Slander House (1938)

US / 66 minutes / bw / Progressive Dir: Charles Lamont Pr: B.N. Judell Scr: Gertrude Orr, John W. Krafft Story: Scandal House (1933) by Madeline Woods Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Adrianne Ames (i.e., Adrienne Ames), Craig Reynolds, Esther Ralston, George Meeker, Pert Kelton, William Newell, Dorothy Vaughn, Edward Keane, Vivien Oakland, Ruth Gillette, Mary Field, Robert Homans, Blanche Payson.

Once upon a tine she was plain Helen Smith from NYC’s 10th Avenue, but now she’s Madame Helene (Ames), proprietrix of the swanky Helene’s Rejuvenating Salon on Park Avenue. She’s comfortably engaged to prominent society physician Herbert Stallings (Meeker), and she looks set to ascend to the ranks of the glitterati.

But then fast-talking cad-about-town Pat Fenton (Reynolds) walks into her salon and her life, and from there on things can never be the same for her.

Adrienne Ames as Madame Helene.

Progressive Pictures was a Poverty Row studio whose business model was to release B-features with salacious titles yet relatively innocuous contents. This one’s not just SFW but safe for screening to the average pre-school group, although they might find it a trifle boring. (Except for the bit with the monkey. The bit with the monkey is more or less guaranteed to set pre-school kids and Three Stooges fans a-chuckle.) A slight puzzle here is that Continue reading

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Women in the Night (1948)

vt When Men Are Beasts; vt Curse of a Teenage Nazi; vt Captured
US / 92 minutes / bw / Ansell, Film Classics, Republic Dir & Story: William Rowland Pr: Louis K. Ansell Scr: Maude Emily Glass, Ali M. Ipar, Robert St. Clair, Edwin V. Westrate, Arthur Jones, Louis K. Ansell Cine: Eugen Shuftan, Jose Ortiz Ramos Cast: Tala Birell, William Henry, Richard Loo, Virginia Christine, Bernadine Hayes (i.e., Bernadene Hayes), Gordon Richards, Frances Chung, Jean Brooks, Kathy Frye, Helen Mowery, Benson Fong, Helen Brown, Frederick Giermann, Phillip Ahn, Arno Frey, Beal Wong, Iris Flores, Frederic Brunn, Harry Hays Morgan, Paula Allen, Joy Gwynell, William Yetter Sr., Noel Cravat, Paul Ander.

How could your humble correspondent resist a movie that has the variant title Curse of a Teenage Nazi?

Germany has already lost the war in Europe, but the Pacific war rages on. In Shanghai, the German army maintains its officers’ club—complete with white crosses on the roof to deceived Allied bombers—as well as its hopes that the Reich might yet emerge triumphant, thanks to a secret weapon called (I’m going to get this over with early) the Cosmic Ray.

Virginia Christine as Claire Adams and Frances Chung as Li Ling.

(Look, aside from the idiotic naming of the Sekrit Wepping, this is quite a nifty little movie, all right?)

Obviously, given the situation, the Germans have to keep the Japanese sweet, so Colonel Von Meyer (Richards), the top local Nazi, promises Continue reading

A Woman’s Vengeance (1948)

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Beware of stormy weather!
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US / 96 minutes / bw / Universal–International Dir & Pr: Zoltan Korda Scr: Aldous Huxley Story: “The Gioconda Smile” (1921 in Mortal Coils) by Aldous Huxley Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Charles Boyer, Ann Blyth, Jessica Tandy, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Mildred Natwick, Cecil Humphreys, Hugh French, Rachel Kempson, Valerie Cardew, Carl Harbord, John Williams, Leland Hodgson, Ola Lorraine, Harry Cording.

Perhaps surprisingly, bearing in mind the authorship of its screenplay—and bearing in mind its dialogue’s predilection for wandering off into little philosophical digressions—this is a movie where it’s probably best to leave one’s brain at the door. Experienced in the moment, so to speak, it’s hugely impressive, with some sterling performances, dramatic visuals and moments of great emotional power, all underscored (if you’ll pardon the pun) by a typically tidal orchestral soundtrack by Miklos Rosza. Yet, under the most perfunctory analysis, parts of it don’t really make sense and/or are quite clumsy.

Ann Blyth as Doris Mead.

There’s a strong suspicion at large that bon vivant and art connoisseur Henry Maurier (Boyer) married his wife Emily (Kempson) solely for her fortune. It’s a suspicion that the man’s own behavior doesn’t support, even though it appears he has a habit of pursuing other women and is currently enmeshed in a longstanding affair with Doris Mead (Blyth), a mere slip of a girl who—she’s just 18—could easily be his daughter, or even granddaughter.

Charles Boyer as Henry Maurier.

The one woman at whom he seems never to have made a pass is, perhaps surprisingly, Janet Spence (Tandy), whom Henry took under his wing when Continue reading

Tarnished (1950)

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The war between small-town hypocrisy and a reformed sinner’s integrity!
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US / 64 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Harry Keller Scr: John K. Butler Story: Turn Home (1945) by Eleanor R. Mayo Cine: John MacBurnie Cast: Dorothy Patrick, Arthur Franz, Barbra Fuller, James Lydon, Harry Shannon, Don Beddoe, Byron Barr, Alex Gerry, Hal Price, Stephen Chase, Esther Somers, Paul E. Burns, Ethel Wales, Michael Vallon, Everett Glass.

tarnished-0

On their way home to the small town of Harbor, Maine, after a night out, the dangerous driving of Joe Pettigrew (Barr) terrifies his girlfriend, Lou Jellison (Patrick). Once they’ve lost a pursuing speed cop, she seizes the keys and insists on driving the rest of the way. During the changeover a hitchhiker, Bud Dolliver (Franz), begs a lift.

tarnished-1-joe-appals-lou-with-his-crazy-driving

Joe (Byron Barr) appalls Lou (Dorothy Patrick) with his crazy driving.

Bud has been absent from Harbor for seven years, seven years during which the locals have assumed he was in jail—after all, he’d been a wild one before his departure. Just about no one wants him back, a major exception being his old girlfriend Nina (Fuller). He encounters Nina at Barron’s Beer Parlor in town, and she immediately dumps her escort, Junior Bunker (Lydon), in favor of Bud; she makes it absolutely clear she’d like it if she and Bud could pick up where they left off, and Continue reading

Strange Adventure, A (1932)

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An old dark house and a hooded figure, oo-er!
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vt The Wayne Murder Case
US / 60 minutes / bw / Chadwick, Monogram Dir: Phil Whitman Pr: I.E. Chadwick Scr: Lee Chadwick, Hampton Del Ruth Story: Arthur Hoerl Cine: Leon Shamroy Cast: Regis Toomey, June Clyde, Lucille La Verne, Jason Robards Sr, William V. Mong, Eddie Phillips, Dwight Frye, Nadine Dore, Alan Roscoe, Isabelle Vecki, Harry Myers, Eddie Chandler, Snowflake.

A Strange Adventure - closer

Vile old plutocrat Silas Wayne (Mong) is, though still mobile, nearing death. Unmarried, he brings all his nieces and nephews together in his home for a pre-mortem reading of his will. Before the great performance, however, his nephew and secretary Claude Wayne (Phillips) opens the old man’s hidden safe—all the family seems to know where this is, and how to get into it whenever they want to!—and scans the provisions of the will. One of these concerns the housekeeper, Miss Sheen (La Verne):

“To her and her children I leave the Candor diamond, in the hope it will continue to be an evil omen!”

Another relates to his married niece Sarah Boulter (Vecki), who’s to get $100,000 upon the birth of her first child—a prime example of the old man’s psychological sadism because, as we find, he well knew that Continue reading

Phantom Speaks, The (1945)

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What possessed him to commit murder?
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US / 69 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: John English Pr: Donald H. Brown Scr: John K. Butler Cine: William Bradford Cast: Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts, Tom Powers, Charlotte Wynters, Jonathan Hale, Pierre Watkin, Marian Martin (i.e., Marion Martin), Garry Owen, Ralf Harolde, Doreen McCann, Joseph Granby, Bob Alden, Charles Sullivan.

The Phantom Speaks - closer

It begins, as so many stories do, in a park. Frankie Teal (Harolde) is there, having come in response to a note from his mistress:

“Frankie:
Harvey out of town. Meet me in the park at noon. Usual place. Important.
Betty.”

But the person who meets Frankie isn’t Betty at all: it’s Harvey Bogardus (Powers), Betty’s husband and a ruthless self-made man. He Continue reading

Midnight’s Child (1992 TVM)

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Kate’s not wanted any more,
Gonna throw her out the door.
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US / 89 minutes / color with some bw / Victoria Principal, Jeff Myrow–David Gottlieb, Polone, Hearst Dir: Colin Bucksey Pr: Kimberly Myers Scr: David Chaskin Story: Jeff Myrow, David N. Gottlieb, David Chaskin Cine: Anthony B. Richmond Cast: Marcy Walker, Cotter Smith, Olivia d’Abo, Elissabeth Moss, Jim Norton, Judy Parfitt, Roxann Biggs (i.e., Roxann Dawson), Mary Larkin, Jeff Nowinski, Pierrette Grace, Nicole Prochnik, Jake Jacobs, Matt Corey, Stephanie Shroyer, Beth Bjork.

Midnight's Child - 0 opener

For most of its running time this rather neat made-for-television movie presents itself as a psychological thriller, an interesting riff on the likes of The HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992), but in the later stages it fairly abruptly morphs into something quite different.

It’s the end of term at the Roman Catholic St. Helena Akademy in Stockholm, and young Anna Bergman (Grace) has fixed up a job as an au pair in distant California. On her final night at the school she gets a note from her room-mate, Kirsten Grossbaum (d’Abo), asking to meet in the science lab for a surprise. The surprise is that Kirsten beats her over the head with a pestle, then organizes a gas explosion so that Anna is burnt to unrecognizability. Using Anna’s passport and a knack for disguise, Kirsten then flies out to take Anna’s place as au pair to high-powered executive Kate Cowan (Walker) and her struggling-professional-illustrator husband Nick (Smith), looking after their nearly-eight-year-old daughter Christina “Chrissy” (Moss).

Midnight's Child - 1 The real Anna Bergman (Pierrette Grace)

 The real Anna Bergman (Pierrette Grace).

Midnight's Child - 2 Kirsten looks back at the mayhem she's caused

Kirsten (Olivia d’Abo) looks back at the mayhem she’s caused.

“Anna” has a fearsome first day, the breaking of the washing machine being the highlight. Kate manages, however, to 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

Swamp Woman (1941)

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A jailbird on the run and a burlesque dancer meet treachery in the swampy vastness!

US / 68 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: Elmer Clifton Pr: George R. Batcheller, Max Alexander, George M. Merrick Scr: Arthur G. Durlam Story: Fred McConnell Cine: Eddie Linden Cast: Ann Corio, Jack La Rue, Mary Hull, Ian MacDonald, Jay Novello, Richard Deane, Lois Austin, Earl Gunn, Guy Wilkerson, Jimmy Aubrey, Carlin Sturdevant, Ernie Adams, Frank Hagney.

Swamp Woman - 0 opener

Our tale begins with a preamble that sets the scene:

“Nearly three hundred years ago, a proud and self-reliant people founded a community within the swampy vastness of the deep south. Today, the descendants of the founders maintain traditional independence, many even choosing to ignore the world beyond their barricade of swamp waters.”

Heading into this swampy vastness is a runaway convict, Jeff Carter (Deane), hotly pursued by a rifle-toting Detective-Lieutenant Rance (MacDonald), who wears a marshal’s star for reasons I can’t quite fathom, plus an unnamed guard (Hagney) and a pack of dogs that (presumably for budgetary reasons) we never see but just hear plaintively howling. Says Rance:

“There may be a hundred villages yonder, but if it takes from now ’til doomsday I’ll search them all to find Jeff Carter, and unless he makes a foolish move I’ll bring him in alive . . . but, dead or alive, I’ll bring him in.”

Swamp Woman - 1 Rance tells the guard that 'dead or alive, I'll bring him in'

Detective-Lieutenant Rance (Ian MacDonald) tells the guard (Frank Hagney) that “dead or alive, I’ll bring him in”!

Jeff runs many a mile, swims a river, struggles through undergrowth and is just about dead on his feet when he at last reaches some human habitation, the cabin of sparky young bride-to-be Elizabeth “Lizbet” Tollington (Hull). She’s been told by local wise-woman Granny Grundy (Sturdevant) of a superstition that, Continue reading

Heartaches (1947)

Here’s a very shy contribution to this splendid endeavor:

US / 71 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: Basil Wrangell Pr: Marvin D. Stahl Scr: George Bricker Story: Monty F. Collins, Julian I. Peyser Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Sheila Ryan, Edward Norris, Chill Wills, Kenneth Farrell, James Seay, Frank Orth, Chili Williams, Al LaRue, Charles Mitchell, Phyllis Planchard, Ann Staunton, Arthur Space, Keefe Brasselle, Edward Earle, Terry Moore, Minerva Urecal, Mack Williams.

Heartaches 0a

Vic Morton (Farrell) is the latest singing sensation to come to Hollywood, having signed a contract with Majestic Studios. In a very interesting opening sequence to this movie, we’re shown, after a brief account of Hollywood, the trailer for Vic’s first movie, also called Heartaches, as supposedly projected inside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. He sings the popular 1931 title song (music by Al Hoffman, lyrics by John Klenner) while languidly romancing an unnamed blonde (Moore).

Heartaches 0b

Cut to a while later. Heartaches has been a big success and Majestic is pushing ahead with Vic’s next vehicle, Broadway Ballad. We discover almost immediately a carefully guarded secret: Vic can’t sing. That mellifluous tenor voice emanates from his regular accompanist, songwriter and old band friend, the homely-faced “Bogey” Mann (Wills), with the handsome Vic merely lip-synching. The pair are rehearsing in the company of publicist Toni Wentworth (Ryan) when the secret is almost blown wide open: into the Continue reading