Chernobyl reconstructs the sequence of events and assigns blame. In effect, Plokhy argues, it was the Soviet system that created Chernobyl and made the explosion inevitable. Glimmers of this understanding appear in the HBO series, too. In the final episode, Legasov, testifying as a witness, tells a Soviet court that the disaster happened because the tips of the control rods were made of graphite, which sped up the reaction, when the control rod was supposed to slow it down. When asked, by the prosecutor, why the reactor was designed this way, Legasov cites the same reason that other safety precautions are ignored and other corners are cut: 'It’s cheaper.' He seems to be damning the whole system. More often, however, we are given to believe that the three men who were put on trial—and especially one of them, a particularly unattractive villain by the name of Anatoly Dyatlov (Paul Ritter)—are to blame. We see him strong-arming younger, better men into actions that will ultimately lead to catastrophe. All because, it seems, he wants a promotion. In fact, it wasn’t the carrot of a single promotion, or even several promotions, and it wasn’t one nasty and abusive boss. It was the system, made up primarily of pliant men and women, that cut its own corners, ignored its own precautions, and ultimately blew up its own nuclear reactor for no good reason except that this was how things were done. The viewer is invited to fantasize that, if not for Dyatlov, the better men would have done the right thing and the fatal flaw in the reactor, and the system itself, might have remained latent. This is a lie. It would be harder to show a system digging its own grave instead of an ambitious, evil man causing the disaster. In the same way, it’s harder to see dozens of scientists looking for clues when you can just create a single fantasy character who will have all the good disaster-fighting traits. This is the great-men (and one woman) narrative of history, where it’s a few steps, a few decisions, made by a few men that matter, rather than the mess that humans make and from which they suffer. Testifying in court during the final episode, Legasov says, 'Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.' One would think that a vacuum created by lies could be filled by truth. Instead, it is filled by an entirely fictional, fantastical trial at which a large group of people—scientists, we are told—are given an accurate assessment of events in an accessible, brilliant speech, the likes of which Soviet courts didn’t feature. Legasov gets the last word. He speaks of 'the gift of Chernobyl: where I once would fear the cost of truth, I only ask'—the screen fades to black—'what is the cost of lies?' One might say that the cost of lies is more lies. One might say that these are fantasies, embellishments, shortcuts, and even translations. Whatever they are, they are not the truth."

Mildly enjoyed:


ON THE BEACH (1959) - Warning! Don't watch this movie unless you can stand almost two hours of "Waltzing Matilda" variations. Like most films directed by Stanley Kramer, this equates drama with melodrama, but the premise is strong as are most of the performances. 

Snowpiercer (2020) - I enjoy the TV series more than the movie, though more for the first five episodes than what came later.

THE FRONT PAGE (1931) - Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur theatrical portrait of Chicago newspapermen is historically fascinating. I had never heard of an Alienist until the 2018 TV series. Well, in this movie, an Alienist is brought in to check on the condemned prisoner and it seems to be S.O.P.

HBO Undercover "Death On the Job" (1991) - You can't blame the Soviet system for the failure of capitalist industry to protect their workers.

Did not enjoy:

DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION (2009) - So far I've not liked any movie directed by James Wong and this is no exception. How did Hong Kong star Stephen Chow become the producer of this? Considering its Japanese origins, this film oddly evidences no Japanese flavor. Interestingly, Wong, or his costume designer, has made the female fighters' butts sexier than usual for a martial arts movie. Also, was that moving camera shot above Jamie Chung deliberately designed to look down her shirt?

EL CASO DE LA MUJER ASESINADITA (1955) - Gloria Marin plays a wealthy woman who is so engrossed in reading EL TERROR DE LAS PRADERAS by Karl May, that she gets a sleeping pill from a cupboard without looking away from her book. She doesn't look to see the maid take the birdcage with a canary upstairs. Marin drops the pill in a glass of milk without taking her eyes off the book, drinks the milk and lays down on a coach and falls asleep. She doesn't see the maid come downstairs with a cat in the birdcage. As the mistress is deep in sleep, the maid is joined by the cook, who strikes a match to light a cigarette on the sole of the sleeping woman's shoe.   and is unaware that her husband, who is away on a trip, has left a poison pill for her to take. 

EL PUEBLO FANTASMA (1965) - Jorge Russek (of THE WILD BUNCH) is getting drunk at a cantina and boasting that he's the fastest gun. Fernando Lujan as the clad in black Rio Kid appears and proves Russek wrong. Meanwhile, Rodolfo de Anda hates hearing "Corrido de Manuel Saldivar", which is about his father, so much that he destroys the guitar of the band playing it. Eventually de Anda ends up in the near ghost town where Lujan dwells. At first it seems that Lujan is a good spirit, as when he guns down Jose Chavez (of THE WILD BUNCH) and Guillermo Hernandez before they can rape gypsy girl Julissa. Later on, it turns out that he's a vampire and he grows huge fangs to feed on her. De Anda knows what's going on and stakes out Julissa in her grave, causing Lujan to challenge our hero to a gunfight. Knowing that his bullets won't hurt the vampire, de Anda convinces Comisario Manuel Donde to lock him up for the night (with him still wearing his gun). The townspeople think that de Anda is a coward, except the next night our hero walks down a foggy street to fight. Lujan is shocked to be killed by de Anda's gunfire, but our hero reveals that he made silver bullets during the day. Alfredo B. Crevenna is the director of this not quite remake of 1959's CURSE OF THE UNDEAD.

MARKED FOR DEATH (1990) - Steven Seagal retires from the DEA, goes home to Chicago, and finds himself in the middle of a drug war between Colombian and Jamaican gangs. The Jamaicans beat the Colombians and then target our hero's family. To combat any accusations of racism in our hero killing black men left and right, the filmmakers give our hero two black friends played by Keith David and Tom Wright. Naturally one ends up dead. Exhibiting little concern for public safety or property, our hero has a car chase through a crowded city and destroys a jewelry store going after bad guys. Although she has good billing, Joanna Pacula has very little screentime.

THE ULTIMATE GIFT (2006) - I tend to find "inspirational" drama very uninspiring, but Abigail Breslin is totally charming and Ali Hillis is a winning presence. The cast is notably good with Drew Fuller, James Garner, Bill Cobbs and Lee Meriwether and you can't argue against the film's message of giving to charity - but the whole "kidnapped by a drug gang subplot" takes away from the "young man learns important life lessons" story. 

SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960) - I've never been a fan of Mamie Van Doren, and in a movie featuring Tuesday Weld, she seems particularly unnecessary. Brigitte Bardot's younger sister Mijanou is attractive, but makes little impression. What does make an impression is the parade of strippers that the robot dreams about towards the end of the film, which seems to mean that I've seen the "adult" version of this lame comedy. In addition to Weld, Norm Grabowski appears, so if only Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver were on hand, it would seem like an episode of the "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". One can't help but wonder how actor Martin Milner got his one and only "associate producer" credit for this film. Director Albert Zugsmith fails to get good performances from his cast, which includes Louis Nye, Mickey Shaughnessy, Jackie Coogan, John Carradine and Vampira, who is unrecognizable. Conway Twitty appears as himself and wrote the songs for this film and reportedly doesn't like to talk about it.

SINS EXPIATION, aka SINS (2012) - A blind man and a priest meet on the train. It turns out that both of them are former criminals hoping to expiate their sins. They tell each other of their past crimes which are shown in flashbacks. A woman has been following the priest because he murdered her husband, but when he asks her forgiveness, she can't shoot him. As he leaves the priest assures the blind man that God will forgive all sins. An incredibly cheap looking flick possibly intended to be shown at religious meetings, SINS is remarkable for the number of American actors who show up: Danny Glover, Michael Madsen, John Savage, Anne Jeffreys and Steven Bauer. They speak English, while the Italian actors around them mostly speak Italian with English subtitles. For fans of the Italian action movies of the 1980s, there's Hal Yamanouchi in a small role as a Sicilian gangster. There is some awful CGI scenery to be had out the train window, as well as a CGI gunshot to the head and a phony looking CGI car explosion. Carlo Fusco is the director.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2018) - I didn't expect to like this, but I hated it beyond expectations. And the fact that they roped Laura Linney into this is a cinematic crime.

TYREL - A young Black man named Tyler goes to have a weekend party in the country with a bunch of White guys. Outrageous behavior ensues while alcohol is consumed. Tensions build as the viewer expects something bad to happen. Nothing bad happens. The film by writer/director Sebastian Silva is hailed as a "Racial Satire".


Charles Gilbert watched:

Burke's Law, the quip-ridden television series with Gene Barry.
     S01E21 "Who Killed His Royal Highness?" Linda Darnell, Elizabeth Montgomery, Bert Parks, Mickey Rooney, Telly Savalas, Gale Storm. Black and White original 1964 series.
     S02E07 "Who Killed The Centerfold?" Robert Goulet, Timothy Geary,  Dom Deluise, and Perry King. Revival series 1995 in color of course, and Barry is 30 years older with venerable gray hair.
     S02E06 "Who Killed the Lifeguard?" Catherine Hicks  Sammantha Eggar. Revival series.

Alfred Hitchkock Hour "Day of Reckoning". B&W. Barry Sullivan plays a guilt-ridden husband who has murdered his faithless wife by pushing her overboard a party yacht. With Louis Hayward, Claude Akins, Hugh Marlowe, Jeremy Slate, Les Tremayne, K. T. Stevens, James Flavin, and Robert Cornthwaite.

The Dirty Dozen - Behind the Scenes. Lee Marvin take leave in London's hip community in between takes on the set of the classic.


David Deal enjoyed:


THE VAMPIRE DOLL (70) - When a man disappears while visiting his girlfriend, his sister and her friend go looking for him.  The first of Michio Yamamoto's western-style Gothic vampire horror trilogy is great looking, creepy fun.  Lake of Dracula was next followed by Evil of Dracula.


OPERATION DOUBLE 007 - See The Eurospy Guide book for a complete review.

HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (17) - Documentary on the legendary couple. He was a storyboard artist beyond compare and she was his leading film researcher wife.  Good stuff.

DOUBLE FACE (69) - Riccardo Freda's mystery still holds interest and the Arrow Blu-ray looks very nice.


Mildly enjoyed

THE TATTOOED STRANGER (50) - Who killed the young lady with the tattoo found in a car?  Police procedural shot on the streets of NYC and peopled with local theater actors ain't bad.


Bertrand Van Wonterghem enjoyed:

Ssauja Gwisina  / Bring it on, ghost  - season 1 – episodes 6, 7 and 8 (2016, Park Jun Hwa)

Desafio en Rio Bravo (1964, Tulio Demicheli)

The purple mask (1955, H. Bruce Humberstone)

Mildly enjoyed:

The cooler (2002, Wayne Kramer)

Did not enjoy

Blood (2012, Nick Murphy)


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