Monday, January 28, 2008
This long-unseen horror thriller is one of three films producer Herman Cohen did with star Michael Gough (the other two are Konga and Horrors of the Black Museum). Like the others, Black Zoo is lurid, somewhat campy fun. Gough is owner of a zoo as well as member of a weird cult of animal worshipers. Threatened with losing the zoo and his beloved tigers and lions -- who lie around his living room like treasured and pampered guests -- Gough sics his pets on anyone who dares to get in his way. His wife Edna (Jeanne Cooper) has a trained chimp act and wishes that hubby were kinder to the handsome mute boy Carl (Rod Lauren) who helps him with the murders. Gough is florid and easily enraged, but as an actor he puts on a lively, energetic show, and Cooper is excellent and equally energetic. The interesting cast also includes Virgina Grey as a booking agent, Jerome Cowan as an entrepreneur, Elisha Cook, Jr. as a zoo worker, and even Ed Platt ("the chief" on Get Smart) as a detective. One of the most interesting scenes is an funeral for the dead tiger Baron that takes place in a misty forest by night. Cooper and Gough have a great, lively dinner scene that ends in an hysterical (in more ways than one) fight. Cooper now plays Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless; one of her co-stars on that show is Jerry Douglas, who plays a police lab man in Black Zoo. [He's not very good at his job, however, as he thinks a gorilla is "a member of the chimp family!"] What's most surprising about this entertaining picture isn't the final revelation as much as how moving it is. Rod Lauren hasn't a word of dialogue but his expressive face says volumes. (Ironically, the actor-singer was accused years later of hiring someone to murder his wife.) Script by Herman Cohen and Aben Kandel.
Verdict: Lions and tigers and apes, oh my! ***.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Bob Hope plays a talentless, irritating, egotistical chorus boy who suddenly finds himself the lead of a Broadway show instead of the handsome star (Tony Martin). It seems that leading lady Arlene Dahl's ex-lover (Robert Strauss) has become a crazed killer who wants to murder anyone Dahl loves, hence she feigns affection for the hapless Hope and pretends to blow off Martin. Rosemary Clooney is the "nice" girl who loves Hope but finds him too easily drawn into Dahl's sinister web as well as a world of money and stardom. While there are only sporadic laugh-out-loud moments, Here Come the Girls has a highly workable storyline and is often quite amusing, with Hope in good form. The suspense is in wondering how the hell it will all work out for Hope. Great ending!
Verdict: Cute picture with a kind of dark premise. **1/2.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Verdict: Great old monster flick. ***.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter, who was introduced in this film), searches for her missing older sister Jacqueline (Jean Brooks) in New York with the help of various friends and associates, and learns that she has gotten involved with a bunch of devil worshipers. This is easily one of producer Val Lewton's best films -- although it is not for every taste -- and he and director Robson make the most of a low budget. Nicholas Musuraca contributed the crisp black and white cinematography. Although there are some moments in the film that stretch the credulity -- the satanists carting off a corpse manage to wind up on the exact same subway car as Mary --there are also sequences that are creepy and very well done, such as a murder in a abandoned office, and a chase through Greenwich Village. The screenplay (by DeWitt Bodeen and Charles O'Neal) has several interesting characters, intriguing aspects, and excellent dialogue. Tom Conway plays a psychiatrist, Louis Judd; Hugh Beaumont (Ward of Leave it to Beaver, who is better than expected) is Jacqueline's husband, Gregory; Erford Gage is the sensitive poet Jason (Gage was to live only two more years, killed in the Philippines in '45); and Lou Lubin is the ill-fated private eye Irving August. [One of the supporting actors is the son of the great opera star Feodor Chaliapin.] The surprising thing about The Seventh Victim isn't that it casts a strange spell, but that it's unexpectedly moving. Isabel Jewell has a powerful moment reacting to Jacqueline's possible death in such a way that it's clear she's in love with her, and the ending -- with a terminally ill woman (Elizabeth Russell) going out for one last fling as Jacqueline makes a fateful final decision -- if contrived, still packs a quiet wallop.
Verdict: Imperfect, certainly, but there's more here than meets the eye. ***.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Verdict: Watch out for that head! ***.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Two old Army buddies -- one of whom (Eddie Bracken) is married with children, the other (Mickey Rooney) single and with ambitions -- hook up to run a gas station that does good business for a while. Then a big competitor opens a competing station right across the highway and nearly drives them out of business. Rooney comes up with the idea of tapping into the pipeline running below the station and stealing gas, which helps them drive out the competition. The word "slight" was invented for movies like this -- the pic could be retitled A Slight Case of Comedy -- and there's very few laughs in Jerry Davis' screenplay. Both Bracken and Roony are good -- as is Elaine Stewart as the sexy gal Rooney falls for -- but the only thing this really has going for it is Rooney's pure, unfiltered charm and enthusiasm. There's a cute scene when Rooney is sounding off pretentiously and in high-falutin' terms to Bracken's little boy. Not much to this time-waster.
Verdict: Too slight to be memorable aside from Rooney. **.
Over-length and the occasional cloying moment are the only deficits to this otherwise excellent fantasy film inspired by the lives of the Brothers Grimm. The biographical sections – which probably have to be taken with a grain of salt – are interrupted by the telling of three classic fairy tales. In the first, Russ Tamblyn is a woodsman who tries to find out why a princess (Yvette Mimieux) wears out her shoes every night, and discovers that she runs out a secret door to dance all night long with a bunch of gypsies. A cloak of invisibility helps him in this task. In the second a weary cobbler's figurines come to life to help him finish up his work in time for Christmas [he spent too much time making toys for the poor children of the neighborhood]. The last story has to do with a knight (Terry-Thomas) and his put-upon servant (Buddy Hackett) who set out to destroy a dragon that has been terrorizing Otto Kruger's kingdom. When Hackett manages to slay the dragon, his master kills him and takes the credit, but the servant manages to have the last laugh. As Wilhelm Grimm attempts to collect fairy tales to preserve for future generations, he and his brother Jacob struggle to finish a family history that they have been hired to write.
Verdict: Lots of fun. ***. NOTE: This is about a thousand times better than the recent godawful Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, which actually has little to do with the brothers or their stories and is a big, tedious, mess with rubbery special effects and little coherency. Skip it!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Long and rather tedious remake of Outward Bound has a couple who committed suicide (Eleanor Parker; Paul Henreid) finding themselves aboard a passenger ship heading toward eternity – only the other passengers don't realize that they themselves are also dead. Thought-provoking premise is given half-baked, overly literal and preachy treatment, and the many stilted performances don't help. Aside from an excellent speech at the very end of the film, John Garfield is in no way showcased to advantage in the film, playing it all in one note and revealing little of his character's inner torment. His girlfriend in the film, Faye Emerson, doesn't even appear to be an actress (although she plays one); she has some nice moments, again at the conclusion, but is otherwise astonishingly inept. However, Edmund Gwenn is splendid as the chief steward, and Sara Allgood scores, as usual, as a kindly older lady. Henreid gives one of his more memorable performances, and Parker is superb. By the time Sydney Greenstreet shows up as the “examiner” to determine exactly which place the passengers go -- Heaven or Hell – the movie just implodes.
Verdict: Have a nice nap instead. *1/2.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Verdict: Mildly amusing and easy to take. **1/2.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Verdict: A fine biography of a fine actor.***1/2.
Verdict: Not worth the time to track it down. **.