Dangerous Afternoon (1961)

UK / 59 minutes / bw / Theatrecraft, British Lion Dir: Charles Saunders Pr: Guido Coen Scr: Brandon Fleming Story: Dangerous Afternoon (1951 play) by Gerald Anstruther Cine: Geoffrey Faithfull Cast: Ruth Dunning, Nora Nicholson, Joanna Dunham, Howard Pays, Gladys Henson, Ian Colin, Jerold Wells, May Hallatt, Gwenda Wilson, Elizabeth Begley, Barbara Everest, Jackie Noble, Deirdre Clarke, James Raglan, Edna Morris, Richard McNeff, Jan Miller, Frank Sieman, Keith Smith, Max Brimmell, Trevor Reid, Frank Hawkins, Barry Wilsher.

Irma Randall used to be one of the most audacious jewel thieves in the country until she was caught and jailed. In making a prison escape she fell and broke her back, and now she’s recreated herself as the wheelchair-bound, ultra-genteel Miss Letitia “Letty” Frost (Dunning), owner of Primrose Lodge, a residential home for elderly ladies—in fact, her criminal pals who’ve retired from the profession.

Letty Frost (Ruth Dunning).

Louisa Sprule (Nora Nicholson).

Well, they have in theory, anyway. Sweet old Mrs. Louisa Sprule (Nicholson) is unable to break herself of the habit of petty shoplifting; Mrs. Judson (Everest) has difficulty letting a pocket go by unpicked; Miss Burge (Hallatt) compulsively Continue reading

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Common Law Wife (1963)

US / 76 minutes / bw / Texas Film Producers, Cinema Distributors of America Dir: Eric Sayers, Larry Buchanan (uncredited) Pr: Fred A. Kadane Scr: Grace Nolen Cast: Anne MacAdams (i.e., Annabelle Weenick), George Edgely, Max Anderson, Lacey Kelly, Bert Masters, Libby Booth, Norman Smith, Dale Berry.

Sometime in the early 1960s, schlockmeister Larry Buchanan got halfway through an exploitation movie called Swamp Rose when, for one reason or another (perhaps someone spent the project’s budget on a busfare), he had to abandon it. A while later, director Eric Sayers was hired to cobble together Buchanan’s existing footage with newly shot material and make of the result what he could. That result was the assemblage of continuity errors released as Common Law Wife.

A major problem that Sayers had was that he couldn’t obtain the services of all the same actors Buchanan had used. In most instances the resemblance is close enough that you’re not really aware of the difference. What makes the movie truly confusing, though, is that the two actresses playing the central femme fatale, Jonelle, look nothing like each other—not only that, but they don’t walk the same, they have starkly contrasting Continue reading

Night of Evil (1962)

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A moron’s act of violence initiates a years-long cycle of tragedy!
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US / 83 minutes / bw / Galbreath, Astor, Sutton Dir & Pr: Richard Galbreath Scr: Louis Perino Story: Lou Perry (i.e., Louis Perino) Cine: David Holmes Cast: Lisa Gaye, William Campbell, Lynn Bernay (i.e., Lynette Bernay), Burtt Harris, Sammy Mannis, Earl Wilson, Remo Pisani, George Diestel, Don De Leo, Joe Garri, Patricia Dahling, Eric Anthony Pregent, Gary Gage, Carlton Kadell, Maurice Copeland, Barbara Bricker, David Dunstone.

A Z-movie that punches very far above its weight in most respects, this somehow transcends its hackneyed trope of a young woman spiralling inexorably downward into degradation.

Its introduction doesn’t inspire much confidence that this might be the case, consisting as it does of the cliché of a po-faced narrator (Wilson) telling us earnestly that the movie’s contents are, despite the promises of sensationalism that lured us into the cinema, both serious and high-minded:

The picture you are about to witness is based on newspaper and court records. It is a true story. To protect the innocent, some of the names, places and incidents have been changed.

It all began in the fall of 1957 . . .

Dixie Ann Dikes (Gaye), approaching 17 and living with foster parents Cora and Edgar Watkins (both uncredited), has a nice young boyfriend in Kent Fitzroy (uncredited).

Lisa Gaye as Dixie.

However, football jock Johnny (Harris) believes that, as the star of their high school team, he’s entitled to first dibs on the pretty girls. Continue reading

Mysterious Doctor, The (1943)

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How did the Headless Man choose his victims?
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US / 57 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: Ben Stoloff Scr: Richard Weil Cine: Henry Sharp Cast: John Loder, Eleanor Parker, Bruce Lester, Lester Matthews, Forrester Harvey, Matt Willis, Frank Mayo, Phyllis Barry, David Clyde, Clyde Cook, Harold De Becker, Crauford Kent, Leo White.

One foggy night in darkest Cornwall a peddler (De Becker), terrified by local legends of the Headless Man—the ghost of tin miner Black Morgan, who lost his head in a dispute over the ownership of the Wickham Mine—conquers his fears enough to give a lift to a stranger, Dr. Frederick Holmes (Matthews), ostensibly on a walking tour of the English Southwest. (And a very rapid if rather aimless walker, be it noted: we later discover he was in Camborne, in Dorset, the night before, and St. Ives, in Cornwall, the night before that!)

Holmes hitches a lift from the peddler (Harold De Becker).

The peddler drops Holmes off at the Running Horse Inn in the village of Morgan’s Head. There the stranger discovers that the publican, Simon Tewkesbury (Mayo), wears a hangman-style leather hood at all times because, years ago, a stick of dynamite went off in his face. (The hood is going to play an important, albeit outlandishly implausible, part in the plot later on.)

 The foreboding figure of barman Simon Tewkesbury (Frank Mayo).

Holmes also discovers that the locals are suspicious of and resentful of visitors—

Simon: “Us folks in Morgan’s Head don’t like to be laughed at, Dr. ’Olmes. Especially by strangers we don’t.”

—unless said strangers buy drinks all round, a trick taught to Holmes by village tosspot Hugh Penrhyn (Harvey). Those drinks are our first sign that this movie, though set in England, was a US product: the beers come Continue reading

Purple Gang, The (1959)

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A “youthful rat-pack of terrorists”!
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US / 85 minutes / bw / Allied Artists Dir: Frank McDonald Pr: Lindsley Parsons Scr: Jack DeWitt Cine: Ellis Carter Cast: Barry Sullivan, Robert Blake, Elaine Edwards, Marc Cavell, Jody Lawrance, Suzy Marquette, Joseph Turkel, Victor Creatore, Paul Dubov, Dirk London, Kathleen Lockhart, Nestor Paiva, Lou Krugman, Robert Anderson, Mauritz Hugo, Danny Mummert, John Close, Ralph Sanford, George Baxter, Paul McGuire, David Tomack, Don Haggerty, Congressman James Roosevelt.

This gives the impression—complete with pompous introduction from a political stuffed shirt—of being a dramatized documentary about the real-life Purple Gang, which terrorized Detroit during the 1920s and 1930s, but in fact its moments of consonance with the historical reality are fairly few and far between, and usually consist of the scripters merely incorporating a stray aspect of the truth in hopes it’ll somehow stand in for all the rest. Just to add to the air of divorcement from reality, while the setting is stated to be the late 1920s and the early 1930s, there’s no effort, through costume or effects, to place the action anywhere else but in the 1940s.

Congressman Roosevelt introduces our tale.

The stuffed shirt in question is Congressman James Roosevelt, Chairman (it says here) of the Committee on Narcotics of the California Delegation in the Congress of the United States, who bizarrely addresses most of his remarks not to the camera but slightly to our right of it. After he’s done, we then get a scrolled legend aiming to persuade us further of the movie’s authenticity:

This picture is based on Continue reading

Catman of Paris, The (1946)

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Was he a vicious killer or just a harmless shapeshifter?
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US / 64 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Lesley Selander Assoc Pr: Marek M. Libkov Scr: Sherman L. Lowe Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: Carl Esmond, Lenore Aubert, Adele Mara, Douglass Dumbrille, Gerald Mohr, Fritz Feld, Francis Pierlot, Georges Renavent, Francis McDonald, Maurice Cass, Alphonse Martell, Paul Marion, John Dehner, Anthony Caruso, Carl Neubert, Elaine Lange, Tanis Chandler, George Davis.

In the closing years of the 19th century, bestselling author Charles Regnier (Esmond) is back in Paris after having spent a couple of years traveling in the Orient. His latest novel, Fraudulent Justice, is selling like hotcakes—in fact, his publisher, Paul Audet (Pierlot), declares that “Not since Balzac, not since Victor Hugo himself, has an author gained such popularity!” (What, no mention of Dumas?) All very atypical for publishers, who’re these days more likely to spend upwards of an hour telling you that the market’s tough, really tough, which is why you’ve yet again accrued no royalties . . . and then asking you to go dutch on the lunch they invited you to.

Charles’s patron and best friend Henri (Douglass Dumbrille).

But then Audet does indeed segue into what we might call Publisher Chagrin Mode. Although Fraudulent Justice is a huge bestseller, the book may destroy him. The cops are very suspicious of it, and may confiscate all copies, because it bears far too close a resemblance to the facts in the 1871 trial of one Louis Chambrais (sp?), a trial so scandalous and shocking that the records were stipulated to be kept under wraps for the next fifty years . . . and yet, a mere twenty-five years later, everything is being revealed in Charles’s so-called novel!

Lenore Aubert as publisher’s daughter Marie, whom Charles discovers he loves.

Charles is having a meal at his favorite nosherie, the Café du Bois, with his generous patron Henri Borchard (Dumbrille) when he’s suddenly smitten by yet another of the migraine-style headaches he has intermittently suffered ever since that nasty fever attack he suffered while abroad, and decides to cut the dinner short and walk home through the fresh air of the Parisian streets. (Fresh air? Parisian streets? At the end of the 19th century? Hm.)

He doesn’t get home until morning, by which time a librarian in the Archives section of the Ministère de la Justice, Devereaux (McDonald), has been ’ideously murdered while Continue reading

Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

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“My name is Wong. James Lee Wong.”
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US / 62 minutes / bw / Monarch Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Paul Malvern Scr: Joseph West Story: Ralph Bettinson Based on: characters created by Hugh Wiley in 12 stories published 1934–38 in Collier’s Magazine Cine: Fred Jackman Jr Cast: Keye Luke, Lotus Long, Grant Withers, Charles Miller, Huntley Gordon, Virginia Carpenter, John H. Dilson, Paul McVey, John Holland, Dick Terry, Robert Kellard, William Castello, Lee Tung Foo.

Not long after his return from a field trip to Mongolia, Dr. John Benton (Miller)—clearly labeled “Cyrus Benton” in a newspaper that we see—is giving a lecture at San Francisco’s Southern University about his expedition and the discovery he made in the Gobi Desert of the long-lost tomb of a powerful Ming emperor. He illustrates the lecture with the movie footage taken during the trip by photographer Charlie Frasier (Dilson), the very same guy as who’s now operating the projector for the lecture. Sitting in the front row are two further members of the expedition, Benton’s daughter Louise (Carpenter) and the pilot Tommy Dean (Kellard); the two are evidently sweet on each other. Helping the archaeologist is his secretary, Win Len (Long).

Tommy (Robert Kellard) and Louise (Virginia Carpenter), so much in love.

But one member of the expedition didn’t return, Benton explains to his audience. The backup pilot, Mason (Holland), was lost during a wild dust-storm and, although the party hunted for him, in the end they had to abandon the search.

Frasier (John H. Dilson) films everything.

Suddenly Benton grabs his throat and collapses. Soon the homicide cop Captain Sam Street (Withers) and his sidekick Detective Grady (McVey) are on the scene, but it looks as if Continue reading

Paris After Dark (1943)

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Love, death, betrayal and sacrifice in occupied Paris!
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US / 85 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Léonide Moguy Pr: André Daven Scr: Harold Buchman Story: Georges Kessel Cine: Lucien Andriot Cast: George Sanders, Philip Dorn, Brenda Marshall, Madeleine LeBeau, Marcel Dalio, Robert Lewis, Henry Rowland, Gene Gary, Curt Bois, Michael Visaroff, Ann Codee, Jean Del Val, Raymond Roe, John Wengraf.

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Paris is under Nazi occupation. Renowned surgeon Dr. André Marbel (Sanders) and his principal nurse, Yvonne Blanchard (Marshall), née Benoit, are secretly the leaders of an underground movement dedicated to disseminating anti-Nazi propaganda in the form of posters and tracts, especially targeting the workers in the nearby Beaumont car factory, repurposed by the Nazis to build tanks and armored cars. The effort is not without its dangers, as we discover in the movie’s opening moments, when young Victor Durand (Gary) is gunned down summarily by a German soldier for the crime of flyposting.

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Yvonne (Brenda Marshall).

We assume at first that André and Yvonne must be lovers, but not so: they’re fond friends, no more. Yvonne lives at home with her mother (Codee), her father Lucien (Del Val) and her kid brother Georges (Roe), who works in the Beaumont factory. Yvonne’s husband Jean (Dorn) was a pillar of the Resistance until his capture and imprisonment three years ago. Now he’s among a hundred sick and broken men being released from the labor camp, to be replaced—although this is not yet public knowledge—by five hundred healthy men from the Beaumont plant.

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Jean (Philip Dorn), just one of many sick and broken camp prisoners on the train home to Paris.

The Benoits are delighted by Jean’s return, Yvonne especially, but soon she and her family discover that Jean has changed drastically, thanks to torture and abuse. He now believes that Nazi triumph is inevitable and that the best way forward is to collaborate with the fascist scheisskopfs and just hope to be left in peace to live as well as one can. When he Continue reading

The Black Raven (1943)

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It is a dark and stormy night . . .
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US / 61 minutes / bw / Sigmund Neufeld Productions, PRC Dir: Sam Newfield Pr: Sigmund Neufeld Scr: Fred Myton Cine: Robert Cline Cast: George Zucco, Noel Madison, Byron Foulger, Robert Middlemass, Charlie Middleton, Robt. Randall, Wanda McKay, Glenn Strange, I. Stanford Jolley.

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Years ago Amos Bradford (Zucco) was a criminal mastermind known as The Black Raven. Now he runs a remote inn, also called The Black Raven, somewhere near the border with Canada. Tonight a stranger arrives, Whitey Cole (Jolley)—although he’s no stranger to Amos, but the partner he left to carry the can when he evaded the cops one final time before assuming the mantle of respectability. Whitey’s escaped from the pen with ten years of his sentence still to go. Now he wants to settle up with Amos one last time . . .

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Whitey Cole (I. Stanford Jolley) arrives on the scene.

But then Amos’s dimwit handyman, Andy (Strange), bursts in out of the howling gale, and between the two of them Amos and Andy (yes, really) subdue Whitey:

Andy: “What was the matter? Didn’t he like the service?”
Amos: “He’s suffering from rabid delusions aggravated by a moronic mentality.”
Andy: “Is that bad?”

Other guests arrive seeking shelter from the storm, all of them in one way or another relying on the inn’s reputation as the last stopping point on the way to refuge in Canada. First to arrive is gangster Mike Bardoni (Madison)—his name spelled “Baroni” in a newspaper headline we see, but that’s B-movies for you. He knows of Amos’s past as The Black Raven and wants his aid in Continue reading

Youth Aflame (1944)

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Well, maybe getting a bit overheated . . . but in a thoroughly wholesome way!
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vt Hoodlum Girls
US / 61 minutes / bw / Jay-Dee-Kay, Continental Dir & Scr: Elmer Clifton Pr: J.D. Kendis Story: Helen Kiely Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Joy Reese, Warren Burr, Kay Morley, Michael Owen, Rod Rogers, Edwin Brian, Julie Duncan, Sheila Roberts, Edward Cassidy, Mary Arden, Duke Johnson, Johnny Duncan.

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I confess it was the variant title that sold me on this one.

Stuffy bank guard Mr. White (Cassidy), a widower, is single-handedly raising two daughters of a dangerous age. The younger, Katy (Reese), is prim, righteous and self-righteous; she and the equally wholesome all-American head boy of her high school, Frank Monaghan (Burr), have their cute little hearts set on each other. The older White girl, Laura (Morley), is the wild one; she has her heart set on small-time punk Al Simpson (Owen), who encourages her to drink alcohol in nightclubs:

Al: “Laura’s free and . . . well, just old enough for me.”

Today Al calls by to pick up Laura for a date and sees Mr. White cleaning one of his collection of guns. He tells Laura that, if she really loves him, she’ll steal the gun for him. Later in the movie, Al and his slimy sidekick Harry Ketchall (Brian)—who, in an important subplot, has a hankering after Katy and a Trumpean way of expressing it—will use the gun in an attempted mugging.

But back to the present. Soon after Al and Laura have left the White kitchen, teenage-liaison cop Amy Clark (Arden) arrives in it. She’s concerned that teenagers are going astray not just because of parental disinterest but through the lack of suitable social facilities. A local businessman has offered the use of an empty store should the kids want to set up a jive club; to set the joint a-jumpin’ they could even have a milk bar!

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Amy Clark (Mary Arden) wants to expand the local yoof’s access to milk bars.

The wholesome Katy thinks this is a fabulous idea. The wholesome Frank thinks this is a fabulous idea. Their wholesome pal Lester (Rogers), a self-styled intellectual who serves as a sort of walking encyclopedia, thinks this is a fabulous idea. The unwholesome Al and Laura have left by now, but we can guess they’d probably think this is an idea that sucks major-league, milk bar or no milk bar . . . although, as we see in due course, Laura sees in it the opportunity to tell Dad she’s off to knock back the nourishing milk at the jive club when really she’s sneaking away to Continue reading