Friday, January 14, 2022

Week of January 15 - 21, 2022



To answer these trivia questions, please email me at

Brain Teasers:

In which Italian Western do we see our hero awaken from a nap by children setting fire to the hay on which he sits?

Which Italian Western features a gang tearing up a cemetery looking for gold?
No one has answered this question yet.

In which Italian Western does being shot in the back of the head cause our hero to lose his memory, but getting hit in the forehead with a chain brings it back?
No one has answered this question yet.

In which Italian Western does our hero pour nitroglycirine into whiskey bottles to use like hand grenades?
No one has answered this question yet.

In which Italian Western does our hero throw double sixes before killing four gunmen?
No one has answered this question yet.

In which Italian Western was the hero's eyes forced open for him to be blinded by the sun?
George Grimes knew that it was MANNAJA, aka A MAN CALLED BLADE.

Which Italian sword & sandal film begins with our hero pulling down a tree in order for a mother to cross a river with her children?
Charles Gilbert, Angel Rivera and George Grimes knew that it is MACISTE CONTRO I MONGOLI, aka HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS.

In which Italian Maciste movie is our hero buried underground only to cause an earthquake when he wakes up?

And now for some new brain teasers:

Which American body builder was the first to revive the character of Maciste?
Which Italian director ended his career making five films in a row starring Bud Spencer?
Which Italian actress had been billed as Susan Paget and Liz Havilland?

Name the movies from which these images came.

Charles Gilbert, Angel Rivera and George Grimes identified last week's photo of John Phillip Law and Lee Van Cleef in DA UOMO A UOMO, aka DEATH RIDES A HORSE.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

Charles Gilbert, Angel Rivera and George Grimes identified last week's photo of Walter Grant and Loris Loddi in ERCOLE SFIDA SANSONE, aka HERCULES, SAMSON AND ULYSSES.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

George Grimes identified last week's photo of Jeff Cooper, Ricardo Palacios and Raf Vallone in LA ESCLAVA DEL PARAISO, aka 1001 NIGHTS.
Above is a new photo.
Can you name from what movie it came?

George Grimes and Angel Rivera identified last week's photo of Hiroyuki Sanada and Conan Lee in NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN.
Above is a new photo.
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:

Highly enjoyed:

Becoming Mike Nichols (2016) - Jack O'Brien chats with Mike Nichols about the beginnings of Nichols' career. It's a shame they only get to THE GRADUATE, because I would have loved to hear Nichols talk about CATCH 22. A surprising revelation in this chat is Nichols characterizing himself as a "prick" in his relationship with Elaine May and as a director.


Da Vinci's Inquest season seven (2005)

THE ZEN DIARIES OF GARRY SHANDLING (2018) - A two-part, 270 minute documentary about the troubled American comedian was made for HBO, which also produced The Larry Sanders Show. Judd Apatow put together this probing and loving examination of this fellow who meant alot to so many friends and colleagues. Interestingly, Shandling had one of the worst experiences of his life working with director Mike Nichols. It is neat that the documentary also included Jon Favreau and a clip from IRON MAN 2.

Mildly enjoyed:

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "Rebecca Hall and Lee Daniels" (2022)

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "David Chang and Raul Esparza" (2022)

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Anita Hill" (2022)

ON BROADWAY (2006) - Back in 1997, playwright Dave McLaughlin staged GOD WILLING, a drama about an Irish-American family, at the Burren, an Irish pub in Somerville's Davis Square, near Boston. By 2003, he made his first film SOUTHIE and had a new play, BACK TO BEFORE, at the Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. In 2006, he pulled together the resources to make a movie based on the experience of staging GOD WILLING. This low-key and sensitive drama tells about laborer Joey McIntyre, who was inspired at his uncle's wake to write a play based on his family. I would imagine that casting Jill Flint as the playwrite's wife would be rather flattering to Mrs. McLaughlin, because Flint is gorgeous and her character is inspiringly supportive. It seems that this is a very Boston-centric film, which maybe why Eliza Dushku agreed to join the cast filled with actors like Mike O'Malley, Lance Greene, Robert Wahlberg and his son Oscar Wahlberg, as well as Irish actors Sean Lawlor, Andrew Connolly and Vincent Dowling. McLaughlin also got help from friends Will Arnett and Arnett's then wife Amy Poehler. The film feels like a low-budget movie which adds to a sense of sincerity, which is a good thing when the story starts to hit the expected emotional bits. Interestingly, both Flint and Dushku did a stint on the CBS-TV show Bull, which was such a bad experience for Dushku that she seems to have taken a break from acting to become a wife and mother.

Did not enjoy:

AMERICAN NINJA (1985) - It is hard to remember that when ENTER THE NINJA was announced, I was excited. I grew up watching ninjas in Japanese movies and TV and liked the idea of that action being introduced to American audiences. I was even excited by the casting of Franco Nero, of whom I was a fan. Well, ENTER THE NINJA proved to be an awful movie, but it did good box office and Cannon Films followed it with REVENGE OF THE NINJA and NINJA III: THE DOMINATION. Eventually, Cannon decided to change it up and made AMERICAN NINJA. Mike Stone returned as fight choreographer as well as Sam Firstenberg as director. To my taste, Firstenberg never made a good movie and Cannon never made a good ninja movie. Recounting the inane plot would be a bore and going into why I think the action scenes are terrible would be also. All of these films have their cult followings, but I can't imagine those viewers ever saw NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN or the Kage No Gundan series. Even having Steve James, Richard Norton and Tadashi Yamashita in the film didn't help.

AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION (1987) - Never before has South Africa looked more like a remote Caribbean island, but constantly having steel drums playing on the soundtrack should take a lot of the credit for that impression. What sort of remote Caribbean island would get an U.S. Embassy from which marines could be kidnapped for evil biological experiments? That question shows more consideration than screenwriters Gary Conway and James Booth gave to this project. It is remarkable that as fine an actor as Booth would become the writer of such things as PRAY FOR DEATH, AVENGING FORCE and two AMERICAN NINJA flicks. Tadashi Yamashita didn't return, so there is no Japanese actor giving the ninja content any credibility, and Mike Stone, as the ninja leader, shows why he was replaced on ENTER THE NINJA. The film does have some fun moments. The barroom brawl scene looks like it is copied from HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS, with Steve James doing an "everyone pile on the strong man so that he can toss them away by standing up". Ninjas are famous for being silent killers, but these are the noisiest ninjas ever, with just about everyone making a war cry as they attack. Aside from the joy of seeing Steve James battle noisy ninjas on a beach wearing red swimming trunks, we also get to watch him re-enact a bit from ENTER THE DRAGON doing his best Bruce Lee cry as he stomps a guy's neck. This last bit is topped by James telling the guy to "stay down" after he takes his boot off the guy. Co-screenwriter Gary Conway plays the evil drug kingpin Leo "The Lion" (was this an inside joke because Cannon Films were being distributed by MGM?), who has taken over the research facility of Prof. Sanborn. Sanborn was seeking a cure for cancer, but Conway steered him into making biologically enhanced Super Ninjas who don't appear to be much of a threat to Captain America... err Michael Dudikoff. Johanna Steinmetz of the Chicago Tribune accused the movie of ripping off DR. NO and STAR WARS (when Dudikoff flashes back to clips of his mentor from AMERICAN NINJA), while I was thinking ENTER THE DRAGON and THE OCTAGON.

AMERICAN NINJA 3: BLOOD HUNT (1989) - Harry Alan Towers takes over producing this installment of the AMERICAN NINJA series in South Africa with South African director Cedric Sundstrom working from a story by Gary Conway. Looking a bit like Conway, but playing "The Cobra" is Marjoe Gortner. David Bradley headlines as yet another American kid secretly trained in ninja skills, but Mike Stone is still responsible for the action and it looks as poor and in the previous movies. The highlight of this film, is when after Steve James embeds a sword in a ninja's gut, he orders the still standing ninja to "Die!". The fellow then drops to the ground. Added to the silliness is having one actor pull off a latex mask and becoming a different actor, a la Mission Impossible. 

AMERICAN NINJA 4: THE ANNIHILATION (1991) - Producing chores passed on to Ovidio G. Assonitis, an Egyptian born fellow with Greek and Italian nationality known mostly for low-budget Horror films made with Italian directors. After Menahem Golan left Cannon Pictures Inc., Assonitis became chairman. I guess he decided that Michael Dudikoff needed to be back, and then teamed him up with David Bradley. Steve James was no longer part of the series, but stunts were still choreographed by Mike Stone and Cedric Sundstrom again directed. In the first half of the movie, Bradley is the hero trying to twart an Arab terrorist working on a suitcase nuke with James Booth as the leader of a secret ninja army. Bradley gets captured along with the beautiful Robin Stille - who committed suicide five years after finishing this film - so Peace Corp. volunteer Dudikoff is called in to save the day. Along the way, Dudikoff is introduced to a group who looked to have come out of a MAD MAX II rip-off and they agree to help. Someone thought Bradley and Dudikoff had to fight each other, but that gets explained when there is another Mission Impossible latex mask reveal. 

AMERICAN NINJA 5 (1993) - Originally called AMERICAN DRAGONS, this film got a retitle when Ovidio G. Assonitis decided that AMERICAN NINJA 5 would be more commercial. David Bradley plays a character with a different name, but the action remains pretty much the same even though Tadashi Yamashita has replaced Mike Stone as martial arts choreographer. With a PG-13 rating and a child co-star played by Lee Reyes, this film seems aimed at a kid audience. Those who complained of STAR WARS-like mysticism in earlier NINJA flicks will find it is even more pronounced here with the villain, played by James Lew, frequently appearing in a puff of smoke like a low-budget Dr. Strange. It is kind of startling to see Pat Morita talking without his "Mr. Miyagi" accent. I am disappointed to find that Anne Dupont had such a brief career as she was attractive enough to brighten up more stupid movies. Bob Bralver directed this in Los Angeles, Venezuela and Rome, so even though there is some South American money in the film, Assonitis relied on Italians to finish it.

BRANDED (1950) - Based on the novel MONTANA RIDES by Max Brand (under the name Evan Evans), this film starred Alan Ladd. Why the filmmakers decided to change the hero's name from Montana to Choya seemed odd, but then the whole movie was unusual. Ladd was a gunfighter on the run from the law when approached by Robert Keith and John Berkes to impersonate Charles Bickford's son who was kidnapped at the age of five. Ladd would be the right age for the kidnapped boy, and with a birth mark tattooed onto his shoulder blade and some trivia that Keith gave him, he could pass himself off as the missing child returned. Of course, Ladd's committment to Keith's plan to murder Bickford and inherit the vast Bar M Ranch was lost after Ladd spent time with Bickford's loving wife, Selena Royle, and, especially, his lovely daughter, Mona Freeman. While he ignored Keith's murder of Berkes, Ladd refused to allow Keith to harm his new family. Dejected, Keith mentioned that he had kidnapped the Bickford boy 20 years ago and had been waiting to finally have it pay off. Ladd threatened Keith with a one-sided game of Russian Roulette until Keith revealed that the boy was taken from him by a Mexican bandit who loved the boy like a real son. Suddenly, the film changed gears and Ladd went into Mexico to bring Peter Hansen back to his American family. After 20 years of being raised by Joseph Calleia, Hansen didn't want to go, so Ladd kidnapped him at gunpoint. On the way north, Hansen was wounded by Calleia's men, but, eventually, was recupperating at Bickford's ranch. Calleia showed up at the ranch planning to kill Hansen because he thought that the young man had betrayed him, but Ladd was able to talk him out of it, promising that Hansen would visit as soon as he healed. It was admirable that the filmmakers, including director Rudolph Mate, dared to end a Western with a conversation, the ending left many questions. Would Ladd ever face the forces of law and order that had moved the entire town at the beginning of the movie try to kill him? Is it okay to stay on friendly terms with a ruthless Mexican bandit? Is it satisfying that the villain played by Robert Keith died accidentally? Western fans may get a kick out of seeing Tom Tully and Milburn Stone in supporting roles.

Dexter: New Blood (2021) 

LOCKED IN (2010) - Don't you hate sitting through a feature film after you've already guessed the twist ending from early on? I'll watch just about anything featuring Eliza Dushku, but she doesn't get to do all that much here. Suri Krishnamma co-wrote and directed this "psychological drama", but it took three editors to help shape this into a 77 minute feature that tries its darnest to be trippy,

MIR KUMEN ON, aka WE'RE COMING ON, aka CHILDREN MUST LAUGH (1936) - It is not hard to see how the Polish Government of 1936 would see this as Communist Propaganda and subsequently ban it. With children singing about being the "Young Guard of the Proletariat" and presenting a play about puppets freeing themselves from the master's strings, this intended fund raiser for the Vladimir Medem Sanatorium, a tuberculosis treatment center established by the General Jewish Labor Bund to rehabilitate slum children, would scare the U.S. Government of 1936. While curators of Yiddish Cinema celebrate that this film was smuggled out of Poland and preserved, it is of historic rather than cinematic interest - unless you're fond of Soviet style "documentaries". The knowledge that probably most of the people shown here were killed after the Nazis took over Poland, and everyone found in the sanatorium in 1942 was sent to the extermination camp of Treblinka adds poignancy to the historic value. Director Aleksander Ford became the head of the Polish People's Army Film Crew during World War II, and then ran the National Film School in Lodz after the war. Two of his more celebrated students were Andrzej Wadja and Roman Polanski. In 1968, when anti-Semitism reasserted itself in Polish politics, he left the country and finally landed in the United States where he committed suicide in 1980.

MARIUS (1931) - Impressed by the cinema, novelist and playwrite Marcel Pagnol contacted the French arm of Paramount Pictures to propose a film version of his play set in Marseilles. Pagnol is celebrated for his ability to capture the rituals and culture of lower class provincials with their unique accents. For a modern viewer, this slight romantic comedy drama runs too long and seems rather obvious. At the time, this was so successful and popular, it spawned two other films: FANNY (1932) and CESAR (1936), which became known as the Marseille Trilogy. Raimu's son, Pierre Fresnay, longs to become a sailor, but is jealous of the idea of Fernand Charpin wanting to marry Orane Demazis. Demazis wants Fresnay and cries when he won't propose marriage. Demazis' mother, Alida Rouffe, talks with Raimu, but Fresnay finally admits his love for Demazis as they try to hide from Raimu. After Rouffe discovers the two in bed one morning, she demands that Raimu order his son to marry her daughter. However, Demazis catches Fresnay sneaking off to inquire about signing on to a ship, and she finally encourages him to follow his dream. Alexander Korda directed the French and German language versions, while John W. Brunius made a Swedish language film. Each of the non-French versions had a different cast, and while the French version was 127 minutes long, the Swedish version was 101 minutes and the German ran only 82 minutes.


Charles Gilbert watched:

RUN SILENT  RUN DEEP (1958) B&W. Navy Captain Richardson (Clark Gable) loses his sub and much of the crew when sunk in the infamous Japanese Bungo straits during WW2. Subsequently assigned to a desk he petitions for another command only to supplant Lieutenant Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) and the wishes of his loyal crew to keep the original skipper.. On patrol once again he defies CINCPAC orders and returns to Bungo. Produced by Hecht, Hill, and Lancaster. Nick Cravat finally gets a speaking role.

FROGS (1972) Nadir production shot in Florida with Ray Milland, Sam Elliot, and, Joan Van Ark. The premise involves slimy critters retaliating with ecological revenge. Appalling.

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976) On the heels of the Mussolini capture during the end of WW2 Hitler orders the same for Churchill. Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasance, and Michael Caine play Nazi officers undertaking the commission by the Third Reich with most of the action taking place in England. Spy Donald Sutherland has a brief romance with English country girl Jenny Agutter as he plots the abduction of the prime minister and sojourns in the English countryside.

DEATH DIMENSION (1978) Jim Kelly stars in this hammy chop socky for Al Adamson. The fey director managed to enlist some bigger albeit sunsetting names in the backdrop like Aldo Ray, Terry Moore, and George Lazenby.

Walker, Texas Ranger episode "In Harm's Way" Two hour feature.

Cavalcade of the Stars 1951 B&W television features a short rare clip titled SON OF THE THING with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney spoofing the Howard Hawks movie THE THING.

C. H. SPURGEON: THE PEOPLES PREACHER (2010) Narrated film depicts the life of 19th century English protestant preacher who became world famous addressing thousands at a young age at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle, and who often smoked a cigar before his sermons. He suffered greatly from depression following a fire that killed seven parishioners while beginning a homily on October 9  1856. He's often quoted in Calvinist circles and referred to as the Prince of Preachers.


David Deal Enjoyed:





THE FRENCH DISPATCH (21) - Another dense Wes Anderson fantasy.  Middle of the pack but worth another look.


Mildly Enjoyed

THE BLACK MONOCLE (61) - Several neo-fascists gather at a French chateau to plot world domination.  There are also several spies present to thwarts their plans.  Paul Meurisse is the star of this semi-comic look at international politics from Georges Lautner.  Meurisse played the same character in The Eye of the Monocle (62) and The Monocle (64). Elga Andersen is a German spy.

DON'T LOOK UP! (21) - Climate catastrophe comedy parodies our idiot landscape as a civilization preoccupied with celebrity and inanities.  Too true to be completely funny.




Angel Rivera Watched:

In honor of the recently deceased star Sidney Poitier I watched and highly enjoyed another film my lady had suggested and DVR'd but we had not gotten around to watching it until now, "The Defiant Ones" (1958). She had seen it. This was my first time watching it. Excellent performances. Any one who has ever called Poitier "an Uncle Tom" probably never saw this film. This film is so relevant for the current times.

I also was cleaning out my DVR queue and watched the following:

"Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Although I have seen this film a few times, this time I was really floored by Bette Davis' performance and I'm not that big a Davis fan.

Next up was "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte"(1964) which was supposed to be a follow-up to "...Baby Jane". After seeing the Fox channel mini series about the feud between Davis and Crawford, I tried to envision how Crawford would have been in the role of Charlotte's cousin. She was originally cast in the role and I believe she would have been excellent. Unfortunately she pulled  out of the film, allegedly due to the mistreatment she received on the set; although she claimed illness. Olivia de Havilland replaced her and although she is a good actress; this is another showcase for Davis.

Next I watched the original "Cat People" (1942). The best scene is still the scene in the basement pool.
Then I watched "The Curse of the Cat People" (1944). While I had not seen this one in some time, I found it enjoyable as a children's fantasy. Its title was given it to basically cash in on the success of  the previous film and is a sequel mostly in name only even though some of the stars of "Cat People" are also in "Curse...".

Last, but not least I watched and enjoyed Don Knotts in "The Love God?" (1969). Of course this film is not for every one.


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