Date with Disaster (1957)

UK / 60 minutes / bw / Fortress, Eros Dir: Charles Saunders  Pr: Guido Coen Scr: Brock Williams Cine: Brendan Stafford Cast: Tom Drake, William Hartnell, Shirley Eaton, Maurice Kaufmann, Michael Golden, Richard Shaw, Deirdre Mayne, Charles Brodie, Peter Fontaine, Robert Robinson, John Drake, Robert Mooney, Van Boolen, Hubert Hill

A neat little piece of UK borderline noir that must have been a very welcome second feature back in the day. Indeed, it was B-features of this kind and caliber, not to mention all the EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERIES and Edgar Lustgarten’s cheesy true-crime shorts, that first made me a dedicated cinemagoer. Sad that there’s no room for such stuff in the modern multiplex.

Miles Harrington (Tom Drake) came to the UK for the love of a British girl. She dumped him cruelly but somehow he never quite went home, and now he holds a secret torch for her kid sister Sue Miller (Eaton)—as does she for him. Trouble is, Sue’s going steady with Miles’s business partner Don Redman (Kaufmann).

William Hartnell as Tracey

Shirley Eaton as Sue

Miles and Don run a used-car dealership, Highgrade Autosales, in London. While Miles himself is as straight as a die, the same can’t be said for Continue reading

Beyond Suspicion (1993 TVM)

vt Appointment for a Killing
US / 92 minutes / color / Frank & Bob Films, Patricia K. Meyer, von Zerneck–Sertner, NBC Dir: William A. Graham Pr: Randy Sutter Scr: Karen Clark Story: Appointment for Murder: The Story of the Killing Dentist (1988) by Susan Crain Bakos Cine: Denis Lewiston Cast: Markie Post, Corbin Bernsen, Don Swayze, Jeanne Cooper, Laurie O’Brien, Suzanne Barnes, Danielle von Zerneck, Matthew Best, Kelsey Grammer, John Putch, Melissa Pace, Janet Graham, Geoff Hansen, Anna Maria Sistare, Harry Murphy, Marjorie Hilton, Donré Sampson, Michele Wilson

This movie is sometimes confused with “classic” horror outing The Dentist (1996) dir Brian Yuzna, probably because in both of them Corbin Bernsen plays a psychopathic dentist. Of course, if you really want to view a classic screen psycho dentist you should look no further than John Shaner’s Dr. Phoebius Farb in the Roger Corman movie The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

But back to Beyond Suspicion:

Successful family dentist Dr. Stan Benderman (Bernsen), widely admired in the community for his willingness to do pro bono work for the poor, is in fact a sex-crazed serial killer. His standard m.o. is to seduce an attractive young woman—typically one of his dental assistants—and then persuade her to marry some schmo and take out a big insurance policy on him. Then Stan murders the poor sap and the two schemers split the insurance money.

Markie Post as Joyce

Corbin Bernsen as Stan

The first such crime we witness is a more elaborate one. Stan’s seemingly long-term mistress Gloria (Barnes) has just married a sucker, Brad Shaw (Hansen), who has Continue reading

On a Volé la Cuisse de Jupiter (1980)

vt Jupiter’s Thigh
France / 101 minutes / color / Ariane, Mondex, F.R.3 Dir: Philippe de Broca Pr: Alexandre Mnouchkine, Georges Dancigers, Robert Amon Scr: Michel Audiard Based on: characters created in the Commissaire Tanquerelle books by Jean-Paul Rouland and Claude Olivier Cine: Jean-Paul Schwartz Cast: Annie Girardot, Philippe Noiret, Francis Perrin, Catherine Alric, Marc Dudicourt, Paulette Dubost, Roger Carel, Anna Gaylor, Gabriel Cattand, Philippe Brizard, Nikos Tsachiridis, Nikos Dafnis, Vassilis Colovos (i.e., Vasilis Kolovos), Alexandre Mnouchkine

Tendre Poulet (1977; vt Dear Inspector; vt Dear Detective) was one of my favorite movies watched in 2019, so naturally I had very high hopes for this, its sequel. Well, the good news is that On a Volé la Cuisse de Jupiter is really very amusing; the bad news is that it’s not a patch on its predecessor, I think because it’s self-consciously a screwball comedy involving crime rather than a crime movie with a wonderful sense of humor.

Annie Girardot as Lise

The puzzling news is that there’s not the slightest reference to the thigh of Jupiter (“la cuisse de Jupiter”) in the movie. According to a commenter on the Word Reference forum,

The god [Dionysius] was said to be born out of Jove’s leg. Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter means to believe that you are someone much more important than the others, like the son of the greatest of gods. It’s a set expression in French, and very derogatory toward the one who believes this about himself.

That doesn’t seem quite to fit either: it’d mean the title translated as something like “Someone has stolen the source of the bee’s knees.” There’s a little twist right at the end of the movie that Continue reading

Gun Cargo (1949 TVM)

US / ~55 minutes cut to 48 minutes / bw / Irwin–Dyer Productions, Favorite Films Dir, Pr & Scr: Jack Irwin Cine: Edward Kull Cast: Rex Lease, Smith Ballew, William Farnum, Gibson Gowland, Robert Frazer, Gilbert Holmes, Allene Ray, Harry Allen, John Ince, James Irwin

If ever a movie had a tortured genesis, Gun Cargo was it. Production started on what was initially called Contraband in the early 1930s, probably in 1934, although sources are divided as to exactly which year. Money ran out soonish, and the project was abandoned until 1939, when initial footage was added in the form of the Board of Inquiry hearing that forms the frame story, the main story being told in the form of flashbacks from here. Seemingly at the same time, in 1939, a barroom sequence was imported from the (very much more interesting) 1930 Lupe Velez movie Hell Harbor to pad out the running time a bit and in a desperate attempt to provide the main plot with some resolution and a link to the framing device of the hearing.

Another addition that seems to have been made in 1939 was an appallingly dubbed barroom rendition of “I Dream of Jeanie” by cowboy crooner Smith Ballew, who appears nowhere else in the movie yet gets second billing. Go figure. Presumably Ballew’s agent insisted on the prominent billing and then the pair of them watched their “win” backfire.

Rex Lease as Jim

The movie seems to have been finished (if finished it can be called) in 1941, at which time, according to the AFI, it was approved for theatrical release—at least in the state of New York; at that point Continue reading

Fear and Desire (1953)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Kubrick Family, Joseph Burstyn Dir & Pr & Cine: Stanley Kubrick Scr: Howard Sackler Cast: Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp, Paul Mazursky, Steve Coit, Virginia Leith, David Allen

The first feature movie of Stanley Kubrick, the one that so embarrassed him in later life that he tried to erase it from history. For a long time it was thought the only two copies left in existence were the one held by the Kubrick family and a dreadful video copy. But then in 2010 an original copy was discovered languishing in a film laboratory in Puerto Rico, and this has since been restored by the folks at George Eastman House.

Kubrick dismissed the movie as a “bumbling amateur film exercise” and in a way one can see his point. It was an indie production, produced on the cheap with amateur actors and funded by family members, and that’s in many ways what it plays like. Yet it has points of interest, too, and for those—not just its curio value as Kubrick’s maiden voyage—it’s well worth watching. Continue reading

Plurality (2012)

US / 14 minutes / color / Traffik Dir: Dennis Liu Pr: Jonathan Hsu, Dennis Liu Scr: Ryan Condal Cine: Jon Chen Cast: Jeff Nissani, Samantha Strelitz, John Di Domenico, Wesli Spencer, Janice Marie, Scott Wallace Jr., Leah Goldman

A striking piece of science fiction neonoir, set in near-future New York City. For a couple of years now the Bentham Grid has been in place:

“The Grid takes all those things unique to you—your Social Security number, your passport, your debit and credit accounts—and links them to one thing: your DNA.”

It’s an absolute boon to the public, because no longer do you need to carry credit cards or car keys: a gentle touch will enable the Grid to take a tiny sample of your DNA, thereby identifying you with almost complete accuracy.

Samantha Strelitz as Alana Winston

Jeff Nissani as Jacob Foucault

And the Grid is a boon to law enforcement, too. There’s less crime in NYC today, Mayor Reid (Marie) boasts in an interview with journalist Alana Winston (Strelitz), than there is in Continue reading

Grand Central Murder (1942)

US / 74 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: S. Sylvan Simon Pr: B.F. Zeidman Scr: Peter Ruric Story: Grand Central Murder (1939) by Sue MacVeigh Cine: George Folsey Cast: Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey, Samuel S. Hinds, Sam Levene, Connie Gilchrist, Mark Daniels, Horace McNally (i.e., Stephen McNally), Tom Conway, Betty Wells, George Lynn, Roman Bohnen, Millard Mitchell, Tom Dugan

Mida King (Dane), showgirl star of a string of Broadway hits, is a relentless gold digger: she lures men, milks them dry, then dumps them. One of the luckless men, Turk (McNally), refused to be dumped, and so Mida framed him for murder and watched him get sent up the river.

Patricia Dane as Mida King

But now, en route to New York for a reopening of his trial, Turk escapes the train on which he was being transported and, from the gloomy depths of Grand Central Station, phones Mida’s dressing room at the Harmony Theater on Broadway and informs her sweetly that he’s on his way to kill her.

Virginia Grey as Sue Custer and Van Heflin as Rocky Custer

Not unnaturally sent into a panic, Mida runs out on the second act of her current show and heads for Grand Central and the private railcar owned by her current fiancé, rich smoothie David V. Henderson (Daniels). Not so very long later, David and the longtime fiancée he dumped in Mida’s favor, Constance Furness (Parker), discover Mida’s corpse naked in the bathroom of the railcar.

But the railcar was locked from within.

And even the medical examiner can’t initially establish how Mida was killed.

 

Inspector Gunther (Levene) is soon on the job, and Continue reading

The Beloved Brat (1938)

vt Girls on Probation; vt A Dangerous Age
US / 62 minutes / bw / First National, Warner Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: Lawrence Kimble Story: Jean Negulesco Cine: George Barnes Cast: Bonita Granville, Dolores Costello, Donald Crisp, Natalie Moorhead, Lucille Gleason, Donald Briggs, Emmett Vogan, Loia Cheaney, Leo Gorcey, Ellen Lowe, Mary Doyle, Paul Everton, Bernice Pilot, Stymie Beard, Meredith White, Gloria Fischer

On the face of it, this looks to be yet another comedy of rebellious youth—and with an appropriately lightweight star to reinforce that impression—but in reality there’s a whole lot more going on in The Beloved Brat than you might expect. And Bonita Granville, while hardly reaching Shakespearian heights, demonstrates that she was a weightier actress than her reputation might suggest.

On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Roberta Morgan (Granville) is the epitome of the spoiled brat. And it’s hardly any wonder: Daddy, Henry Morgan (Crisp)—whom the screenplay bizarrely rechristens John Morgan later on when another character called Henry turns up—is totally absorbed in his business of making oodles of money, and regards the raising of Roberta as the domain of his wife Evelyn (Moorhead). Trouble is, Evelyn is entirely self-absorbed, devoting all her time to her social life and to fashionable charities that are in reality self-serving; she has no interest in her daughter, and is prone to fits of the vapors whenever thwarted.

Bonita Granville as Roberta

The only person in the household who seems to care much about Roberta is Continue reading

Irreversi (2010)

Hong Kong / 87 minutes / color / Bigfoot Entertainment Dir: Michael Gleissner Pr: Kacy Andrews, Lisa Schahet Scr: Michael Gleissner, Scott Kurtilla, Mark Jacyszyn, Andrew Lacrosse Cine: Jack Messitt Cast: Ian Bohen, Mei Melançon, Kenny Doughty, Estella Warren, Ken Arden (i.e., Michael Gleissner), Caroline Carver, Howard Cheung, Jo Wee

Director Michael Gleissner shot two versions side-by-side of this domestic noir/psychological thriller. One was the Mandarin-language Hui Lu (2007) and the other, using the same locations but a completely different cast, was the English-language Irreversi, whose release for some reason came three years later, in 2010. Although the movie is a product of Hong Kong, it’s far more in the spirit of Hollywood—or even, looked at another way, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding!—than of traditional HK crime movies.

At some point I’d like to see Hui Lu; in the meantime there’s a trailer for it here.

Mei Melançon as Lynda

Some little while ago, inventor John Wee (Cheung), a keen skydiver, died in a tragic accident when his chute failed to open. His sister, music star Lynda Wee (Melançon), is finally Continue reading

The Counterfeit League (1963 TVM)

US / 52 minutes / bw / Talent Associates, Paramount, CBS Dir: William Corrigan Pr: Robert Costello Scr: Harold Gast Cine: uncredited Cast: Bruce Gordon, Diane Ladd, John Balzac, Robert Readick, Joseph Warren, Jess Osuna, Joseph Dellasorte, Frank Ferrer, Alan Rich (i.e., Allan Rich), Charles Durning, Howard Caine, Henry Hamilton

In Durango, Mexico, Arthur Henry Moline (Gordon) conceives a great new counterfeiting plan: instead of printing fake bills he’ll print fake US Treasury checks, which can have a far higher face value and are generally trusted more than ordinary folding currency. He forces local printer Francisco Guiterrez (Dellasorte) to cooperate in his scheme.

Bruce Gordon as Moline

Anxious to insulate himself from the law, Moline sets up a distribution scheme whose kingpin eventually becomes motel owner, white slaver and general scumbag Bennett “Ben” Ulmer (Caine). Moline instructs Ben to cut Ben’s nephew Dorsey Ulmer (Osuna) out of the setup because Dorsey, who’s a few tokes short of nirvana, has a narcotics rap hanging over him. But Continue reading