Night Caller, The (1965)

Noirish Science Fiction?

vt Blood Beast from Outer Space; vt Night Caller from Outer Space
UK / 84 minutes / bw (though there’s also a later colorized release) / New Art, Armitage, Butcher’s Dir: John Gilling Pr: Ronald Liles Scr: Jim O’Connolly Story: The Night Callers (1960) by Frank R. Crisp Cine: Stephen Dade Cast: John Saxon, Maurice Denham, Patricia Haines, Alfred Burke, Warren Mitchell, Stanley Meadows, Aubrey Morris, Ballard Berkeley, Marianne Stone, Geoffrey Lumsden, Barbara French, Anthony Wager, David Gregory, Romo Gorrara, Robert Crewdson, John Carson, Jack Watson.


Some while back I came across a reference to this as an intriguing example of a film noir/science fiction crossover. I discovered I’d bought a copy of the thing years ago but never watched it, so out I dug it. And now, finally, the watching’s been done.


Three scientists at Falsley Park Government Radio and Electronic Research Establishment—they’re just “scientists,” with no specialties itemized—are working away one night at whatever it is non-specialist scientists do that involves a lot of idle oscilloscopes when one of their number, Ann Barlow (Haines), spots something 100 miles above the ground that’s approaching the earth at high speed—over 10,000 miles per hour, in fact. Luckily it slows down, and they’re able to pinpoint where it must have landed.

The other two of the trio are the team leader, Dr. Morley (Denham), and Dr. Jack Costain (Saxon). Ann, being female, is not an out-and-out scientist like the other two. Instead she’s “our analysis expert.” And departmental typist.

Next morning the three go out onto the moors in search of the mystery object, which Ann’s oscilloscope told them must be Continue reading

Last Light, The (2013)

Whose fault was it what happened that night?

US / 14 minutes / color / Coral House Productions Dir: Jennifer Cummins Pr: Lisa Cooper Scr: Persephone Vandegrift Cine: Dan McComb Cast: Telisa Steen, Sarah Dennis, Elora Coble, Randall Dai, Pearl Klein, Danika Collins.


A very simple albeit narratively rather complex short that gives a powerful portrayal of grief but is, for me, let down by the triteness of its ending. The movie was, as acknowledged in the closing credits, funded through Indiegogo.


Karen (Telisa Steen) and her two girls (Sarah Dennis [right] and Elora Coble) in happier times.

Karen Kingston (Steen), a single mother and seeming career woman, always promised her timid younger daughter Rebecca Anne “Becca” (Coble) that she’ll make sure to protect her from any harm that might come her way; but Becca was Continue reading

Iron Doors (2010)

Trapped in a vault! Is there any hope of escape?

Germany / 81 minutes / color / Fullfeedback, Bar Vinya, Waterbear, Kinostar Dir: Stephen Manuel Pr: Axel Wedekind, Stephen Manuel, Aaron Magnani Scr: Peter Arneson Cine: Jan Reiff Cast: Axel Wedekind, Rungano Nyoni.


A man (Wedekind), seemingly an office worker, wakes up to find himself locked into what looks to be some kind of bank vault, empty except for a padlocked metal locker and a dead rat. And flies—lots of flies. One of the fluorescent lamps overhead is full of dead ones, but there are live ones either buzzing around the man or breeding in the dead rat.

At first he thinks his predicament is some kind of practical joke—he specifically suspects a colleague called Fletcher. But, as time wears on and there’s no sign of any activity from beyond the vault door, he becomes more puzzled as to what’s going on.


The man (Axel Wedekind) climbs atop the locker to evaluate his situation.

Then he spots a key in the shade of one of the overhead fluorescents. Recovering the key, he’s able to open the locker. Inside it he finds Continue reading

Hostile Witness (1968)

Can a brilliant lawyer suppress his arrogance long enough to save his own skin?

UK / 99 minutes / color / Caralan–Dador, UA Dir: Ray Milland Pr: David E. Rose Scr: Jack Roffey Story: Hostile Witness (1965 play) by Jack Roffey Cine: Gerald Gibbs Cast: Ray Milland, Sylvia Syms, Raymond Huntley, Felix Aylmer, Geoffrey Lumsden, Ewan Roberts, Julian Holloway, Norman Barrs, Richard Hurndall, Dulcie Bowman, Ballard Berkeley, Harold Berens, Percy Marmont, Edward Waddy, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Sandra Fehr.


Devastated when his wife was killed during the Blitz, lawyer Simon Crawford (Milland) and his infant daughter Joanna were taken in by Justice Matthew Gregory (Marmont) and his wife Phyllis (Bowman). Years later, Crawford is a prominent QC and Joanna (Fehr) has grown up to become a lovely young woman.

One evening Crawford is visiting Lady Phyllis to toast her birthday when there’s a screech of brakes outside. Joanna has been knocked down by a hit-and-run driver, and will soon die in the hospital. As you’d expect, Crawford says in front of witnesses that he’ll kill the driver if ever he finds him.


Crawford (Ray Milland) exchanges banter with daughter Joanna (Sandra Fehr).


Lady Gregory (Dulcie Bowman) looks down at the scene of the accident.

Spool forward a few weeks. The police have got nowhere in finding the driver—all that the witnesses could report was that Continue reading

Hell Harbor (1930)

An early role for the “Mexican Spitfire” in a tale of Caribbean derring-do!

US / 83 minutes / bw / Inspiration, UA Dir & Pr: Henry King Scr: Fred DeGresac, Clark Silvernail, N. Brewster Morse Story: Out of the Night (1925) by Rida Johnson Young Cine: John Fulton, Robert M. Haas, Mack Stengler Cast: Lupe Velez, Jean Hersholt, John Holland, Gibson Gowland, Harry Allen, Al St. John, Paul Burns, George Bookasta, Ulysses Williams, Ruth Hall, Rondo Hatton, Sextetto Habanero.


Velez’s second talkie—after Tiger Rose (1929) dir George Fitzmaurice—is a comedy- and music-laced melodrama that, despite suffering some problems of pacing, is really quite entertaining, primarily because of Velez’s effervescent presence.

Hell Harbor, a colony somewhere in the Caribbean, is largely populated by the descendants of pirates. One of these is Anita Morgan (Velez), daughter of Henry Morgan (Gowland), the several-times-great grandson of the famous pirate likewise called Henry Morgan. Anita’s dream is to escape from her often abusive father and the cesspit of Hell Harbor to live in Havana, Cuba, which she regards as a sort of heaven on earth:

Anita: “I want to see Havana now! Havana, with its music, its riding carriages . . . and wash all over every day!”


Peg Leg (Harry Allen) strikes a bargain with Horngold for the pearls.

Her father is not just a brute but a murderer. In the movie’s opening scenes we see an English drifter called Peg Leg (Allen) sell a Continue reading

o/t: leisure reading in September

I read a total of 18 books in September, which sounds pretty impressive until you learn that they were almost all fairly short. All but one were crime fictions from the Golden Age or even earlier.

The links are to my GoodReads notes.

Fig Leaf for Eve, A (1944)

Her “exotic dancing” led her to ignominy and then to a fortune—but can she keep the latter?

vt Desirable Lady; vt Flaming Girls; vt Hollywood Nights; vt Not Enough Clothes; vt Reckless Youth; vt Room for Love; vt Strips and Blondes
US / 69 minutes / bw / Carry Westen, Monogram Dir: Donald Brodie Pr: J. Richard Westen Scr: Elizabeth Hayter Story: Harry O. Hoyt Cine: Marcel Le Picard Cast: Jan Wiley, Phil Warren, Eddie Dunn, Janet Scott, Emmett Vogan, Betty Blythe, Edward Keane, Marilyn McConnell, Dick Rush, Selika Pettiford, Cheerio Meredith, Eleanor Freeman.


You’d guess from the string of subtitles that this was an exploitationer, and in a way I suppose it is—or as near to an exploitationer as the Production Code would allow in 1944. It’s implied that the central character is an exotic dancer, but the clientele of the NYC club where she dances, the Club Cézanne (oooh, a French painter! how provocative! how highbrow!), seems made up to a great extent of Continue reading

Crime Patrol, The (1936)

To box in the ring or to bag criminals? A simple Joe must choose!

US / 59 minutes / bw / Mayfair, Empire Dir: Eugene Cummings Pr: Harry S. Knight Scr: Betty Burbridge Story: Arthur T. Horman Cine: Bert Longenecker Cast: Ray Walker, Geneva Mitchell, Herbert Corthell, Hooper Atchley, Wilbur Mack, Russ Clark, Max Wagner, Virginia True Boardman, Henry Roquemore, Snub Pollard, Kernan Cripps.


Bob Neal (Walker) is an up-and-coming boxer who, despite being the genial type and fundamentally honest, sees no harm in hanging out with some pretty nasty lowlifes. One of these, Vic Santell (Mack), tells him he must throw his next fight, against a cop called Morley (uncredited), in the fourth round. Although it goes against the grain, Bob does his best to obey, but mistimes his “knockout” so that he’s saved by the bell for the end of the round. In the fifth, Morley taunts him and Bob, his dander up, delivers a knockout blow that Continue reading

o/t: Princeton Children’s Book Festival 2016 — a proud author modestly demonstrates his triumph



Yup — we sold out about an hour and a half before closing time. Frustrating, of course, but as my neighbor, the excellent children’s author/illustrator Ross Burach (There’s a Giraffe in My Soup), pointed out, it was a nice problem to have.

We had a great day out — it was a constant joy to see kids enthusing over books, staggering around under the weight of the stacks of books they wanted, instructing their luckless parents that I WANT THIS BOOK AND YOU ARE GOING TO PAY FOR IT . . . Fellow Zest author Jeff Campbell had brought his sweetheart daughter along (she told me she’d refused the job of standing in front of her dad’s table looking at one of his books and saying “THIS IS REALLY INTERESTING!!!” very loudly), and the stash of books she finally bought must have dented not just Jeff’s earnings for the day but his mortgage.

Because Eureka! is a YA book, many of the kids I chatted to were teens, but it was an especial joy to see how many younger kids — maybe as young as eight or nine, some of them — grabbed the book and immediately demanded that they be allowed to buy it. One such, a fabulously bright little girl, was told by her dad that “we’ll come back later”; I practically wept when, much later, they did indeed come back and all the copies were gone. (If you’re reading this, kid or dad, leave a comment anywhere on the site and I’ll email you to see if we can sort something out.)

Many thanks to the Princeton Public Library for organizing the event (and for inviting me!) and for the bookseller/toyshop JazAms for managing the sales side of it all — and for throwing a great party afterwards!

Next stop . . . the Milford Readers and Writers Festival, where I’m a Special Guest (gasp!) for the science fiction strand; Milford PA became internationally famous for the annual SF Writers’ Conference held there under the auspices of Virginia Kidd, Damon Knight et al.; I was a regular for a few years at the UK branch of Milford, as founded by James and Judy Blish. This promises to be, once more, a great deal of fun.



Burden of Evil (2012 TVM)

How can a cop cope with the serial killer who murdered her husband?

Canada / 90 minutes / color / Incendo, Dir: Michel Monty Pr: Jean Bureau, Serge Denis, Josée Mauffette Scr: Tom Gates Cine: Daniel Villeneuve Cast: Natalie Zea, Ron Lea, Ricky Mabe, Graham Cuthbertson, Michael Ironside, Vincent Hoss-Desmarais, Alexandra Valassis, Andrew Johnston, Chad Connell, Éleonore Lamothe, Ellen David, Jennifer Morehouse, Mark Hauser, Tarah Schwartz, Alex Weiner, Bobby Lamont.


Natalie Zea as Detective Caitlyn “Kate” Conner.

A couple of years ago, Detective Caitlyn “Kate” Conner (Zea) managed to identify the serial killer Kyle Randall (Mabe), whose m.o. was to kill—to “butcher”—men who’d abandoned their families; unfortunately, she was never able to nail him.

Today her husband Jamie (Connell), also a cop, is lured by Randall into a deserted warehouse, where Randall shoots him the back, killing him, then seemingly allows himself to be caught.


From a position aloft, Kyle (Ricky Mabe) . . . Continue reading