Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

|
“My name is Wong. James Lee Wong.”
|

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

Last Job, The (2014)

|
A reluctant hitman!
|

UK / 25 minutes / color / Landa Dir & Scr & Cine: Luke Tedder Pr: Luke Tedder, Ben Probert Cast: Ben Probert, Erick Hayden, Rachel Marquez, Josh Reeve, Josh Probert, Luke Tedder, Lewis Dowton, Elliot Ward, Phil Probert, Charley Probert.

Detective Adam Fowler (Ben Probert) is leading the team investigating maverick cancer researcher Dr. Redgrove (Hayden). Shortly before the cops manage to nail Hayden for the deaths of fourteen of his experimental subjects, Adam discovers his wife Jane (Marquez) is suffering from terminal cancer. There’s a standoff at Redgrove’s home as the rogue scientist holds a gun to his own head and insists on a private conversation with Adam.

It’s not that maverick researcher Redgrove (Erick Hayden) is a nutcase or anything, honest.

Once they’re alone he makes Adam an offer:

Redgrove: “Here is your scenario. I will allow you to arrest me, I will even plead guilty to my crimes, and then I will save your wife.”
Adam: “In return for what?”
Redgrove: “You.”

The deal is that, as price for the curing of Jane, Adam must fake his own death and then function as Redgrove’s hitman, knocking off anyone who’s in a position to stop the legalization of Redgrove’s research or who simply knows too much about what’s going on.

Jane (Rachel Marquez) at the grave of her supposedly dead husband.

Two years pass during which Adam carries out hit after hit. Jane, believing herself a widow, remarries, this time to a man described by Redgrove as Continue reading

Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949)

|
The final Barton!
|

UK / 68 minutes / bw / Hammer, Ted Kavanagh Associated, Exclusive Dir: Godfrey Grayson Assoc Pr: Anthony Hinds, Mae Murray Scr: Elizabeth Baron, Ambrose Grayson Story: Ambrose Grayson, based on characters created for Dick Barton—Special Agent (1946–51 BBC radio series), devised by Norman Collins and scripted by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb Cine: Cedric Williams Cast: Don Stannard, Bruce Walker, Sebastian Cabot, James Raglan, Jean Lodge, Morris Sweden, John Harvey, Humphrey Kent, Sidney Vivian, Tony Morelli, George Crawford, Laurie Taylor, Schulman.

This was the third to be made in what Hammer planned to be a long-lasting series of movies featuring the popular BBC radio character Dick Barton, begun with Dick Barton: Special Agent (1948). It proved to be the last, however, because, driving home after the “It’s a Wrap” party, series star Don Stannard crashed his car and was killed instantly. His co-star in Dick Barton Strikes Back, Sebastian Cabot, traveling with him, escaped with only minor injuries. Presumably in an effort to cash in on public interest in the tragedy, Exclusive, the series’ distributor, hurried the release so that this movie came out before its predecessor, Dick Barton at Bay (1950). The next movie in the series was apparently intended to be Dick Barton in Darkest Africa—to judge by the title, a radical departure from the series template.

I mentioned in connection with Dick Barton at Bay that the improvement of its production standards over those of its predecessor was evident within moments of the end of the opening credits. The improvement in standards of the third entry over Dick Barton at Bay is obvious even during the opening credits! Farewell to the strictly functional, rather amateurish credits of the previous two movies; hello to a more sophisticated presentation, complete with cameos of the three principals. A new production team and a new cinematographer—one who was far readier to use noirish techniques of shadow and angle—make a huge difference, but so does the fact that a bit more thought seems to have gone into the story, which, while it follows the basic overall template established by the two earlier movies and is as full of wild-and-woolly plot developments as ever, has an actual dramatic structure, leading up to an extended finale that is cleverly put together and genuinely edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Creston (Morris Sweden, left) tersely briefs Dick (Don Stannard, center) and Snowey (Bruce Walker) at the airport.

Dick (Stannard) and Snowey (Walker, replacing and much improving upon George Ford) go to St. Albans airport, about twenty miles out of London, to meet Special Agent Robert Creston (Sweden), who’s just arrived on the plane from Prague. He’s reluctant to be seen with them, muttering only that “If my guess is correct, the atomic bomb is child’s play compared to this” and arranging to meet them later at Continue reading

Dick Barton at Bay (1950)

|
More Barton!
|

UK / 68 minutes / bw / Marylebone–Hammer, Exclusive Dir: Godfrey Grayson Pr: Henry Halsted Scr: Jackson C. Budd, Ambrose Grayson, Emma Trechman Story: Ambrose Grayson, based on characters created for Dick Barton—Special Agent (1946–51 BBC radio series), devised by Norman Collins and scripted by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb Cine: Stanley Clinton Cast: Don Stannard, Tamara Desni, George Ford, Meinhart Maur, Percy Walsh, Joyce Linden, Campbell Singer, John Arnatt, Richard George, Patrick McNee (i.e., Patrick Macnee), George Crawford, Paddy Ryan, Fred Owen, Yoshihide Yanai, Ted Butterfield.

Although this was the third and last to be released of the three DICK BARTON movies produced by Hammer, it was actually the second to be made. It therefore seems to make sense to discuss it here before Dick Barton Strikes Back (1949), the last to be made. The predecessor of Dick Barton at Bay was Dick Barton: Special Agent (1948), about which I waffled here the other day.

As soon as the credits are over it’s obvious this movie is a cut above Special Agent. There’s a genuinely suspenseful chase as a War Office agent called Phillips (played by an almost unrecognizably youthful Macnee) flees through the docks at Limehouse from two bad guys. They eventually catch him in a phone box and shoot him dead, but not before he’s been able to phone Dick Barton (Stannard) and gasp out an enigmatic message: “Two longs and a short.”

Patrick Macnee as a man on the run.

Dick races to the phone box and discovers the imprint of a three-fingered hand on the glass.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, Continue reading

o/t: Robert Osborne

Just a note to record my sadness on learning just now of the death of movie scholar and historian Robert Osborne (May 3 1932–March 6 2017), for many years the “face” of Turner Classic Movies.

One of those people of whom I’ve never heard a bad word spoken, he gave expert introductions to countless elderly movies for TCM, including of course films noirs galore. He’ll be much missed.

Dick Barton: Special Agent (1948)

|
The first Dick Barton movie!
|

vt Dick Barton, Detective
UK / 69 minutes / bw / Marylebone-Hammer, Exclusive Dir: Alfred Goulding Pr: Henry Halsted Scr: Alan Stranks, Alfred Goulding Based on: Dick Barton—Special Agent (1946–51 BBC radio series), devised by Norman Collins and scripted by Edward J. Mason and Geoffrey Webb Cine: Stanley Clinton Cast: Don Stannard, George Ford, Jack Shaw, Gillian Maude, Beatrice Kane, Ivor Danvers, Geoffrey Wincott, Arthur Bush, Alec Ross, Farnham Baxter, Morris Sweden, Ernest Borrow, Janice Lowthian, Campbell Singer, Billy Howard.

dick-barton-special-agent-0

The first and the least of the three movies based on a hugely popular BBC radio series, Dick Barton—Special Agent (1946–51). The radio series appeared in the form of a nightly 15-minute episode Monday through Friday, with an hour-long omnibus version broadcast on the Saturday. Dick Barton was a sort of cleaned-up Bulldog Drummond; alternatively you might think of him as a prototypical James Bond. In his radio incarnation the stories were action-packed stuff. In this first of the Hammer screen adaptations, the studio made the foolish mistake of Continue reading

o/t: February’s leisure reading

Not a classic crop of reads during February, but there were some definite goodies, like the Williams, the Nielsen, the Bank and the Tey, while there was a lot to like about the Rankin, the Wentworth and the Wright . . . Hm. Maybe the month was better than I thought.

The links are as always to my often hurried Goodreads notes.

 

Bande à Bonnot, La (1968)

|
Classic gangsterism!
|

vt Les Anarchistes; vt Bonnot’s Gang
France / 86 minutes / color plus some bw / Intermondia, Kinesis, Mega, Valoria Dir: Philippe Fourastié Pr: Jean-Paul Guibert Scr: Jean Pierre Beaurenaut, Pierre Fabre, Rémo Forlani, Philippe Fourastié, Marcel Jullian Cine: Alain Levent Cast: Jacques Brel, Bruno Cremer, Annie Girardot, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, François Dyrek, Dominique Maurin, Michel Vitold, Nella Bielski, Pascal Aubier, Anne Wiazemsky, Armand Mestral, François Moro-Giafferi, Léonce Corne, Jacqueline Noel.

bonnot-0

In reality, Jules Bonnot was a very minor criminal; he was not even the leader of the gang that the French press of the day—the early 1910s—dubbed La Bande à Bonnot (the Bonnot Gang; the movie’s anglophone variant title, Bonnot’s Gang, is actually a mistranslation). Bonnot began as a bit of a rebel without a clue, became interested in anarchist politics and then, in 1908, joined a counterfeiting gang. The gang diversified into auto theft and burglary. In 1911 he became a member of the anarcho-criminal gang led by Octave Garnier, where he pioneered the use of the getaway car. The following year, with the public in an uproar and the cops coming ever closer, the gang split up. On April 24 1912 the flics almost nabbed Bonnot; in a shootout, he killed Louis Jouin, deputy head of the Sûreté Nationale. A few days later the cops surrounded the house where he was now hiding, and there was a major standoff that ended only when the cops dynamited the building.

The events in this movie bear some resemblance to the ones just recounted (with the help of en.wikipedia.org and fr.wikipedia.org).

bonnot-2-raymond

Jacques Brel as Raymond.

Raymond Callemin (Brel), nicknamed “Raymond la Science,” is an anarchist and a bit of a troublemaker; he and his pal Édouard Carouy (Dyrek) tend to get thrown out of places a lot. They join up with an anarchist group led by Continue reading

o/t: Hair Raising Oscar telecast and Get Out on Monday Morning Diary (February 27)

##Thanks to the party thrown by the extraordinarily generous Sam and Lucille Juliano of the amazing movies’n’otherstuff site Wonders in the Dark, we had a great Oscars Night . . . and too much excellent food. Just as I was realizing I could eat not one mouthful more, along came the homemade chocolate brownies: golly, but they were good.

We chatted with a bunch of people, notably including pal Sam himself, and in the background Oscars got awarded. I was disappointed by the animation picks (the Academy playing it safe) and elated by the foreign-language pick.

Wonders in the Dark

20170226_202554

20170226_202613

by Sam Juliano

Well, well, well. So in the end those who bashed the Academy for the likely choice of “La La Land” for Best Picture can now take all their shameful conspiracy theories and inane cultural blight crap and bury them. I don’t always agree with the Oscars but I respect them. And this year they chose a great film -Moonlight- one of my own Top 10 of the year as the Best Picture, after that embarrassing envelope snafu that has since been owned up by Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm. And our own insightful voters on this very page last week also chose “Moonlight” as Best Film of the Year. No need for “La La Land” rooters to cry though. The beloved musical copped 6 Oscars including Best Director and Best Actress, and many other awards from critics’ groups.

What a great night we had at the Tiger…

View original post 134 more words

36 Saints (2013)

|
Oooh, spookitude!
|

US / 82 minutes / color / SC Global Media, Active Fox Dir: Eddy Duran Pr: Joey Dedio Scr: Joey Dedio, Jeffrey De Serrano Cine: Isidro Urquia Cast: Franky G, Jeffrey De Serrano, Britne Oldford, Tyrone Brown, Matthew Daddario, Aja Naomi King, Chris Riggi, Alesandra Assante, Laverne Cox, Allan Louis, Joey Dedio, Mihaela Kolich, Maya Days, Raul Casso, Jaime Tirelli, Donna McKechnie, Frances Lozada, Dominic Colón, Esau Pritchett, Jonathan Duran, Carlos Lozada, Mareo Ryan, Cain Ruiz.

36-saints-0

The opening of this movie features cityscapes and apocalyptic scenes overlain by an extended voiceover that it’s hard to resist the temptation to parody:

According to ancient mythology, in every generation, there are thirty-six individuals who carry the suffering of the world, and assist those in dire need. The thirty-six are amongst us all. Anyone you meet could be one of them. The world exists in the merit of these thirty-six righteous people. Without them, the world we know would fall into chaos, corruption and eventually darkness. To achieve this darkness, there are those too who have chosen evil over good. They are united by their leader, Lilith, and are all marked by the symbol of darkness. Once their mission on this earth is completed, they are destroyed, either by self-infliction, or by another Dark One. Damnation falls on the ones who do not choose to be evil and want to escape the wrath of Lilith. Lilith’s ultimate revenge is to destroy the thirty-six by choosing the same fate that their namesakes have immortalized. The final nine have been discovered. By abolishing them, darkness will reign over light.

36-saints-9-what-you-get-when-you-google-for-lilith

What you get when (at least in this movie) you google for “Lilith” — saucy, eh?

I’ve encountered the Hebraic mythology of the Lamedvavnik—the 36 righteous ones—somewhere before (don’t ask me where!), and it has always been my impression that the 36 are supposedly scattered around the world, unknown to each other and perhaps not even knowing their own status. In this movie things are changed a bit, with the assumption being that, not only do they know each other, but that, with a couple of exceptions, they’ve assembled together as a group. Also, they’re linked in to Christian, specifically Roman Catholic, saints, plus other biblical characters whose names they share—including Jesus.

It’s Hallowe’en. Almost exactly a year ago 27 of the 36 saints died in a plane crash near Montreal, the only survivor of the tragedy being a priest, Father Judas Neri (Tirelli). Seven of the other nine saints were off being presented with a humanitarian award at the UN; these seven young people are now studying at the swanky Academy of Royals in what I think is supposed to be Continue reading