Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


MADAME DE (1953/AKA The Earrings of Madame de). Director: Max Ophuls.

To pay off her debts, Comtesse Louise (Danielle Darrieux) pawns earrings that were given to her by her husband, General Andre (Charles Boyer), but they wind up being given back to her as a gift from the man she's fallen in love with, Baron Donati (Vittorio de Sica), causing mildly interesting complications. I confess I'm not a fan of Ophuls' most famous film (made in Hollywood), Letter from an Unknown Woman, and I liked the French-Italian co-production Madame de even less. The characters are not that dimensional, although the actors, especially a fine Boyer, do their best to put them over. Despite some of the emotions boiling under the surface, the story is slight and not handled with much dramatic flair. The modestly attractive Darrieux makes too ordinary a heroine. [She had a decidedly brief Hollywood career, appearing in The Rage of Paris in 1938.] I like de Sica better as a director than as an actor, although he is certainly not bad as Donati.

Verdict: A mere trifle all told. **.


A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1942). Director: Richard Wallace.

Writer Jeff Troy (Brian Aherne) and his wife, Nancy (Loretta Young), movie into an apartment at 13 Gay Street in Greenwich Village in a building that was once a speakeasy. Nancy hopes it will provide the right atmosphere for his new book, but they get more than they bargained for. Troy has an altercation with a guy at a nearby restaurant (presided over by Lee Patrick), and the fellow winds up dead as a doornail on their patio the next morning. Sidney Toler of Charlie Chan fame plays the detective assigned to the case. A very large turtle that Jeff knew as a boy wanders around the apartment. Gale Sondergaard, James Burke and Blanche Yurka are in the cast. There are some laughs, Aherne and Young are okay doing the "cutesy" bit, but the film is not that memorable.

Verdict: A bit too precious. **1/2.


QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008). Director: Marc Foster.

Following the events of Casino Royale (2006), James Bond (an excellent Daniel Craig) is assigned to find out what's up with an organization named Quantum that has assassins in high places. [While in a sense it's admirable that there are references to past events as there were in Fleming's novels, it's also a bit pointless as few people will remember what happened in the previous film and others in the audience may not have even seen Casino Royale.) The action shifts from Italy to Austria to Bolivia, as Bond battles various people bent on his destruction and encounters a Bolivian agent named Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who's out to get revenge on the deposed dictator who murdered her family. Judi Dench is back as "M" and she adds a touch of class to the proceedings. One scene takes place during a performance of Puccini's Tosca that features a pretty forgettable Scarpia. Although there's a glimmer of some of the old style glamour and excitement in the film -- a dive from a plane in mid-air is especially exciting -- the movie is a big comedown after the excellent Casino Royale. The main villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric), is colorless, hardly a dynamic match for 007. The women, while attractive, are not the kind of eye-popping beauties of the past. And sometimes the editing is too frenetic, very busy but not well put together, so that at times you don't even know what's happening to whom. It's great that Bond is no longer a cartoon figure, however, but Quantum of Solace is simply too ordinary. Mediocre theme song, too.

Verdict: Not enough solace in this. **1/2.


NO QUESTIONS ASKED (1951). Director: Harold F. Kress. 

"Take her down to the boiler room. No one will hear her down there." 

When lawyer Steve Kiever's (Barry Sullivan) girlfriend Ellen (Arlene Dahl) dumps him for a wealthier guy, he determines to make as much money as possible by becoming a go-between for crooks with stolen goods and the insurance companies who want the goods back at reduced prices -- all for a generous fee. George Murphy and Richard Anderson are the cops who have contempt for Kiever because, while what he's doing isn't illegal, they think it's unethical and immoral. Meanwhile Kiever's new girlfriend, Joan (Jean Hagen), is also troubled by the company Kiever keeps. Scripted by Sidney Sheldon, this lively crime thriller has some unexpected plot twists and interesting scenes, such as a hold up in a theater's ladies room by two gunsels in drag (one of whom is William Reynolds). Joan is aware that Steve is still carrying a torch for Ellen, and stares at her bleakly when she spots her in the ladies room. When Ellen asks Joan if she's finished, Joan says "Probably." Sullivan is in command throughout the movie, Dahl plays the duplicitous sex pot as well as ever, and Jean Hagen nearly walks off with the picture. George Murphy is George Murphy but Anderson makes more of an impression. Mari Blanchard has a notable cameo as sexy Natalie. 

Verdict: More entertaining than it has any right to be. ***.


THE GIANT BEHEMOTH (1959). Director: Eugene Lourie. 

"And the Lord said: Behold now -- The Behemoth." 

Fisherman Tom Trevethan (Henri Vidon) intends to go to town to show off his big catch of white fish to the other villagers. "He'll be as drunk as a Lord," says his daughter Jean (Leigh Madison). But poor Tom doesn't get drunk so much as deep fried by "white hot fire" radiating from something that came out of the sea. "Behemoth!" he intones dramatically before expiring. Steve Karnes (Gene Evans) knows that there's something deadly out there in the ocean, something that absorbed radiation and became mutated. There's a lot of suspense built up over what this strange creature can be, therefore it's a bit of a surprise when it merely turns out to be another revivified dinosaur, an electric "paliosaurus" that can emit deadly radioactive waves that burn people to a crisp. Karnes and Professor Bickford (Andre Morrell) do their best to track down and destroy the creature, but not before it attacks a ferry and then stampedes through London [courtesy of more than acceptable stop-motion effects work by Willis (King Kong) O'Brien.] Jack MacGowran, who played a director in The Exorcist, is Dr. Sampson, a somewhat vague if lovable paleontologist. Edwin Astley's music is a great plus. The movie is sort of thrown together, cheap and tacky, but somehow it's also well-acted, disquieting and effective. Lourie also directed The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Gorgo. NOTE: For more info on this film and many others like it, read Creature Features: Nature Turned Nasty in the Movies

Verdict: Watch out for those big feet! **1/2.


FLAXY MARTIN (1949). Director: Richard L. Bare. 

Although the hard-as-nails title character is played by Virginia Mayo, the real protagonist is lawyer Walter Colby (Zachary Scott), who's sick and tired of having to get off the scum who work for hood Hap Richie (Douglas Kennedy). When one of them murders a blackmailing lady named Peggy (Helen Westcott), Colby decides to take the rap when Flaxy, whom he loves, is suspected of the crime. On the run Colby runs into good girl Nora (Dorothy Malone), and proceeds to have some not-so-interesting battles with gunsels and the like. Mayo doesn't have that much to do in the film; she's okay if a little obvious. Scott offers another brisk, almost-on-the-edge portrayal. Studio bosses didn't think Dorothy Malone had much sex appeal when she was a brunette, and this picture proves it -- she looked and did much better as a blond. Douglas Kennedy was also in The Amazing Transparent Man and others. Many years later Richard L. Bare wrote and directed Wicked, Wicked (1973). 

Verdict: Pretty forgettable noir lite. **.


MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS (2009). Director: Jack Perez.

Oceanologist Emma MacNeil (Deborah Gibson), paleontologist Lamar Sanders (Sean Lawlor), scientist Dr. Shimada (Vic Chao), and smirking official-type Allan Baxter (Lorenzo Lamas) team up to stop the menace of two humongous prehistoric sea monsters: a shark of massive size and an octopus that's just as big. Typical of direct-to-video monster flicks that wind up on Syfy, this picture is a lot of talk, talk, talk and you hardly ever see the monsters (and they're none too impressive when you do). The group uses pheromones to attract the beasts to a specific area, and the two begin a lacklustre battle. Emma and Dr. Shimada have a romance. Oh, and there's a lot more talk. The cast is rather appealing in its way, but the monsters are a real let-down. A few years ago Lorenzo Lamas appeared as a panelist on a really dumb show where people were judged as to their sex appeal, and he got to tell guys who were much more attractive than he was that they "weren't hot." That was probably the nadir of Lamas' career until Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus came along.

Verdict: Watch It Came from Beneath the Sea instead. *.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


WILD RIVER (1960). Director: Elia Kazan.

Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift), a representative of the Tennessee Valley Authority, tries to persuade an elderly woman, Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet), that she must leave her home before the whole area is flooded to make a damn for electric power as well as to tame a river that has taken many lives. [A very affecting prologue presents what appears to be actual newsreel footage of a heart-broken man telling how most of his family was swept away by flood waters.] But Ella is very eloquent about what the land means to her, and why she is adamant about dying in her home. In the meantime Glover begins a romance with the old lady's grand-daughter, Carol (Lee Remick) and has to deal with racists who object to his hiring black workers and paying them a decent wage. This is another interesting social drama by Elia Kazan, imperfect and not always riveting, but bolstered by fine acting and photography. The secondary love story between Chuck and Carol isn't that compelling, even though Remick gives a lovely performance and Clift, as ever, is solid. Van Fleet, who was actually only 46 when the film came out, is simply superb as Ella Garth, and as others have noted, it's a shame that she wasn't even nominated for an Oscar.

Verdict: Worth viewing for an outstanding Van Fleet. ***.


HARPER'S ISLAND (2009). Creator: Ari Schlossberg. CBS TV maxi-series.

This Limited Series from CBS essentially takes the stalk-and-slash genre and applies it to a television format with interesting results. With increasing acceptability for gruesome graphics created by such programs as C.S.I., this program is almost as grisly in some spots as theatrical films -- the murders are certainly "inventive" and horrible. The premise has many people gathering on an island [which was the scene of a serial killer's slaughter years before] for a wedding between Henry (Christopher Gorham) and Trish (Katie Cassidy). When people begin disappearing, and mutilated bodies turn up, people wonder if that serial killer, John Wakefield (Callum Keith Rennie, who makes a rather handsome psychopath in flashbacks) is really dead after all. Or is there a copy cat? Or is the dead killer's offspring responsible for the new carnage?There are revelations with each episode, and an undeniable sense of creepiness, especially when some of the survivors descend into tunnels underneath the ground to search for a missing friend. Elaine Cassidy scores as the heroine of the show, Abby Mills, whose father (Jim Beaver) is the sheriff [and who kept a few secrets of his own]. Christopher Gorham, Rennie, and C. J. Thomasen as Jimmy also give stand-out performances, but in general the actors are always on top of things. The explanation for the killings is a little specious, but along the way there's a lot of suspense and quite a few chills. Cassandra Sawtell is notable as the creepy little girl, Madison.

Verdict: Don't trust anyone! ***.


WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956). Director: Fritz Lang. 

A young man called "the lipstick killer" is stalking women in the city during a shake-up at a newspaper where several men hope to be named the new editor. Dana Andrews is a hot-shot reporter; Ida Lupino is Mildred, a columnist; Vincent Price is the neophyte publisher; Rhonda Fleming is his unloving wife, Dorothy; James Craig is Dorothy's handsome lover; and George Sanders is an executive with his eye on the prize. The interesting cast, a generally fast pace, and a couple of exciting scenes -- such as a chase in the subway -- may keep viewers from initially noticing that this would-be sprawling movie is kind of mediocre. There's a dumb attempt, typical of the period, to blame juvenile delinquency on comic books! 

Verdict: Busy but basically insubstantial. **1/2.


THE BIGAMIST (1953). Director: Ida Lupino.

"How could a man like you, successful, respected, get into a situation as vile as this?"

When Harry Graham (Edmond O'Brien) and his wife Eve (Joan Fontaine) apply to adopt a child, Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn), who's in charge of investigating the couple's background, discovers that Graham has another wife, Phyllis (Ida Lupino) in another city where he frequently travels for business. The rest of the film is a flashback as Graham tries to explain to the horrified Jordan exactly how he got into this situation. The Bigamist is completely absorbing, realistically and logically explaining how Graham fell in love with two women, and is beautifully acted by the entire cast. Lupino's direction is on the mark, as is her acting, and O'Brien is excellent. The picture is nearly stolen by Joan Fontaine, who has a splendid moment as she reacts to the terrible news delivered to her over the phone by a friend. Jane Darwell and Kenneth Tobey have small roles, and there's a nice musical score by Leith Stevens.

Verdict: Adult drama with fine performances. ***.


ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958). Director: Bert I. Gordon. 

"He turned your fiance into a doll!" 

Gordon, who had already helmed The Amazing Colossal Man and its sequel War of the Colossal Beast -- not to mention The Cyclops -- switched from gigantism to miniaturization in this very lower-case Incredible Shrinking Man. A lonely, dotty toy maker, Mr. Franz (John Hoyt), doesn't like anyone -- even his secretaries -- to leave him, and shrinks them down to doll-size, where they stay in suspended animation in cases until he decides to revive them for parties and the like. [There are hints that Franz has shrunken the old mail man, but we never see the guy thereafter.] Franz' latest victims include receptionist Sally (June Kenny), salesman Bob (John Agar), and Laurie Mitchell, the Queen of Outer Space herself. Franz has an old friend, Emile (Michael Mark), who is a puppeteer, and the climax takes place in a theater where Emile is performing. [Emile is also a bit batty. He suggests that he and Franz have a night cap and says "I'll pick you up at noon." The cinematographer is Ernest Laszlo (!) and the score is by the ever-reliable Albert Glasser. There are a couple of mediocre songs, and an strange little girl who shows up at the toy maker's without any parents in sight. There's some suspense, the pic is watchable, and the effects are typically fair-to-middling. 

Verdict: For those who think small. **1/2.


THE FINAL CUT (2004). Written and directed by Omar Naim.

In a futuristic world, certain people have "Zoe" organic implants which are undetectable and grow in the brain and nerve centers, recording -- filming -- everything that happens to them throughout their entire life. Alan Hakman (Robin Williams) is a famous "cutter," someone who takes the hours and hours of recordings of a certain person's life and edits it into a memorial film that is shown after their death. Hakman is haunted by something that happened in his childhood, and now he is being asked to "cut" the life of a married man who may have had some terrible secrets concerning his daughter. The Final Cut has a fascinating premise and a superlative performance by the wonderful Williams, but despite its many intriguing ideas, it seems contrived and awfully anti-climactic. Still, it gets points for originality and is certainly absorbing. Stephanie Romanov and Genevieve Buechner score as the wife and daughter of the deceased.

Verdict: Decidedly different and thought-provoking if ultimately unsatisfying. ***.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952). Director: Nicholas Ray. 

"Sometimes people who are never alone are the loneliest.

Two lonely, tormented individuals -- Jim, a sadistic cop (Robert Ryan) and Mary, a blind woman (Ida Lupino) -- are brought together in an unusual, heart-breaking fashion in this unusual love story/crime thriller. Tough cop Jim Wilson is advised by his colleagues and his boss (Ed Begley) that he's losing control and is assigned to a murder in a small upstate town. There he meets the vulnerable if strong blind woman whose brother may be the chief suspect. While Lupino is perhaps a bit too restrained as Mary, Robert Ryan is terrific as Jim, and Ward Bond is also outstanding as the overwrought father of the murdered girl. Sumner Williams also makes an impression as the mentally-disturbed Danny. Nita Talbot has a brief but compelling bit as a sexy underaged gal in a bar who asks Ryan for a drink. This is a moody piece, full of poignant moments, held together by an excellent score by Bernard Herrmann. It's too bad some of the romantic strains are muted; Herrmann wrote a nocturne based on this score that is just beautiful. 

Verdict: Not for all tastes, but compelling and different. ***.


THE FLESH EATERS (1964). Director: Jack Curtis. 

"Gentlemen, I drink. I don't mean polite cocktails. I mean I drink!" 

Laura Winters (Rita Morley), a dipsomaniac actress fighting age and failure, her patient assistant Jan (Barbara Wilkin), and Grant (Byron Sanders), a pilot trying to fly them to Provincetown through a storm, wind up landing on an isolated island where a mad scientist named Bartell (Martin Kosleck) is performing some rather hideous experiments. These are an outgrowth of Nazi research into tiny life forms that can strip all the flesh from anyone's bones in seconds. Another visitor to the island is an annoying beatnik named Omar (Ray Tudor) who comes to a bad end. This is a totally absurd but highly entertaining horror flick with zesty performances by Rita Morley and perennial bad guy Kosleck and good-enough performances from the others in the cast. The best scene has to do with a suitcase full of liquor bottles, a jetty, and a tassel of flesh eaters waiting for someone to fall off the rocks and right into their midst. The monsters get even more monstrous at the climax. Beware television prints that usually cut the more gruesome shots as well as the macabre flashback to the wartime experiments with the flesh eaters. Written by Arnold Drake, who created the Doom Patrol for DC Comics. Adroit editing and direction certainly help, as does the bombastic musical score. NOTE: For more on this movie and others like it check out Creature Features

Verdict: A minor classic. ***.


12 TO THE MOON (1960). Director: David Bradley. Screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen. 

A group of mixed ages and nationalities take the title trip to the moon and encounter some interesting sets, including an ice cavern, as well as unseen telepathic moon people who send out freeze rays that turn New York and Washington D.C. into huge blocks of ice. The interesting cast includes Ken Clark of Attack of the Giant Leeches as the captain of the ship, Anthony Dexter of Fire Maidens of Outer Space and Valentino, Tom Conway of The Falcon series and many other movies, Robert Montgomery Jr., Anna-Lisa of Have Rocket, Will Travel, and even Francis X. Bushman as Secretary General! Richard Weber makes an impression as Dr. Ruskin. Low-budget sci fi doesn't make that much of an impression, however. "Modern"-type score by Michael Anderson. 

Verdict: A trip you can probably miss. **.


SHADOWS AND FOG (1991). Written and directed by Woody Allen.

In a small dream-like town a timid soul named Kleinman (Woody Allen) is woken out of bed and told he must join a vigilante group that is looking for a man who is going about strangling townspeople. This is a backdrop for Kleinman's encountering a variety of individuals as he wanders through the streets, foremost among them circus performer Irmy (Mia Farrow). Breaking up with her boyfriend, Irmy winds up at a brothel where she runs into hookers improbably played by Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and Lily Tomlin, and even takes on a one-time client (John Cusack) who offers her a lot of money. There are a great many other characters, and a great many actors in the movie (including Madonna, John Malkovich and Donald Pleasance), but while it has intriguing elements and holds the attention, when it's over you may feel it was much ado about literally nothing. Shadows and Fog indeed! The script seems thrown together from bits and pieces, but the acting is generally good.

Verdict: Like a meal with tasty ingredients but which ultimately is unsatisfying. **.


MISS ANNIE ROONEY (1942). Director: Edwin L. Marin.

"Barbaric! -- But it's fun!"

Sweet little Annie Rooney (Shirley Temple) sort of has a kind of steady in pal Joey (Roland Dupree), who loves jazz and jalopies, but she really flips when she meets the sincere and kind-hearted Marty (Dickie Moore), who invites her to his birthday party. "Where on Earth did you meet someone with that name?" asks his snobbish mother, played by Dracula's Daughter herself, Gloria Holden. Alas, Annie's father (William Gargan) is an out of work inventor with aspirations, and Master Marty lives on Sutton Place, and how can Annie afford to buy the proper dress for such a high-toned address? Grandpa (Guy Kibbee) puts on his thinking cap, and it all works out in the end. The good-natured tone of the piece and the excellent acting from the entire cast help disguise the fact that this is really just a lower case Alice Adams, but it does explore the indignations of poverty with some veracity. June Lockhart plays a snobbish girl at the party and Peggy Ryan is Annie's good friend, Myrtle. Although now in her early teens, Temple had lost none of her charm or acting ability. Moore, Gargan and Kibbee are also perfectly swell. Speaking of swells, Shirley wins them over by demonstrating how to dance the jitterbug.

Verdict: If you don't like this movie "you're not hep to the jive!" ***.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009). Director: Marcus Nispel.

Touted as a "remake" of the 1980 Friday the 13th, this is really Friday the 13th Part 12. During the credits we see a reenactment of the final scene of the original movie, when Mrs. Voorhees is killed in relatiation for her murders of campers, but otherwise this just proceeds as yet another installment of this seeminly endless series about supernatural maniac killer Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears). A young man, Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki of the Supernatural TV series), comes to Crystal Lake to look for his sister and encounters a snotty rich kid, Trent (the incredibly-named Travis Van Winkle), and his "friends," who are hanging out in Trent's parents' summer cabin. Naturally Jason doesn't like it when anyone enters his territory. Some of the characters, such as Aaron Yoo's "Chewie," are likable (if stupid), although I doubt if anyone objected when Jason kills Trent. The mid-section of the movie is remarkably tedious, but there is an effective and exciting final quarter when things finally start to move. Not as graphic as others in the series. maybe because even gore can become boring.

Verdict: Acceptable entry in the series for Jason's fans. **1/2.


THE UNKNOWN MAN (1951). Director: Richard Thorpe. 

Dwight Masen (Walter Pidgeon) defends a youth, Rudi (Keefe Braselle), who is accused of murdering a shop keeper's son as part of a protection racket. But there's a sinister figure behind the scenes, and when he gets murdered, too, Rudi also gets the blame. But the identity of this particular killer might be a big surprise. It would be criminal to give away the twists of this interesting, generally well-acted courtroom drama, but it certainly presents a bizarre, intriguing, and ultimately tragic situation. Lewis Stone is a judge, Ann Harding is Masen's wife, Richard Anderson is Dwight's son, and Barry Sullivan is the district attorney who prosecutes both cases. Pidgeon is better than usual. Konstantin Shayne is very affecting as the dead boy's devastated father. 

Verdict; A bit perfunctory but not without interest. **1/2.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


LADIES IN RETIREMENT (1941). Director: Charles Vidor. 

Ellen Creed (Ida Lupino) is secretary-companion to wealthy Leonora Fiske (Isobel Elsom) on a large, isolated estate. Learning that her two somewhat "eccentric" sisters are about to be tossed out onto the street and possibly into an institution, Ellen importunes her employer to let the women come and stay with them for awhile. But even the kindly Mrs. Fiske can only take so much, and after a time the dithering, rather batty women drive her to distraction. When Ellen protests her treatment of them, she is fired -- so now all three sisters have nowhere to go. What to do? What to do? Ellen eventually comes up with a solution... Lupino is good in the movie, as are Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett as the sisters. Louis Hayward, who at the time was married to Lupino, is fine as Ellen's roguish nephew, and Evelyn Keyes sparkles as maid Lucy. Isobel Elsom practically steals the picture, however, as the charming if practical Mrs. Fiske. The macabre movie is pictorially interesting and absorbing, but when all is said and done the characters are almost all unsympathetic and after awhile you don't really care what happens to them. There isn't nearly enough suspense or tension, and Vidor never really brings it to a full bloody boil. 

Verdict: Portrait of a lady not so retiring. **1/2.


MANHANDLED (1949). Director: Lewis R. Foster. 

"I wouldn't dream of depriving you of the opportunity of making a vulgar display of yourself.

Alton Bennet (Alan Napier), an upper crust type with money problems, sees a psychiatrist (Harold Vermilyea) to tell him of a persistent nightmare he has in which he beats his rather trampy wife (Irene Hervey) to death with a very large perfume bottle. When the woman is murdered during a jewel robbery, the shrink's secretary Merl (Dorothy Lamour) becomes the chief suspect. Sterling Hayden plays Joe Cooper, the insurance investigator assigned to the case, while Art Smith and Irving Bacon are the police officers. Dan Duryea is suitably oily as a supposed friend of Lamour's, and Phillip Reed plays an attractive architect who is Mrs. Bennet's favorite date. Manhandled is no world-beater, but it holds the attention for the most part, has good performances, and some twists up its sleeve that you may not see coming. Napier [Alfred the Butler on Batman] certainly makes an impression as the snooty, oh-so-superior Bennet. Lamour handles this type of material with aplomb. Hervey is also vivid. 

Verdict: More Noir Lite. **1/2.


PERSONAL AFFAIR (1953). Director: Anthony Pelissier.

"I loved her the way one loves a child that is lost."

School teacher Stephen Barlow (Leo Genn) is beginning to tutor student Barbara Vining (Glynis Johns), when his wife Kay (Gene Tierney) tells him that the girl is clearly in love with him -- and confronts the young lady about it as well. Shortly afterward Barbara disappears. The problem is that without telling anyone Stephen made arrangements to meet with her. Did he murder the girl? Did she throw herself into the river? Has Kay Barlow got something to do with the disappearance? And what about Barbara's rather weird spinster aunt Evelyn (Pamela Brown)? Stephen tries to assure her parents that there was nothing going on between him and Barbara -- but is he telling the truth? This is not an Agatha Christie-type mystery but rather a character study showing various reactions to a disappearance and the concerns and accusations it causes. Tierney gives a stand-out performance as Kay. It's hard to imagine Leo Genn exciting schoolgirl fantasies, but there's no accounting for taste. Certain suggestions -- unspoken but tacit -- are made about Aunt Evelyn that seem psychlogically dubious.

Verdict: Interesting for what it is. **1/2.


JEEPERS CREEPERS (2001). Writer/director: Victor Salva.

Darry Jenner (Dustin Long) and his sister Trish (Gina Philips) are driving past a dilapidated old church when they think they see a creepy figure dumping what might be a body into a pipe. Against his sister's advice the kind-hearted Darry decides to go and see if he can help the possible victim. Bad idea, unfortunately, as if brings them into contact with a demonic figure [of unknown origin], the Creeper, who comes out of hiding every 23 years to feast on the flesh and innards of innocent humans. Jeepers Creepers' plot may not stand up to scrutiny, but it's best to take it as a nightmare where anything can and does happen. Eerie and well-done, the movie is entertaining, fast-paced and well-acted. A cast stand-out is Eileen Brennan in a notable turn as a somewhat dotty cat lady. There is humor in the grisly film but it never quite descends into out and out camp. Very down-beat and gross ending. Followed by Jeepers Creepers 2.

Verdict: Creepy all right. ***.


THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946). Director: Charles Barton.

In 1790 in King's Point, New York, Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) and Melody Allen (Marjorie Reynolds) are running to George Washington to tell him of Benedict Arnold's traitorous plans when they are mistaken for traitors themselves and shot. Many years later they are still haunting the nearby house when a group, including Dr. Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott) comes for the weekend. Will they manage to find the letter Washington sent to Horatio which absolves him of guilt, allowing him and Melody to finally go off and be with their loved ones in heaven? While nowhere nears as funny as Hold That Ghost or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, this is still an appealing movie with good performances. Binnie Barnes as Millie and Gale Sondergaard as Emily add to the fun. In the Revolutionary war sequences that open the film Bud Abbott plays a nasty fellow named Cuthbert, Horatio's nemesis.

Verdict: Pleasant haunting. ***.


CRY DANGER (1951). Director: Robert Parrish. 

Rocky Mulloy (Dick Powell) has received a pardon after being convicted of bank robbery, but Detective Cobb (Regis Toomey) still thinks Mulloy knows where the money is. Mulloy hooks up with Nancy (Rhonda Fleming), the wife of his supposed partner-in-crime, who is still in prison, as well as a heavy-drinking character named Delong (the effective Richard Erdman), with whom he shares a trailer. Meanwhile operator Louie Castro (William Conrad) has ideas of his own. Jean Porter is fun as the somewhat shifty Darlene LaVonne, who also lives at the trailer park, but Joan Banks nearly steals the picture in her brief but vivid turn as Alice Fletcher, wife of the man who identified Mulloy during his trial. The clipped speech patterns of some of the players almost make this come off like a hard-boiled parody at times. This holds the attention, but little else. 

Verdict: Noir Lite. **.


SLEEPING DOGS LIE (aka Stay/2006). Writer/director: Bobcat Goldthwaite.

"It's trying to live up to the lies we tell ourselves that makes us better people."

Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) confesses to her boyfriend John (Bryce Johnson) that she once committed s certain sexual act upon her male dog, eventually leading to their break-up. Okay, this is not a typical romantic comedy-drama. The movie is interesting, edgy, well-made, well-acted -- but gross. Although the movie is not really about bestiality per se, but about the effects of total honesty [some things you should definitely keep to yourself], there's still a hollowness to it because it never deals with what brought Amy to performing such an act in the first place. To her it's a one-time thing, no big deal, but if that's the case, why did it happen at all? [One reviewer at suggests that bestiality is commonplace, and seems disappointed that this movie doesn't go into its delights. Yuchh! I think anyone who wants to have sex with animals should see their psychiatrist -- fast!] The movie is not pro-bestiality, thank goodness. Hamilton has managed to keep working despite appearing in this film.

Verdict: Well, at least it's different. **1/2.