Incident at a Corner (1960 TVM)

US / 49 minutes / color / Shamley, Alfred Hitchcock Productions, NBC Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Pr: Joan Harrison Scr: Charlotte Armstrong Story: Incident at a Corner (1957) by Charlotte Armstrong Cine: John L. Russell Cast: Vera Miles, George Peppard, Paul Hartman, Bob Sweeney, Leora Dana, Warren Berlinger, Philip Ober, Jerry Paris, Alice Backes, Charity Grace, Leslie Barrett, Alexander Lockwood, Jack Albertson, Eve McVeagh, Tyler McVey, Joe Flynn, Barbara Beaird, Mary Alan Hokanson, Wendell Holmes, Hollis Irving, Florence MacMichael.

Based on a Charlotte Armstrong novella, this minor piece of Hitchcockiana was aired as #27 (of 33 episodes) in the NBC TV series Startime (1959–60), one of the first TV shows to air in color. About half the episodes were variety presentations, the other half narrative pieces, usually dramas like this one. Hitchcock got involved because Lew Wasserman, then head of MCA, which had struck a package deal to supply star actors for the series, was also Hitch’s agent. It’s worth noting that Hitch wisely brought with him Joan Harrison as part of the enterprise.

We’re first shown three different versions of an altercation at a street corner next to a school. Mary Tawley (Dana), obnoxious wife of important local stuffed shirt Malcolm Tawley (Ober), owner of the Security First Bank, remonstrates with the elderly crossing guard whose STOP sign she drove past, James “Jim” Medwick (Hartman).

Vera Miles as Jane and George Peppard as Pat

In the third view we discover the scene was observed by two newcomers to the neighborhood, Harry (Albertson) and Georgia Crane (McVeagh). Georgia recognizes Jim and is terrified he’ll tell the neighborhood about her wild youth as Georgia Clooney (sic!) when they both lived in Continue reading

Step Down to Terror (1958)

US / 76 minutes / bw / Universal International Dir: Harry Keller Pr: Joseph Gershenson Scr: Mel Dinelli, Czenzi Ormonde, Chris Cooper (i.e., Sy Gomberg) Story: Gordon McDonell Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Colleen Miller, Charles Drake, Rod Taylor, Josephine Hutchinson, Jocelyn Brando, Alan Dexter, Rickey Kelman.

Alfred Hitchcock has been reported as saying that SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, was his own personal favorite of all his movies. It’s safe to say that this remake—the first of two in the English language, the other (which I haven’t seen) being Strange Homecoming (1974 TVM) dir Lee H. Katzin, with Robert Culp, Glen Campbell and Tara Talboy—isn’t as good as Hitchcock’s version, but it does have some strengths; it’d be erroneous to dismiss it as just a lukewarm imitation.

After an absence of six years, Johnny Walters (Drake)—for some reason called Johnny Williams in the closing credits—returns to the small California town of his birth, Middletown, to stay with his widowed mom, Sarah Walters (Hutchinson), his widowed sister-in-law, Helen Walters (Miller), and Helen’s young son Doug (Kelman).

Charles Drake as Johnny.

At first Helen finds herself attracted to the genial, open-handed Johnny, but then odd things start happening to make her uneasy in his presence. Matters come to a head when Continue reading

Jack and the Beanstalk (1988 TVM)

US / 20 minutes (plus about three minutes’ ancillary material) / color / DIC, Alien Dir: Dan Riba Animation dir: Kazumi Fukushima Pr: Richard Raynis Scr: David Cohen, Roger S.H. Schulman Voice cast: Paul Fusco, Paulina Gillis (i.e., Tabitha St. Germain), Peggy Mahon, Thick Wilson, Dan Hennessey, Rob Cowan, Noam Zylbarman.

ALF Tales was an animated series that ran on NBC for two seasons, totaling 21 episodes, in 1988–89. In each episode the series character ALF, aka Gordon Shumway, played by the series’ co-creator, Paul Fusco, introduced and starred in a parody of a classic tale. It was a spinoff of another Saturday morning kids’ TV show, ALF: The Animated Series (26 episodes, 1987–90).

In this instance it’s easy to guess the framework within which the ALF Tales parody is couched: this version of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is done in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960).

Continue reading

My Blood Runs Cold (1965)

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As well it might!
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US / 104 minutes / bw / William Conrad Productions, Warner Bros.–First National Dir & Pr: William Conrad Scr: John Mantley Story: John Meredyth Lucas Cine: Sam Leavitt Cast: Troy Donahue, Joey Heatherton, Barry Sullivan, Nicolas Coster, Jeanette Nolan, Russell Thorson, Jean Paul King, Ben Wright, Shirley Mitchell, Howard McNear, Howard Wendell, John Holland, John McCook, Linda Meiklejohn.

Julie Merriday (Heatherton), headstrong daughter of the richest and most powerful man in the area, is speeding along the road one day with boyfriend Harry Lindsay (Coster) when she nearly kills motorcyclist Ben Gunther (Donahue). After being pulled out of the ditch, Ben recognizes her as Barbara, his long-lost love—really long-lost, because Barbara Merriday died a century ago giving birth to the child ancestral to the current Merriday brood.

Julie’s father Julian (Sullivan) is brutally possessive and controlling. At first he welcomes the idea that Continue reading

Souriante Madame Beudet, La (1922)

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Bang, bang, the joke’s on you!
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vt The Smiling Madame Beudet
France / 38 minutes / bw silent / Colisée Dir: Germaine Dulac Pr: Charles Delac, Marcel Vandal Scr: André Obey Story: La Souriante Madame Beudet (1920 play) by Denys Amiel and André Obey Cine: A. Merrin Cast: Germaine Dermoz, Madeleine Guitty, Grisier (i.e., Yvette Grisier), Jean d’Yd, Paoli (i.e., Raoul Paoli), Thirard (i.e., Armand Thirard), Arquillière (i.e., Alexandre Arquillière).

The title’s ironic, because Madame Beudet doesn’t normally smile . . .

Somewhere in a small French provincial town, the artistic, sensitive Madame Beudet (Dermoz) is trapped in a loveless marriage to an obnoxious, philistine boor (Arquillière).

Germaine Dermoz as Madame Beudet.

Their latest argument is over a cultural event but, oddly enough, this time it’s Beudet who’s on the side of culture. A friend has sent him four free tickets to a performance of Faust, but Madame doesn’t want to go: she’d rather stay at home playing the piano and reading her book. So off Beudet trots to the theater with Continue reading

Fly-by-Night (1942)

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On the run for a murder he didn’t commit!
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vt Dangerous Holiday
US / 72 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Robert Siodmak Pr: Sol C. Siegel Scr: Jay Dratler, F. Hugh Herbert Story: Ben Roberts, Sidney Sheldon Cine: John Seitz Cast: Richard Carlson, Nancy Kelly, Albert Basserman, Miles Mander, Walter Kingsford, Martin Kosleck, Marion Martin, Oscar O’Shea, Mary Gordon, Edward Gargan, Clem Bevans, Arthur Loft, Michael Morris, Cy Kendall, Nestor Paiva, John Butler.

An escapade conceived very much in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935), with which movie it shares a number of plot points. Again we have a hero who has to go on the run because suspected of murdering a man who has sought his aid, and again our hero ropes in an unwilling woman as accomplice (with romance as inevitable, further down the line, as in a Hallmark Christmas movie), and again there’s an espionage conspiracy to be foiled.

To say that Siodmak, whose second Hollywood movie this was, was no Hitchcock is the obvious trite comment, and a foolish one—as foolish as saying, equally truthfully, that Hitchcock was no Siodmak. The two directors each had his own strengths, and this one plays to Siodmak’s. The comedy and tension are very well integrated—that I laughed aloud several times didn’t mean I wasn’t on the edge of my seat at others—but what stood out most for me, in terms of the direction, was Continue reading

After Dark (1933)

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Cattermole-Brompton by name, Cattermole-Brompton by nature!
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UK / 44 minutes / bw / Fox British Pictures Dir & Pr: Albert Parker Scr: R.J. Davis, J. Jefferson Farjeon Story: After Dark (1932 play) by J. Jefferson Farjeon Cine: Geoffrey Faithfull Cast: Horace Hodges, Hugh Williams, George Barraud, Ian Fleming, Gretha Hansen, Henry Oscar, Pollie Emery, Arthur Padbury.

The name that stands out in the credits of this short feature, aside from that of the versatile cinematographer, is J. Jefferson Farjeon, the prolific Golden Age crime novelist and playwright who returned to the limelight in 2014 when the British Library reissue of his 1937 novel Mystery in White became a surprise Christmas bestseller. Continue reading

Trent’s Last Case (1952)

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Orson Welles, Margaret Lockwood and Kenneth Williams amid a glittering cast!
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UK / 86 minutes / bw / Imperadio, Republic Dir & Pr: Herbert Wilcox Scr: Pamela Bower Story: Trent’s Last Case (1913) by E.C. Bentley Cine: Max Greene Cast: Michael Wilding, Margaret Lockwood, Orson Welles, John McCallum, Miles Malleson, Hugh McDermott, Jack McNaughton, Sam Kydd, Kenneth Williams, Henry Edwards, Ben Williams, PLUS

  • Eileen Joyce
  • Anthony Collins
  • and members of the London Symphony Orchestra

This is the third of the four (to date) screen adaptations of Bentley’s supposedly subversive mystery novel. The other three have been:

  • Trent’s Last Case (1920) dir Richard Garrick, with Gregory Scott, Pauline Peters, Clive Brook and George Foley (silent)
  • Trent’s Last Case (1929) dir Howard Hawks, with Raymond Griffith, Marceline Day, Lawrence Gray and Donald Crisp (silent)
  • Trent’s Last Case (1964 TVM) dir Peter Duguid, with Michael Gwynn, Kenneth Fortescue and Peter Williams

. . . and I’m sure my true love would spifflicate me if I didn’t mention the unrelated (beyond the title)

  • Trenchard’s Last Case (1989 TV) dir Mike Barnes, an episode of the Bergerac TV series (1981–91) starring apparently droolworthy screen idol (there’s no accounting for taste) John Nettles

Philip Trent (Wilding) is a monied artist and amateur sleuth. In the past, the editor (uncredited) of the Daily Record has commissioned from him dispatches written while he’s been investigating his most sensational murder cases, and what could be more sensational than the murder of ruthless international financier Sigsbee Manderson (Welles) in the grounds of his stately Hampshire pied à terre, White Gables?

Or was it murder? So many of the circumstantial details point to suicide.

The dead man’s widow Margaret (Margaret Lockwood) gives evidence to the coroner’s court . . .

. . . where Philip sketches John . . .

. . . and gardener Horace Evans (Kenneth Williams) also gives evidence.

Philip reaches White Gables the day after Manderson’s body has been discovered by the subgardener, Horace Evans (an almost unrecognizably young Williams), and, with the help of the widowed Mrs. Manderson’s uncle, Burton Cupples (Malleson), talks his way into the house, where he discovers his old pal and rival, Inspector Murch (Kydd), heading the Continue reading

Shadows on the Stairs (1941)

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So many seedy secrets behind a boarding house’s doors!
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vt Murder on the Second Floor
US / 62 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: D. Ross Lederman Pr: Bryan Foy Scr: Anthony Coldeway Story: Murder on the Second Floor (1929 play) by Frank Vosper Cine: Allen G. Siegler Cast: Frieda Inescort, Paul Cavanagh, Heather Angel, Bruce Lester, Miles Mander, Lumsden Hare, Turhan Bey, Charles Irwin, Phyllis Barry, Mary Field, Paul Renay.

shadows-on-the-stairs-0

London, 1937, and on the surface Mrs. Armitage’s boarding house appears tranquil enough. But, as we soon find out, not all is as it seems . . .

The movie opens at the docks. One of Mrs. Armitage’s lodgers, Joe Reynolds (Cavanagh), observes as another, Ram Singh (Bey), helps smuggle a small trunk onto the dock and away. Back at the boarding house next morning, it’s clear that the two are in uneasy, mutually suspicious cahoots.

shadows-on-the-stairs-1-ram-singh-awaits-the-arrival-of-the-smuggled-box

Ram Singh (Turhan Bey) awaits the arrival of the smuggled box.

Not all is well among the building’s other occupants. Startled while clearing away the breakfast things, the maid, Lucy Timpson (Barry), drops a tray of dirty dishes and is promptly and viciously fired by the landlady, ex-actress Stella Armitage (Inescort). Joe has been carrying on a long-term affair with Stella—in fact, it was he who bought the boarding house for her to run ten years ago when her acting days were over. Stella’s chess-fiend husband Tom (Mander), likewise an ex-actor—he boasts he once played the aunt in Charley’s Aunt—is oblivious to the pair’s shenanigans even after a decade. On the other hand, Stella is equally oblivious to the fact that her lover Joe has been canoodling on the side with Lucy.

shadows-on-the-stairs-2-lucy-startled-by-goings-on

Lucy (Phyllis Barry) is startled by various goings-on.

Also living in the house are Miss Phoebe Marcia St. John Snell (Field)—“I usually leave out the Marcia”—a spinster who sublimates her unmentionable yearnings by reading an endless string of fevered romance novels; and a young, would-be playwright, Hugh Bromilow (Lester). Hugh is carrying on with Stella’s daughter Sylvia (Angel), but at least for the moment in what we might call Continue reading

Deadly Duo (1962)

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Identical twins, one a sweet young widow and the other a sexpot stripper, and the fortune that only one of them wants!

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US / 69 minutes / bw / Harvard, UA Dir: Reginald LeBorg Pr: Robert E. Kent Scr: Owen Harris Story: The Deadly Duo (1959) by Richard Jessup Cine: Gordon Avil Cast: Craig Hill, Marcia Henderson, Robert Lowery, Dayton Lummis, Carlos Romero, Irene Tedrow, David Renard, Marco Antonio, Peter Oliphant.

Deadly Duo - 0 opener

Racecar driver Robby Spence dies in a spectacular crash. A month later, unsuccessful California lawyer Preston “Pres” Morgan (Hill) is recruited for a mysterious task by highly successful corporate attorney Thorne Fletcher (Lummis), acting on behalf of the mighty Spence Industries—or, more accurately, for that company’s steely owner, Leonora Spence (Tedrow). Leonora was appalled when, a few years ago, her late son Robby married Sabena Corwen (Henderson), one half of the dancing act The Corwen Sisters, the other half being Sabena’s identical twin sister Dara (Henderson again). The irate mother cut her son off without a penny. Now she wants to take her grandson, Billy (Oliphant), from Sabena and raise him herself as future CEO of Spence Industries. Pres’s task is to take a contract to Acapulco, where Sabena and Billy live, offering the mother $500,000 to relinquish all rights in the child.

Deadly Duo - 1 Leonora is initially suspecious of Pres

Leonora (Irene Tedrow) is initially suspicious of Pres.

There’s a quite effective scene in which Pres, his righteous indignation roused, tells Leonora firmly what she can do with her offer of employment, that he would never stoop so low as to collaborate in what he sees as the buying and selling of an infant . . . then discovers that his fee for the service will be $50,000.

Arrived in Acapulco, Pres goes to Sabena’s home. There he meets not just Sabena but twin sister Dara and Dara’s husband Jay Flagg (Lowery). There he marvels over the fact that the two sisters are not just beautiful but so very identical except that Sabena has shortish brunette hair while Dara has longer blonde hair. He soon notices, too, that there are behavioral differences between the rather prim Sabena and the clumsily vamping Dara.

Deadly Duo - 2a Nasty . . .

Naughty Marcia Henderson . . .

Deadly Duo - 2b . . . or Nice[Q] -- sisters Dara and Sabena

. . . or nice Marcia Henderson?

Sabena refuses Leonora’s contract point-blank—no way is she going to give up her son—and throws him out of the house.

This is to the huge displeasure of Jay and Dara, who desperately need the money. After the breakup of The Corwen Sisters, Dara struggled along on her own as best she could, which Continue reading