Friday, August 14, 2020

Week of August 15 - 21, 2020

 

To answer these trivia questions, please email me at scinema@earthlink.net.

Brain Teasers:

What John Ford directed movie featured a plot idea also used in A REASON TO LIVE A REASON TO DIE?
It was JUDGE PRIEST.

In which Italian Western does the villain recruit new members of his gang by freeing the prisoners from a prision?
Rick Garibaldi knew that it was ARIZONA COLT, aka THE MAN FROM NOWHERE.

In which Italian Western does our hero crack open a coconut with a ball on an elastic string?
No one has answered this question yet.

In which Italian Western does our hero demand a reward of $500.00 and the saloon keeper's daughter?
Rick Garibaldi and Bertrand Van Wonterghem knew that it was ARIZONA COLT, aka THE MAN FROM NOWHERE.

In which mythological movie is Giuliano Gemma the smallest of his brothers?
George Grimes, Charles Gilbert and Bertrand Van Wonterghem  knew that it was ARRIVANO I TITANI, aka SONS OF THUNDER, aka MY SON THE HERO.

Which actor who played Hercules posed for a billboard advertising Weber's Bread in 1953?
George Grimes and Bertrand Van Wonterghem knew that it was Steve Reeves.

And now for some new brain teasers:

Which American actor, who made a Western with Terence Hill, also appeared in movies with John Wayne, John Agar, Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, Bobby Darin and Duke Moore?
Which Spanish star of Italian Westerns played Sara Montiel's manager in one of her most successful movies?
In which Italian Western does the villain brand an "S" on the forearm of all of his men?

Name the movies from which these images came.



George Grimes and Bertrand Van Wonterghem identified last week's photo of Antonio Sabato in ODIO PER ODIO, aka HATE FOR HATE.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?


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


George Grimes and Bertrand Van Wonterghem identified last week's photo of Ursula Andress in AFRICA EXPRESS.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?


George Grimes identified last week's frame grab of Sammo Hung and Jimmy Wang Yu in THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, aka THE DRAGON FLIES.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

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

Enjoyed:

CINEMA VERITE Defining the Moment (1999) - One would like an update to this wonderful documentary now that cell phone captures are frequently used on news broadcasts.

Mildly enjoyed:

BACKSTABBING FOR BEGINNERS (2018) - Based on the memoir by Michael Soussan, with the undertitle of MY CRASH COURSE IN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY, that tells of the widespread corruption in the U.N. "Oil-for-Food Program" before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The filmmakers decided to turn Soussan's story into a romantic thriller, which may have resulted in a watchable flick, but greatly distorted the facts of the case. Soussan is Danish, and not the American son of an U.S. diplomat killed in the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon. The corruption in the program was not exposed by Soussan taking the evidence to the Wall Street Journal and no U.N. female official in Iraq was murdered as part of a cover-up. Theo James stars in the film, while Ben Kinglsey plays a character loosely based on Benon Sevan - the real life head of the Oil-for-Food program. Perhaps because of the nationality of the author of the book, Danish film director Per Fly made the film which was a Danish-Canadian-U.S. co-production. Also in the cast is Jacqueline Bisset, Rossif Sutherland (son of Donald Sutherland) and the always reliable Brian Markinson - who can be counted on to play a convincing villain in any production shot in Canada.

BEST OF THE BEST (1989) - Korean American martial artist Phillip Rhee was on the 1980 United States Taekwondo Team that participated in the Asia Games. After appearing in a few low-budget American action films, Rhee, seemingly inspired by ROCKY, wrote his own film - but someone seemed to feel that a white guy needed to star and so they got Eric Roberts. However, the most compelling role in the film was the one Rhee got. The script was full of cliches, but the filmmakers brought a sincerity to the proceedings which won over the audience. And with his brother Simon, Rhee staged some compelling fight scenes. Bob Radler directed and Rhee got to make three sequels. James Earl Jones, Sally Kirkland, Christopher Penn, Louise Fletcher and John P. Ryan also appeared.

The Handmaid's Tail season three (2019) - 12 episodes of angst really isn't balanced out by one episode of triumph, but that one episode was certainly welcome.

THE MIRACLE FIGHTERS (1982) - When the Indian fighter in THE CHINESE BOXER elongated his arms to punch Wang Yu, it became apparent that the supernatural was common in many kung fu movies, but THE MIRACLE FIGHTERS takes it to another level. Oddly, the film starts out as the tale of a royal martial arts instructor, played by Eddie Ko, escaping a royal kill order with a prince as hostage. Halfway through, it becomes a story about a wizard competition. If you've been waiting to see Yuen Cheung-yan play an elderly woman, this is the movie for you.

IL SEGRETO DI RAHIL, aka RAHIL'S SECRET (2007) - Ons Ben Raies seems to be narrating her story through prison bars to someone we aren't told is her father until the very end of the movie. A ten or twelve year old illegal female refugee from Iraq is trying to survive in Italy. The woman she is staying with has a boyfriend involved in an illegal gun trafficking deal, so when both of them are shot dead, the girl ends up drifing among the homeless in Rome. Writer/director Cinzi Bomoll doesn't have a real structure to her film, so it kinds of drifts along like its heroine. Giovanni Bomoll helps by composing a graceful theme tune. Eva Robins of TENEBRAE and HERCULES (1983) is unrecognizable here playing a nun.

PETE KELLY'S BLUES (1955) - Screenwriter Richard L. Breen gets an unusually prominent mention in the opening credits of this film. Perhaps that is because he won the Oscar for 1953's TITANIC and scripted 1954's DRAGNET. In any case, director and star Jack Webb would seem to hold him in high esteem. Webb had been a radio star and had previously done Pat Novak, For Hire for which he first used a Raymond Chandler-like "hard-boiled" narration. That narration carried over for the radio series Pete Kelly's Blues and most of what Webb did after. This feature film is based on the radio series with Webb playing a struggling musician in 1927's Kansas City whose band comes under the control of a gangster/manager played by Edmond O'Brien. Clarinet player Lee Marvin quits the band saying that he is too old for the trouble he sees coming. Drummer Martin Milner takes a broken bottle to the face of thug John Dennis and ends up being gunned down in an alley. O'Brien forces drunken singer Peggy Lee on Webb's band, but she eventually ends up in an asylum from the booze and O'Brien's abuse. Lawman Andy Devine tries to force Webb to help him build a case against O'Brien. When Dennis tells Webb that he will give our hero the paperwork to get O'Brien arrested in exchange for the money to get out of town, our hero goes to O'Brien's office. Despite being told to stay away, Webb's girlfriend Janet Leigh follows Webb into what turns out to be a trap. There's a shoot-out before the film's happy ending. Webb was well-known for being anti-racist, and Ella Fitzgerald gets good screentime singing two songs; one being "Pete Kelly's Blues". Jayne Mansfield, before she became a blond, has a small role as a cigarette girl. In 1959, Webb created the TV series Pete Kelly's Blues which ran for 13 episodes.

STAR WARS THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019) - This is the most enjoyable Star Wars movie since J.J. Abrams took over, but I would have enjoyed it more if it didn't belabor all of the expected plot points. I appreciated the redemption of Ben Solo.

TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (1990) - I don't dispute that this film is "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", but I didn't enjoy the viewing experience.

Did not enjoy:

BACK TO THE GOODE LIFE (2019) - Did you know that there's a new specialty effort called BET Her? And that they have a film playing on Showtime from So Chi Entertainment? And that the IMDb cast listing for this film is so wacked out that the star of the film is #22 because someone decided that the cast should be listed alphabetically? Hell, her stand-in is listed at #4! Here's another story about a woman who seems to have made it in New York City forced to go back to her small town home because of adversity and discovering that she can have a better life there. This time she is played by Kyla Pratt and the script covers all of the cliches. I guess Starbucks wasn't interested in the story of an employee who decides to open up a competing business, so for a while our heroine works at Coffee King before creating The Goode Cafe.

BEARLY LETHAL (2015) - The cute idea of a government run school for little girls that trains them to be assassins isn't very cute if you allow any critical thought to occur. Hailee Steinfeld plays agent 83 who is the first of her class to be put in the field, much to the irritation of her rival agent 84, played by Sophie Turner. After succeeding in helping to capture villain Jessica Alba, Steinfeld is left behind. She takes this as an opportunity to experience "normal" life by getting herself into a student exchange program, saying she's from Canada, and getting placed with an American family. The usual "new kid in high school" comedy bits ensue, including being unable to choose between two boys. Samuel L. Jackson plays the head of the little girl assassin school who wants Steinfeld back, especially after Alba escapes his custody. It turns out that Alba turned Turner and both women want our heroine dead. Luckily, her new exchange family rises to the occasion to help Steinfeld, with Jackson showing up to ensure an happy ending. Well, not so happy as a scene during the end credits threatens a sequel. Jaime King fans will be disappointed that she only appears in one scene near the beginning, but I'm guessing that this was just a favor to her husband, the film's director, Kyle Newman. (After baring him two sons, King filed for divorce in 2020 with accusations of domestic violence.)

BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971) - The opportunity to see a number of attractive women in various states of undress isn't enough to put up with the dim-witted filmmaking here. Even though she appeared in BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, this is the movie credited with launching Pam Grier's career.

DONOVAN'S BRAIN (1953) - I first became aware of this story when I saw the 1962 version called THE BRAIN. I quite liked that movie and thus read the novel. The 1953 version, starring Lew Ayers, Nancy Davis (soon to become Nancy Reagan) and Gene Evans, does nothing for me. Interestingly, one of the film's producers was Tom Gries, who became a director of movies like WILL PENNY and 100 RIFLES.

FIVE MINUTES TO LIVE (1961) - Or how holding a wife hostage to force a bank executive to fork over $70,000 can save a marriage. Elvis Presley made some bad movies, but he never got to play as nasty a character as Johnny Cash does here. Would a good actor have made this character more believable, or did Cash deliver as good a performance as possible? What with murdering his helpless girlfriend and attempting to rape his hostage, Cash has no fear of being perceived as a bad guy and he succeeds in looking menacing. How come his song "Five Minutes To Live", with a guitar solo by Merle Travis, never made it on to a Greatest Hits album? Cay Forester plays the hostage and also wrote the screenplay, so she was responsible for all of the abuse she undergoes. Someone should ask Ron Howard if he remembers what it was like being man-handled by Johnny Cash when he was six years old, but considering how many credits he had already accumulated, Ron probably didn't think it was more than another day's work. While you can't miss Vic Tayback here, I didn't seen Rue McClanahan, but would the IMDb lie to me? It's too bad that Midge Ware didn't get more screen time as she is a pleasure to behold.

EL ULTIMO CUPLE, aka THE LAST TORCH SONG (1957) - Juan de Orduna directed this vehicle for star Sara Montiel which became one of her biggest box office hits. Future Spanish Western actor Armando Calvo plays the manager who helped to make the character played by Montiel into the toast of Europe. The film starts in "Barcelona 1.95..." as Montiel has returned to performing. A little girl tells the mature singer how much she admires her, and the singer replies that the girl doesn't know the trouble she's seen. Clavo, with guests, visits Montiel backstage so that the star can tell her lifestory in flashbacks. Considering that her lifestory takes place during a turbulent time in European history, it is odd that the only mention of war comes when she performs in "Paris 1.919 Aniversario del Armisticio". Montiel sings 11 songs and wears alot of pretty costumes in the film chronicling the ups and downs of her life. She marries a bull fighter and of course he is killed in the arena. So she gives up the stage, loses her money gambling and becomes a drunk. Calvo convinces her to make a spectacular comeback and she cries to find that the public still loves her - and then she dies as she walks off stage. L.A.'s KWHY Channel 22 has been playing a batch of old movies that have received sparkling new video transfers. Unfortunately, these movies have also been shortened to provide more time for commercials. It is also unfortunate that while these movies look great, the soundtracks are filled with pops and hisses.

JET ATTACK (1958) - With copius amounts of stock footage, and access to Bronson Canyon in L.A., American International Pictures and producer Alex Gordon set out to make a Korean War epic. Of course John Agar stars as a jet pilot who is ordered to parachute into North Korea on a commando raid to rescue a captured American scientist. There's a Russian nurse, played by Audrey Totter, in that area working as a spy for U.S., with whom Agar previously had a romantic relationship. Nothing in this film doesn't feel like a rehash of a low-budget WW2 flick including a female Korean guerrilla fighter who does a "native" dance that looks like something you'd see in a movie set in the Philippines or Burma.

MARTIAL LAW (1990) - Reportedly Chad McQueen studied under Chuck Norris, and this flick tries to establish him as an action hero. He's a cop whose team is called Martial Law. Unfortunately, his younger brother, Andy McCutcheon, gets a job stealing cars for David Carradine. Stealing cars is one thing, but McCutcheon has difficulty when Carradine kills Toru Tanaka with a signature blow to the heart. When Carradine orders McCutcheon to kill V.C. Dupree at night at the Griffith Observatory, he can't do it, thus setting in motion his own death by blow to the heart. McQueen is investigating the car thefts and all of the dead bodies with his girlfriend Cynthia Rothrock, but tries to leave her behind when he goes undercover to work for Carradine. Naturally, she doesn't stay behind and prevents Philip Tan from shooting our hero. So the finale is Tan versus Rothrock and McQueen versus Carradine. The highlight of the movie is a fight scene in Chinatown between Rothrock and Benny "The Jet" Urquidez before a wall with G.G. Allen spraypainted on it. Unfortunately, Philip Tan is the stunt coordinator on this movie and none of the fights are outstanding. Why bring in Urquidez to play a fighter who is trying to run away from Rothrock? S.E. Cohen came onto this project after directing Billy Joel videos. He did not direct the sequel MARTIAL LAW II: UNDERCOVER and McQueen was replaced by Jeff Wincott.

MOANA (2016) - Despite the skill and talent that went into making this movie, just changing the milieu doesn't make the same dramatic beats less irritating.

PARA SIEMPRE, AMOR MIO (1955) - Rosario Granados begins to fall in love with Jorge Mistral, who is painting a portrait of her daughter Lilia Martinez "Gui-Gui", but feels it is too soon after the death of her husband to commit. Mistral accepts a commission in Spain, where he meets Mari Carmen Prado. Mistral can't commit to Prado because of his feelings for Granados. He returns to Mexico, but feels guilty about Prado. Secretly, Granados opens a letter from Prado and, realizing the depth of the woman's feelings for Mistral, decides to give him up. At the air port to return to Spain, Mistral weighs his options. The love of the little girl helps him to make up his mind. Director Tito Davison, who made the more interesting movie EL CASO DE LA MUJER ASESINADITA, also with Mistral, handles this romantic melodrama competently, and even throws in a nice Spanish travelogue akin to what Don Siegel did in SPANISH AFFAIR in 1957.

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Charles Gilbert watched:

CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955) B&W. Richard Denning plays Dr. Chet Walker recruited by police to solve several murders of borh hoods and magistrates involving 'deadmen' as the suspects. A vengeful mobster (Michael Grainger) has strong armed a Nazi scientist into creating killing automatons from corpses (played by an assortment of stuntmen like Charles Horvath). Robert's brother Curt Siodmak wrote the screenplay.

DANGEROUS CROSSING (1953) Newlywed Jean Crain can't find her husband Carl Betz soon after they board a luxury liner crossing the Atlantic. She begins to suspect collusion to 'gaslight' her for swindle. Indeed she has inherited a fortune, and foolishly fallen in love with a practical stranger.

THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1957) B&W. After a pretty blonde is murdered at an exclusive Utah tourist resort frequented by the beautiful people, Sheriff John Dehner in a white cowboy hat is kept busy interviewing suspects lodged there. Handicapped (quadrapledgia) proprietor Ron Randall, ever the pessimist, gets pampered by sister Marie Windsor, but only contributes rank cynicism to the investigation, to humanity in general, and to women specifically. More murders subsequently occur including bleach blonde Mamie Van Doren also getting her throat slashed as the first victim. Headliner Lex Barker plays lawyer Dave, newly confidante of the sheriff, and romancing the boss' secretary Anne Bancroft who in the end gets hauled back to the crazy house by estranged husband Stuart Whitman.

HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948) Based on a true story, Richard Basehart plays thief Roy Morgan who shoots an off duty LA policeman on an otherwise deserted Santa Monica street at night, thereby inducing a citywide dragnet. Fellow cops Roy Roberts, Scott Brady, and Jack Webb spring into action. The chase ends with a gun battle in the cavernous storm drains of the city.

THE FAT SPY (1966) Inane teen beach movie comedy rips off AI by combining aging stars with pop (Johnny Tillotson, The Wild Ones) interludes. Brian Donlevy, Jayne Mansfield, Phyllis Diller, Jack Leonard. Really bad.

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David Deal enjoyed:

OUR MAN IN JAMAICA (65) - See The Eurospy Guide book for more info.

SUZI Q (19) - Good documentary on hard rocker Suzi Quatro.

CROSS CURRENT (71) - Good Euro ambience flick with Philippe Leroy, Elga Andersen, Franco Ressel, Ivan Rassimov, and Rosanna Yanni, all of whom drink J&B and some of whom survive the nonsensical, twisty murder plot.

THE VAMPIRE (57) - John Beal is mistakenly given a drug by his daughter that turns him into a hideous, maniacal killer.  Moody and interesting, this low budget shocker is definitely better than average.

Mildly enjoyed:

SHE-CREATURE (56) - Chester Morris, a sideshow psychic, predicts murderous acts committed by a prehistoric creature.  Turns out Morris has the power to call forth the monster using hypnotic trances and a medium (Marla English).  Or something like that.  Lance Fuller is an open-minded scientist exploring the phenomenon and Tom Conway is the jaded, wealthy businessman who wants to profit from it.  Ron Randall is the investigating cop.  Under-written and under-played, this classic time-waster has a hang-dog feel and only comes alive when Paul Blaisdell's creature is on the screen.

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Bertrand Van Wonterghem enjoyed:

Dead still - season 1 -  episodes 4, 5 & 6 (2019, Imogen Murphy)

Him-ssen yeao-ya Do Bong-soon / Strong girl Bong-soon - season 1 - episodes 2 & 3

DC's legends of tomorrow - season 4 - episodes 
    « Lucha de apuestas » (2018, Andrew Kash) & 
    « The getaway » (2018, Viet Nguyen)

Preacher - season 4 - episode « Deviant » (2019, Kevin Hooks)

Ssauja Gwisina  / Bring it on, ghost  - season 1 - episodes 11 to 16 (2016, Park Jun Hwa)

Brave New Jersey (2016, Jody Lambert)

Le manoir (2017, Tony Datis)

Schipperskwartier (1953, Edith Kiel)

Chips (2017, Dax Shepard)

Daikaij√Ľ Gamera (1965, Noriaki Yuasa)

Jo Gaillard - episode « le complot » (1974, Christian-Jaque)

The man from U.N.C.L.E. - season 1 - episode « The giuoco piano affair » (1964, Richard Donner)

Joe l'implacabile (1966, Antonio Margheriti)

Mildly enjoyed:

Boys in the trees (2016, Nicholas Verso)

Clown (2013, Jon Watts)

Creepy (2016, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

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