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

Thursday, May 27, 2021


Brothers on and off screen: Lawrence and Edward Tierney
THE HOODLUM (1951). Director: Max Nosseck.

Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney), an inmate that the warden believes is irredeemable, is up for parole. His mother (Lisa Golm) gives an impassioned defense to the parole board and her son is released. Unfortunately Mrs. Lubeck's faith in her son is completely misplaced, and before long Vincent, who works for his brother, Johnny (Tierney's real-life brother, Edward) at the latter's gas station, is not only planning a robbery of the bank next door but moving in on his brother's hapless fiancee, Rose (Allene Roberts). This will lead to more than one tragedy. 

Lisa Golm and Lawrence Tierney
The Hoodlum isn't well known today, but it deserves to be. Snappy, fast-paced and well-acted, it boasts a fine score by Darrell Calker in addition to those excellent performances by the entire cast. Lawrence Tierney, following up his equally sociopathic role in Born to Kill, gives another dynamic turn as the villain of the piece, and he gets solid support from his brother, Allene Roberts as the tragic Rose, and especially Lisa Golm as the mother. She is given an outstanding speech late in the picture, brilliantly delivered, in which she -- heartbroken as well as furious -- finally and absolutely realizes Victor's true nature -- it is raw and powerful. (NOTE: Lawrence and Edward Tierney's real-life brother is Scott Brady.) 

Verdict: Terrific crime drama. ***1/4.  


(1972). Director: Woody Allen. 

Woody Allen took some questions from the book of the same name and filmed several segments supposedly relating to these questions. "Do aphrodisiacs work?" is a very funny medieval sketch where Allen winds up with his hand locked in the chastity belt of his horny married queen (an excellent Lynn Redgrave). "What is Sodomy?" actually looks at bestiality as Gene Wilder plays a doctor who falls in love with a sheep. It's a bit yucky, like anything pertaining to the subject, but it has its moments. 

"Why do some women have trouble reaching orgasm?" is a spoof of Italian movies with Allen discovering that his wife (Louise Lasser) only gets turned on in public places. "Are transvestites homosexual?" presents Lou Jacobi (who's terrific) as a husband who gets caught wearing the clothing of his hostess at a dinner party. "What are sex perverts?" first has a homoerotic hair tonic ad, and then presents an episode of the TV show What's My Perversion? an erotic take on What's My Line? "Are Sex Research Findings Accurate?" has John Carradine letting loose a giant breast upon the world in a spoof of monster movies. In "What happens during ejaculation?" Woody plays a nervous sperm who doesn't really like the idea of being thrust out into the big wide womb. This is probably the most inventive segment. Everything You Always Wanted to Know is certainly not for all tastes but it has its share of laughs and holds the attention. You'll probably learn no more about sex than you did from the book. 

Verdict: Watch out for giant boobs! ***.


Robert Mitchum and Genevieve Page
FOREIGN INTRIGUE (1956). Produced, written and directed by Sheldon Reynolds.  

"Did he say anything before he died?" -- numerous characters

Dave Bishop (Robert Mitchum) works for a millionaire philanthropist named Danemore (Jean Galland). When Danemore dies of a sudden heart attack, Bishop realizes that he knows very little of the past of his employer. A mysterious letter and a sealed package to be opened only if Danemore's death was suspicious ignites Bishop's interest. His curiosity brings him into contact with a bald little man named Spring (Frederic O'Brady), who may be much more sinister than he seems. Bishop is involved with two women: Danemore's widow (Genevieve Page), who discovers that her marriage of convenience may not have as big a pay-off as she'd hoped for; and Brita (Ingrid Thulin) -- the daughter of another widow, Mrs. Lindquist (Inga Tidblad) -- who quickly falls in love with Dave. Bishop is then contacted by various government agents who convince him to pretend to be a blackmailer so he can get the goods on several men who each betrayed their country. 

Ingrid Thulin with Mitchum
Foreign Intrigue is greatly bolstered by a solid and engaging performance by Robert Mitchum, who always seems interested in what's happening even when at least half the audience has stopped giving a damn. The movie has a fairly decent premise but few outstanding incidents nor indeed any sequences that stand out in the mind (except perhaps when a little boy gives Mitchum a playful kick in the leg); there is no style, suspense or tension and after while you just want it to be over. Both Genevieve Page and Ingrid Thulin (billed as Ingrid Tulean) were "introduced" in this film, and they are both attractive and more than competent, although neither -- in this film, at least -- is especially distinctive. Thulin [Return from the Ashes] had appeared in several Swedish films previously, and of course worked with Ingmar Bergman a few years later. Genevieve Page [Youngblood Hawke] had also appeared in numerous films previously and had a lengthy international career. Paul Durand's score is interesting if not always appropriate. In Eastmancolor.

Verdict: You can miss Mitchum speaking French! **.


(1956). Director: Jacques Tourneur. 

In the period just before the Civil War, Owen Pentecost (Robert Stack) comes to town and promptly becomes the new owner of the saloon after smitten "Boston"  Grant (Ruth Roman) fixes a card game in his favor. Then there's big "Jumbo" Means (Raymond Burr), who hates it when anybody calls him fat, especially if it's a female. Ann Alaine (Virginia Mayo) also takes a shine to Owen, although she pretends that she couldn't care less about him. Owen bonds with the young son of a man he killed in a gunfight. And so on. Great Day in the Morning is a sporadically interesting western with under-developed characters and a "storyline" that's all over the lot. It seems to build primarily to the scene where the two women confront each other over Owen. The actors all handle this stuff more than competently, although Stack, playing it stoic, seems a little wooden in most of his scenes. Regis Toomey is the town preacher. 

Verdict: Half-baked western with some interesting players. **1/2.


STINGAREE (1934). Director: William Wellman. "

You'll be just as safe here -- as you want to be." 

Bizarre but likable comedy-drama-musical-what-the hell? with Irene Dunne as Hilda Bouverie, who desperately wants a career as a singer, and Richard Dix as "Stingaree," a notorious 1874 Australian bandit who wants to make it happen for her -- even if at gunpoint. Unintentional hilarity ensues when Dunne begins singing Lucia di Lammermoor (off-screen) at all the great opera houses -- Dunne has a lovely, perhaps even an operetta-type voice, but Renata Tebaldi she ain't! However, she's as charming as ever in this film. What can one say about Richard Dix except that he's devoid of looks and insouciance and is more at home in those Whistler movies. The movie needed a Tyrone Power type and that Dix is not, although he's at least professional. As others have noted, nobody wants to see the delightful Mary Boland as a mean-spirited bitch, which she is in this film. When she sings (a dubbed voice that is not operatic-great but hardly terrible) another character says: "Being shot right now would be a blessed relief!" Jealous of Hilda's youth and talent, Boland is the type of singer who blames the accompanist for her own inadequacies. There are many amusing moments in the film, an interesting sequence when Hilda hears off-stage gunshots (has her beloved been shot?) at a concert, and the songs, especially "Tonight is Mine," are lovely. So fast-paced that it doesn't give you much time to ponder the absurdity of it all. Una O'Connor is fun as ever as a maid-companion. 

Verdict: Stupid but cute. ***.

Thursday, May 13, 2021


Wynn, Eaton, Kelly, McCallum, Bridges and Thompson
AROUND THE WORLD UNDER THE SEA (1966). Produced and directed by Andrew Marton.  Produced by Ivan Tors. 

An increasing danger of undersea quakes that could endanger millions on land causes scientists to decide to implant special sensors in various places on the sea bottom, providing a sort of early warning system. To achieve this Doug Standish (Lloyd Bridges) and Craig Mosby (Brian Kelly) gather a team to occupy their sub, the Hydronaut, and voyage around the world. The team members consist of Hank Stahl (Keenan Wynn), Dr. Orin Hillyard (Marshall Thompson), Dr. Maggie Hanford (Shirley Eaton), and Philip Volker (David McCallum), who agrees to help only if they go on a salvage operation that could net millions once all the sensors are planted. But this operation is interrupted by an eruption, and the crew of the Hydronaut may find themselves in really hot water ... 

Shirley Eaton and Brian Kelly
Around the World Under the Sea may have been intended as producer Ivan Tors' answer to Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, but it certainly falls short of providing the same entertainment value. Although there is much talk of the ever-present danger of quakes and the necessity of planting the sensors, there is no sense of urgency and no real suspense until, perhaps, the final sequence. The actors are competent enough for the most part, but not quite up to the challenge in their most intense scenes. 

Lloyd Bridges and Brian Kelly
Tors filled the movie with such TV stars as Bridges from Sea Hunt, Kelly from Flipper, Thompson from Daktari, McCallum from The Man from U.N.C.L.E., who affects the same accent he used as Ilya in that series, and then throws in the irascible Keenan Wynn and the sexy Shirley Eaton to cause some minor tension among the boys. Eaton and Thompson seem to be romantically involved at the beginning of the movie, but halfway through she shifts her attention to Kelly, but there's no major reaction from Thompson. Although one could argue that this avoids a cliche -- although there are plenty in this movie -- it also strips the movie of any melodrama, which it could have used. We do get a gigantic eel that shows up and sniffs around the sub, but the problem with this is that it doesn't really seem to be endangering it or the people aboard. (I thought I spotted a few moments of 3D animation during this sequence and stop-motion expert Jim Danson is listed in the credits.)

David McCallum appeals to Shirley Eaton
The science of the film is suspect as well. At the climax, the water around the sub should have been boiling from the heat, and other things don't make much sense. However, some viewers might enjoy that Shirley Eaton loses the top of her bathing suit at one point where it floats outside of a porthole (or whatever they call it on a sub), and Harry Sukman's score has its effective moments. The screenplay is not well-constructed and hardly takes advantage of a very workable premise. There is no real characterization to speak of. 

Verdict: By no means dreadful, but too blah to be memorable. **1/4. 


Jayne Mansfield, Delores Michaels, Rick Jason

THE WAYWARD BUS (1957). Director: Victor Vicas. 

Johnny Chicoy (Rick Jason of This is My Love) drives his bus on a route across the border into San Juan while his wife, Alice (Joan Collins of Land of the Pharaohs), runs the truck stop diner where the passengers embark. Both are afraid that they are not truly loved by their spouse. As Johnny walks out in anger, he gets involved with some of the passengers, who include the dyspeptic Van Brunt (Will Wright); Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard (Larry Keating and Kathryn Givney); their daughter Mildred (Delores Michaels), who has a yen for Johnny; travelling salesman Ernest Horton (Dan Dailey); and erotic entertainer Camille Oaks (Jayne Mansfield), who dodges passes from both Horton and Pritchard but winds up falling for the former. Not only is there the question of whether or not the passengers' assorted issues can be resolved, but if they'll even survive the trip when very dangerous weather conditions threaten their very lives. 

Rick Jason and Joan Collins
The Wayward Bus, taken from a John Steinbeck novel, is an unusual, imperfect, but ultimately worthwhile picture. With his handsome, masculine features and decided acting ability -- he gives a very strong performance in this -- Rick Jason should have become a major star, but the film was not a big hit. Almost completely deglamorized for this role of a drab housewife and cook, Joan Collins is less miscast than you might imagine and is effective. The romance between Dailey and Mansfield is never convincing, although Dailey is winning and Mansfield is at least competent, but there are dozens of actresses, Monroe included, who would have been stronger. Delores Michaels is lovely in the movie -- making much more of an impression than Mansfield -- but she only had a few credits after this. In addition to the actors already named, we have nice performances from Betty Lou Keim, as Norma the counter girl, and (Mr.) Dee Pollock as Kit, the teenager who assists Johnny and Alice; he had a long career. Robert Bray makes an impression as Morse, who has a hankering for Alice. 

In addition to some very good acting, The Wayward Bus has other plusses, such as the widescreen cinematography by Charles G. Clarke and a fine, evocative and highly interesting musical score by Leigh Harline. There is also a splendid action sequence when the bus must travel over a very, very long and crumbling wooden bridge directly over rushing rapids  -- this sequence is a nail-biter. The film was undoubtedly made just to take advantage of the publicity for the earlier Bus Stop, which starred Monroe, also featured bus trips and truck stops, and even had Robert Bray in the cast. 

Verdict: Memorable "lost" film with some very good performances. ***. 


JAYNE MANSFIELD: THE GIRL COULDN'T HELP IT. Eve Golden. University Press of Kentucky; 2021. 

Let's face it. Jayne Mansfield, a triumph of tenacity and publicity, didn't have much of a career. She did only a couple of films for major studios, but the rest of her film "career" consisted of a few Grade B to Grade D stinkers, each one more embarrassing than the one before. Focused almost exclusively on being famous for being famous, she loved her children without necessarily being a great mother, and was said to be kind to everyone, although the wives of the men she had affairs with would probably disagree. Had she lived she would undoubtedly have descended into a morass of alcohol and sleaze or wound up on Dr. Phil in her dotage. 

Biographer Eve Golden makes a case that Mansfield was her own worst enemy. Using her most obvious assets, she became a publicity-hound of the first order, and it was this that eventually turned her into a national joke, a boob not just in name only. Her own frenetic publicity-seeking ensured that no one would ever take her seriously, and the very few performances that some people thought had merit were either ignored or not even seen by her detractors. Although she was often compared with Marilyn Monroe, Monroe managed to give some fine performances in genuinely memorable pictures, and she was too adorable to be really vulgar. This was not the case with Mansfield. Frankly, Mansfield has more in common with Anna Nicole Smith than Monroe. Her marriage to Micky Hargitay was based more on hormones and press clippings than anything else, although it may be true that he, at least, genuinely loved Jayne or at least became attached to her. Can narcissists ever really love anyone but themselves? 

Mansfield died in a horrible accident in which two others were killed (but rarely mentioned), the teen boy who was driving (and who had a child and fiancee), and Mansfield's latest boyfriend, a ground slug who left his crippled wife to be with the blond boob. But her life had pretty much become a disaster even before the accident -- she spent more time opening supermarkets than appearing in movies, her nightclub act was seen as a joke by most sensible people, and her brief days of stardom at 20th Century-Fox, the studio that dropped her, were long since over. For much of this book you have to slog through pages and pages of Mansfield's appearances at store openings and other venues to get to the meat, but in spite of that the book is generally entertaining and readable. While clearly being a fan, Golden maintains some objectivity, tries to explain Mansfield's motives and character, separates facts from fan press fiction, and does her best to present the actress as someone deserving of a certain sympathy if not a reappraisal. If some readers may feel that she doesn't quite succeed at some of these goals, it's not for lack of trying. 

Verdict: Interesting, rather exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting), look at a show business casualty and tireless self-promoter. ***. 


The Time Traveler in his machine
THE TIME MACHINE (1960). Director: George Pal. 

A Victorian-era scientist in England (Rod Taylor) insists to a gathering of his friends, that he has invented a machine that can break through the fourth dimension -- time. Using his machine to go into the future, he witnesses more than one war and man's destruction of man. Trapped inside rock by a lava flow, he pushes way ahead to the far-flung future and winds up in 802,701 A.D. There he discovers that the human race has divided into two segments: the mindless, bovine Eloi and the meat-eating Morlocks, who live underground, care for the Elois' needs, and use them for their food supply. Weena (Yvette Mimieux), a pretty Eloi, is saved from drowning by the scientist, and shows signs of the humanity that seems to have been bred out of people in this era. 

The Time Machine
 is a colorful and entertaining picture, although it is essentially a kiddie version of H. G. Wells' novel, which was a masterpiece of both horror as well as of science fiction. The best sequences in the film, which still hold up today, are the depictions of time travel done with time-lapse photography and the like. The Morlocks, alas, look more like the boogie men of Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers than they do the dark and sinister creatures of Wells' brilliant book. Rod Taylor plays an undeveloped part as well as possible; Mimieux is effective in the nearly mute role of Weena. The film is well photographed by Paul Vogel, and boasts an eerie and attractive score by Russell Garcia. Four years earlier Taylor appeared in another time travel movie, a rip off of Time Machine, entitled World Without End

Verdict: Fun, but hopefully not the last film version of Wells' great novel. ***. 


Loni Anderson
THE JAYNE MANSFIELD STORY (1980 telefilm). Director: Dick Lowry. 

Jayne Mansfield (Loni Anderson), a newly-divorced mom with a young daughter, tries to take Hollywood by storm and succeeds -- for a time. Jayne appears on Broadway in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and is lucky enough to get cast in the film adaptation. Overdoing the publicity bit while waiting for future assignments from her studio, 20th Century-Fox, she discovers that few people take her seriously, except perhaps her new husband, Mickey Hargitay (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Becoming one of those celebrities who would "go to the opening of an envelope," her career rapidly goes on the downslide, doing nude scenes in cheap Grade D movies and club acts in dives.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Loni Anderson
Although one might wonder if the story of a minor show business casualty is even worth the telling, this telepic succeeds because of some very good performances. Although she overdoes the squealing a bit, Loni Anderson probably gives a better performance than the real Mansfield ever did, turning the actress from a kewpie doll into a pathetic figure who garners some sympathy. (While there may be people far more deserving of our pity, self-absorbed actors who are desperate to stay relevant and employed do suffer in their own way, as evidenced by Mansfield's excessive drinking.) Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a surprisingly appealing and sensitive -- if such a term can be used in conjunction with the body builder -- performance, and Ray Buktenica and Kathleen Lloyd score as, respectively, Mansfield's agent and her friend and companion. G. D. Spradlin also makes an impression as Mansfield's liaison at the studio. 

Verdict:  Possibly more than the poor Mansfield deserves. ***.