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).

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Illegal (1932)

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Are there no bounds to a mother’s love?
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UK / 71 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: William McGann Pr & Story: Irving Asher Scr: Roland Pertwee Cine: Willard Van Enger Cast: Isobel Elsom, Ivor Barnard, D.E. Clarke-Smith (i.e., D.A. Clarke-Smith), Margot Grahame, Moira Lynd, Edgar Norfolk, Wally Patch, Margaret Damer, Joy Chatwin, Victor Fairley, Arthur Goullet, J. Lauriston, H. Heath, Hamilton Keene, Leo Raine.

Evelyn Dean (Elsom) has two small daughters, Ann and Dorothy (both uncredited), from her first marriage and a second husband, Franklyn (Clarke-Smith), who knocks her around and has spent all her savings on booze and the geegees. Now, emboldened by her loyal friend and neighbor Albert (Barnard), a waiter at a nearby nightclub, Evelyn has decided it’s time to throw Franklyn out—and throw him out she does, even giving him a one-way ticket she’s bought him for Cape Town:

Evelyn: “I haven’t much pride left, but I’d rather my children didn’t have the disgrace of a stepfather in jail.”

So off he goes.

Evelyn (Isobel Elsom) explains her problems to Albert (Ivor Barnard).

A few hours earlier, though, she paid off Franklyn’s bookie (Patch) with the last of her money, and the good-natured fellow told her he’d put the money on a horse, Scarecrow, running that day; any winnings beyond what Franklyn owed would be hers. And, sure enough, Scarecrow wins—and so does she: to the princely tune of £180!

Evelyn’s two daughters (both uncredited), for whom she’d sacrifice everything.

That’s enough for her to buy and renovate the niterie where Albert has been working but which has now closed down—because, Albert avers, its damnfool owners stuck to the law on gambling and after-hours drinking. Soon The Scarecrow, as Evelyn renames the club, is Continue reading

Touch of Larceny, A (1959)

UK-US / 93 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Guy Hamilton Pr: Ivan Foxwell Scr: Roger MacDougall, Guy Hamilton, Ivan Foxwell Story: The Megstone Plot (1956) by Andrew Garve Cine: John Wilcox Cast: James Mason, Vera Miles, George Sanders, Harry Andrews, Robert Flemyng, Ernest Clark, Duncan Lamont, Percy Herbert, Junia Crawford, William Kendall, Peter Barkworth, MacDonald Parke, Mavis Villiers, Jimmy Lloyd, Barbara Hicks, William Mervyn, Dickie Owen, Basil Dignam, John Le Mesurier, Gordon Harris.

Touch of Larceny - 0 opener

In London, ex-submariner Commander Max Easton (Mason), known as “Rammer” Easton in his war-hero days, is now stuck in a seat-warming job at the Admiralty, where he idles his way through his so-called working hours before evening comes and he can practice his main hobby, seduction.

Touch of Larceny - 1 Max, as busy as he ever gets at the AdmiraltyMax (James Mason), as busy as he ever gets at the Admiralty.

One day at his squash club he runs into someone he recognizes, Charles Holland (Sanders), who during the war saved Max’s life at some stage and is now a high muck-a-muck in the diplomatic service; Charles also wallows in his inherited wealth, is a complete snob and prig, and is engaged to a beautiful US widow, Virginia Killain (Miles). On first sight of Virginia, Max is completely smitten, but she’s immune to his various wiles and Continue reading

Candlelight in Algeria (1944)

UK / 84 minutes / bw / George King, British Aviation, British Lion Dir: George King Pr: John Stafford Scr: Brock Williams, Katherine Strueby, John Clements Story: Dorothy Hope Cine: Otto Heller Cast: James Mason, Carla Lehmann, Raymond Lovell, Enid Stamp Taylor, Walter Rilla, Pamela Stirling, Lea Seidl, Sybilla Binder, Hella Kurty, Paul Bonifas, Leslie Bradley, Harold Berens, Cot D’Ordan, Richard George, Meinhart Maur, Jacques Metadier, Michel Morel, Bart Norman, Richard Molinas, MacDonald Parke, Graham Penley, Albert Whelan.

Candlelight in Algeria - 0 scensetter

Although this is often listed as a war movie, it’s barely more so than, say, CASABLANCA (1942), which was set in roughly the same place, time and circumstances: North Africa; 1942; in theory the war hasn’t yet spread here but in practice the various forces are jostling for advantage preparatory to what they know is coming. It’s odd that two movies so highly dissimilar should share the same basic elements. Continue reading

Twice Branded (1936)

vt Father and Son

UK / 68 minutes / bw / George Smith, Nettlefold, Radio Pictures Dir: Maclean Rogers Pr: George Smith Scr: Kathleen Butler, H.F. Maltby Story: “Trouble in the House” (n.d.) by Anthony Richardson Cine: Geoffrey Faithfull Cast: Robert Rendel, Ethel Griffies, James Mason, Lucille Lisle, Eve Gray, Mickey Brantford, Neville Brook, Michael Ripper.

Twelve years ago Henry Hamilton (Rendel), deceived and defrauded by a crooked business partner who left him holding the can, was sent to prison. Now his time’s up, to the intense embarrassment of snobbish wife Etta (Griffies) and elder daughter Sylvia (Gray) as well as his whizzkid businessman son, also called Henry (Mason), who’ve been living on the legitimately earned portion of his fortune and telling the world that he died. On his release the trio persuade him to hide that he’s a jailbird and pretend he’s a black sheep brother of himself, Charles, who has for many years lived in South America; the only family member not in on this deception is the youngest, Betty (Lisle), who’s also the only one who treats “Uncle Charles” like a human being rather than an inconvenient presence.

Etta is refusing to let Betty marry her true love, inventor Dennis Hill (Brantford), because he’s a mere garage mechanic; by movie’s end “Uncle Charles” has sorted that out. Also, on discovering that son Henry’s business partner, now calling himself Marcus Leadbetter (Brook), is the same swindler who landed Henry Sr. in prison and is in the process of pulling off an identical trick on Henry Jr., “Uncle Charles” decides he’d be better off back inside than among this nest of shallow, narcissistic, mean-spirited vipers, and takes the rap for his son.

More social satire than protonoir (and certainly not the “prison melodrama” it’s sometimes listed as), this has quite a few comedy routines interspersed among the rest, some quite funny, others drearily labored; among the latter are those featuring, in only his third role, legendary character actor Michael Ripper as a stage thespian slumming it as a stand-in butler.

Mason would of course go on to become one of cinema’s great stars, often playing the same kind of self-serving but ultimately redeemable cad that he does here. Lisle and Brantford, who display a fair degree of charm as the unassuming young lovers, were less fortunate. The Australian-born Lisle, unlucky in her choices of movies, eventually opted for a moderately successful stage and radio career, retiring relatively young in the late 1950s. Brantford would make just a few more movies before leaving the industry after Darby and Joan (1937).