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Invisible Invaders (1959)
SEE John Carradine blow up! SEE John Agar wish he'd blow up! SEE why Plan 9 From Outer Space ISN'T the worst movie ever made!
Carradine exploding in his lab at the start of this thing truly is a hilarious moment, and the film threatens constantly to tell us its tongue is in its cheek, but in the end the producers and director keep it within the boundaries of dour seriousness and quite possibly the worst movie of all time is the result. Mind bogglingly stupid on a mind bogglingly low budget with once respectable actors whose careers mind bogglingly came to this kind of pathetic dead end. A cult classic this should be for its kitschy awfulness and quotable bad lines. Plan 9 from Outer Space and Ed Wood unfairly get the rap for worst movie ever made. There are worse out there, Earthings. Keep watching the skies!
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Shane Black really hit his stride with this mindless regurgitation of his own Lethal Weapon. Did he actually write this script with a word processor or wipe it out of his butt on a role of toilet paper? There are more unnecessary F bombs in this than there are flying bullets, crashing cars and plot holes combined. Only, unlike a film say like Get Shorty, there is very little wit to go with the endless profanity. Sure, teenage boys and IQ-challenged redneck men - and of course Quentin Tarantino - will have found Willis and Wayans' profane quips and one liners hilarious, but I just found it to be tiresome and stupidly unnecessary dialogue. Especially when the kid is spewing it. Nice touch there by all involved.
But then again, the whole movie was unnecessary spew. Stupid plot to do with corruption in pro football and politics, familial dysfunction, infidelity, and a couple of gun packing losers caught in the middle of it all conspires to make one of the most implausible, noisy, badly filmed and edited action crapfests of all time. Tony Scott can bite me with his pumped up, testosterone charged, colored light filtered, sloppy direction and camera-work. And Shane Black can bite me twice for the hackneyed piece of crap he called a script.
Bruce Willis just bites in general. I normally miss most of the stuff he's in because he just doesn't give a damn about how bad a script is before he signs on, but sometimes I need a movie fix and there's nothing on but swill like this.
I've always thought Willis looks a lot in some pictures like Dick Powell when Powell starred in those classic hard-boiled film noirs of the 40's and 50's such as Murder, My Sweet and Cry Danger. And someone must have told Willis that on the set because he's pretty much doing a Powell imitation here, though the dialogue often lets him down.
The dialogue in those Powell noirs was consistently crisp, tough and hip, and spoken accordingly by actors who had talent. In The Last Boy Scout writer Black is so desperately wanting to emulate that kind of snazzy dialogue that he often paints himself into a corner, ending up handing Willis or Wayans an adolescent howler to finish off a back and forth. But then, amid the endless assault of profanity, who really noticed?
I won't even get into the disturbing misogyny littered throughout this waste of film. A most unenjoyable night at the movies. Why isn't there a -10 rating option?
Little Caesar (1931)
Robinson bumps it a notch above mediocre
One of Warner Bros' prototypical gangster flicks, released the same year as The Public Enemy that still stands out for Eddie G's bold and in-your-face turn as the vicious mug of the title. The film itself though shows and sounds its age more than most from the era and at times is a slow moving bore. This came very soon after the transfer to sound pictures and most of the actors show it, suffering from a languid, ponderous delivery that holds the picture up in several scenes but never seems to hamper Robinson.
The short statured star bulls his way through the unassured cast just like his character bulls his way to the top of the criminal empire - determined, abrasive, cocksure, miserable and not to be denied. It really is an early tour de force for Robinson, eminently quotable and much imitated. Forever a cinematic icon.
But it's far from a perfect picture. The structure is flimsy and Rico has no depth coming from the direction or script, just what Robinson gives him. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. will have probably written his performance off in this out of embarrassment by 1933, and ditto for Glenda Farrell who did much better work later on.
The film's strengths are its visual style, at times very inventive, and Robinson's performance, culminating in his dying words stolen no doubt at gunpoint from Nero 'Is this the end of Rico?'
A famous picture and worth seeing, but Cagney and Harlow in the Public Enemy is probably your best bet of the two.
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Once Upon a Time in the Ripped-off West
The Good: Interesting visuals and a great western town set. Plus Russell Crowe gives a capable early performance in a two dimensional role.
The Bad: Gene Hackman is still stuck in Big Whiskey playing Little Bill Daggett. The story, an antithesis of Unforgiven's thoughtful study of the consequences of gunplay and the blowhard 'legends' born of it, doesn't amount to much more than a circle jerk for pro gun enthusiasts. I guess in the wake of Unforgiven it was inevitable Hollywood would restore the bullcrap mythology of the the old west and make guns and killing cool again. But the narrative here is weak and the presentation exceptionally cartoonish, and the less than subtle derivations from High Noon to Sergio Leone transcend homage, landing squarely in uninspired rip-off territory. The flashback revelation especially is so derivative of Once Upon a Time in the West you expect the camera to pull back from Stone's and Hackman's eyes to reveal Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson squaring off. It's all only fitting somehow though seeing how Once Upon a Time in the West was itself a rip-off of a dozen or so Hollywood westerns of the 40's and 50's.
The Ugly: Sharon Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio make this film nearly unwatchable. If either can act there is no evidence of it here. Stone is pathetic in her tight leather pants and over-the-top duster, trying too hard to ape Clint Eastwood's cool while she swaggers about and snarls some appallingly dull one-liners. DiCaprio is the most annoying and unbelievable element of the piece though, his babyish voice and overdone cockiness just have you cheering for him to bite the dust long before he actually does. This guy is one terrible actor and I'm unanimous in that.
Barely worth a look for its good points, this flick is mostly junk.
The Return of the Vampire (1943)
You'd almost swear Ed Wood made it
Actually, I take that back. Nothing of Ed Wood's I've seen was this bad. This is the height of horror schlock, a thinly veiled continuation of sorts to Universal's Dracula released by Columbia. Pulling out all the stops in creating the mood of a Universal chiller, you could almost say it was an unfunny attempt at parody. Unfunny anyway in that the director and stars are playing it serious, some of the lines in this are howlers.
Bela Lugosi, that one note wacko from Hamsylvania, is on hand reprising his famous Count though this time with a new name & MO, and a werewolf valet in a suit running his errands. Is it just me, or did Lugosi play Dracula in everything he was ever in? It just seems like it I guess.
Anyway, the script here is strictly a hack job tailored by Columbia for Lugosi in order to make a little easy cash at the box office. The story is ridiculous and full of holes and none of the acting is above the cheese shelf. Nina Foch shows why she became essentially a character actress in the 50's and 60's.
The show is all Lugosi, God help us, with the assistance of a half dozen fog generators and his aforementioned wolf boy. If you like 4th rate crapfests that aren't nearly as funny as Plan 9 From Outer Space, you'll love this.
Hell Is for Heroes (1962)
No better than your average episode of 'Combat!'
I was really disappointed in this WW2 'actioner'. Took me years to finally see it and it almost put me to sleep half way in. By the end I was shaking my head at the awfulness of some of it, especially McQueen's heroic sacrifice at the window of the German pillbox. By the time it happens, Mcqueen had long since bled my patience. It seemed like a vanity role for him, almost Chuck Norris-like in his insistence we watch his every move while forbidding us to ask why his character is so damned shallow.
Who is McQueen in this picture? Who cares. None of the characters had a modicum of depth or realism, but McQueen stands out as much for his laconic overacting, looking most of the picture like he's sullen because he's constipated, as he stands out because he headlines the marquee.
Bob Newhart too is most annoying as the clerk who is enlisted on the spot to help win the battle. It's obvious now where the Upham character in Saving Private Ryan was born. But Newhart isn't just a meek little paper pusher who battles his own inner weaknesses, he's also Bob Newhart, comedian under fire. The famed (and not so funny) one sided telephone routine he did as a stand-up comic throughout the 60's unfortunately is written into the script here and it's as out of place as Nick Adams playing an unexplained Pole.
James Coburn comes away with the best performance in the film, albeit he has little screen time. Bobby Darin is just average, and Fess Parker couldn't act his way out of a burning foxhole. It's a lengthy wait for some action in this as well. Lots of talk early on, and go nowhere scenes that show us McQueen is a complex, tough, cool customer but, again, who cares because we learn absolutely nothing about the man. This film is strictly mediocre TV production quality all the way.
The Bad Man (1941)
I don't know if I'll ever see another Wallace Beery picture as bad as this one. I hope not, but I'm sure he made some other dogs. Usually Beery can be counted on to bring the laughs, and do something memorable with his character.
Beery's is not the worst performance in this piece (that distinction belongs to Lionel Barrymore, obviously loathe to be in this production and cantankerously chewing the scenery with noisy and irritating aplomb like nowhere else on his filmography) but he offers little more than updating his Pancho Villa schtick from Viva Villa. Not much originality or send-up in his performance and he doesn't even appear until around the 30 minute mark. He does look cartoonishly amusing galloping away with the Mexican Federales in hot pursuit though.
This really isn't a funny comedy or a watchable western. At 70 minutes it feels overlong. Everyone stands in one spot and talks endlessly, Ronald Reagan does the hero bit with his usual one dimensional panache, Barrymore won't shut up, and the oppressive sepia tone this was shot in kind of makes you queasy by the end. Chill Wills at least is his usual lovable self as Reagan's sidekick.
Definitely not a Beery classic
The epitome of Spielbergian excess
It had been 24 years since I last saw this, when it was in theatres, and I thought I'd take another look at it tonight on TCM. Back in 1982 this picture was the other horror thrillride to come out along with John Carpenter's re-make of The Thing. I saw the Thing again a couple of years ago only to find it a little dated and flimsy though the SFX and some suspense scenes still had impact.
Poltergeist? Nothing has held its impact with this film, a cheap carnival ride that the years haven't been kind to. The SFX is shoddy, the suspense non existent, and it amounts to little more than Spielberg (and Toby Hooper too as the story goes) hurling everything including the kitchen sink at the screen in an attempt to scare the audience.
In 1982 I was young enough to not care about a structured storyline, set-up and hadn't yet seen films like Rear Window to teach me that horror and suspense pictures don't require a shock a minute, gory slime, and a lot of noise and flickering lights to make you squirm in your seat. So naturally I ignorantly came out of the theatre with my friends awe-stricken at what I'd just seen.
Spielberg went with the visceral over-the-top approach, the glossy blockbuster with his usual gimmicks hopeful for a McDonald's tie-in, and any value this film had as a result has long since faded. It's just not scary or shocking anymore. If anything it's ridiculously overdone and tiresome. I'm surprised he never shot it in 3D what with all the flying objects and in your face effects.
I love most of Spielberg's films, many of them go over the top as well, but this one was Spielberg in overdose mode, out of control with no regard in any way, shape or form for self restraint.
International Velvet (1978)
This flop never stood a chance of succeeding without Elizabeth Taylor's involvement, and if Liz ever saw this script she probably read 10 pages and winged it out the window with a noxious chuckle. What is meant to be a continuation of National Velvet, one of the best movies of the 1940's, is really a typical piece of slapdash 70's cinema. Any ties this story has to the original National Velvet, you feel, were contrived in re-writes to try and cash in in on some kind of marquee recognition. A film about equestrian riding starring Tatum O'Neal circa 1978 was only going to appeal to horse lovers and 12 year old girls.
The story is hardly even or focused. The running time of 127 minutes could have been trimmed by at least a half hour to get rid of a pointless would-be romantic subplot, a potential gang rape, and about 15 minutes of endless riding shots (supposedly set at the Olympics of 1980, but the producers use footage from the 1974 opening ceremonies in Munich).
Nanette Newman is adequate as Velvet Brown but her involvement in the story offers little more than comforting moral support for the first half of the film. She and beau Christopher Plummer are pretty much left behind when trainer Anthony Hopkins comes on the scene. Hopkins does a decent job with his role but still doesn't manage to breathe into the production more than a flicker of life. O'Neal is utterly cold and unsympathetic as the plucky teenage heroine. And like the pseudo-named author he creates in the film, Plummer phones his over-cheery performance in from long distance to collect a pay check.
The only thing this film has really going for it other than Hopkins is the scenery.
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Cary Grant made his share of misfires and duds but this could very well be the worst stinker on his filmography, even worse than Sylvia Scarlett. Pairing him with Ginger Rogers was a good decision, both were so sharp wit and comic-wise that you think there'd be no way they would be left floundering in a completely bad comedy. Well, 'left floundering' is a polite way of putting it. Ditto calling this a comedy.
Let down by an overlong, unfunny, contrived and imbalanced script, and poor direction by Leo McCarey (who hit the mark with The Awful Truth but missed with the other Grant films he directed), poor Cary and Ginger try as they might to make something work here, but it's a lost cause. The film flatlines about 10 minutes in, and ONLY the presence of these two bright stars accounts for the two stars I'm giving it.
The routine anti-Nazi propaganda speeches still resonate, but any attempt to be funny in such a downbeat atmosphere is really an uphill climb. Not one laugh results, even though a sight gag or two might have hilariously come off in a different, less dour film. RKO's attempts too to blend Hollywood glamour against the backdrop of nazi destruction is woefully miscalculated.
This is really a surreal picture. A bad dream. Give it a look if you haven't yet seen it, but be prepared to feel yourself getting catatonic before it finally ends.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
A masterpiece, if you like having your intelligence insulted
This could be the definitive example of style over substance, a film that seems to so entrance everyone with its artistic direction that they're completely blind to the slipshod screenplay and terrible acting. There are more plot holes in this incredibly over-praised fiasco than a sieve peppered with buckshot. And that's not to mention the over the top cheesiness of it all.
Mitchum chews more scenery in this than in all of his other films combined. His portrayal of a religion-twisted psychopath on the trail of stolen money is not a very good performance no matter what the reviews say. The script makes it far too easy for him to worm his way into the picture and there are more than a few moments in this where you wonder how his character could possibly be that obvious and stupid and still pull the wool over people's eyes. A condemnation of the stupidity of the misguided faithful I guess, but still, it never feels credible.
Visually the film does have its fair share of nice touches, though it seems more like Charles Laughton was trying to be Murnau or Pabst to the point of straining himself. It's the story here, with its far too many flaws in logic and ridiculous characters that just doesn't cut the mustard. I'm sorry, film connoiseurs, but this is a bad movie. Another top 250 classic that has no business being there.
Two-Faced Woman (1941)
I've never understood the appeal of Garbo. She always comes across in her films as stuck up, not all that alluring, and that annoying voice that could have drowned out the tuba section. She was also a very limited actress, like Gloria Swanson far better off left in the silent era. In this her last film, her performance is very average and even unassured. She tries hard but it all comes to nothing because the script is even worse than her acting.
A would be screwball romcom that is never once believable and never gets off the ground (even though Melvyn Douglas manages to get airborne in the skiing scenes, which are really the only amusing thing here).
There was potential but the script fails in almost every department, wasting every actor in it. Douglas and Garbo had good enough chemistry together but this one isn't even a spot on Ninotchka, which I also found to be extremely overrated.
Rooster Cogburn (1975)
Better than True Grit
Don't get me wrong, True Grit is a good western and worthy of its classic status, but I've always found John Wayne's first go round as Rooster Cogburn to be uneven, at times colorfully into character but just as often just playing John Wayne. He won his only Oscar for it of course, but he hadn't yet completely found ol' Rooster's voice.
In this sequel co starring Katharine Hepburn, the Duke has every aspect of Rooster down pat. The scenes he and Hepburn share, trading their philosophies and anecdotes while they come to know and admire (and platonically fall in love with) each other is the engine of this film. Forget the plot, it's passable enough but very much secondary, this story gets along strictly on the strength of the two lead characters and it's worth seeing again and again just to watch these two Hollywood legends banter and spar in their one and only movie together.
This was the first John Wayne film I ever saw in a movie theatre (I was 9 years old in 1975) and it made me a lifelong fan. This is easily one of his most entertaining adventures. Hepburn and Wayne together is even more fun than Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen. A timeless treasure.
Wild Rovers (1971)
Blake Edwards' only western. Thank god
Blake Edwards must have had a huge ego after the success of The Pink Panther. What else possessed him to try his hand at a genre that was beyond him in so many ways. This film is so self indulgent on behalf of the writer-director, you can almost hear him in every scene praising his brilliance. Brilliant it ain't. Though it looks nice and shows off some beautiful scenery, this film is slow, OVERLONG, unfocused, mostly pointless and very badly acted by everyone but maybe William Holden (still not stellar) and Victor French. Ryan O'Neal is as miserably out of his depth here as Edwards, a performance that never gets off your nerves. Holden basically carries him throughout every scene they share.
The story? Almost non existent. Two cow punchers decide on a whim to rob a bank (just about the dullest 25 minute bank robbery in history), then go on the trot to Mexico pursued by two characters played by Tom Skeritt and Joe Don Baker who really have no character development and have not much to do with anything. Along the way we're treated to endless tedious ambling over hill and dale and slow motion sequences that give you bad Antonioni flashbacks.
Forget the positive comments on here, this is one of the worst westerns you'll ever see unless you don't mind being bored senseless. Edwards has made a hash of most films he's directed (SOB and Victor/Victoria excluded), but this has to be one of his three worst. Ford or Peckinpah he isn't. A disaster all the way around.
Soldiers Three (1951)
Lazy MGM facsimile of Gunga Din
The cast tries hard to make a go of this entry into the British Raj in India genre, a genre which is still far and away dominated by RKO's Gunga Din released in 1939. Mostly it's a futile effort. The film comes up short on many levels. The screenplay isn't in the same league as the RKO classic and Stewart Granger, Robert Newton and Cyril Cusack are a pale shadow of Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Granger forces the issue constantly, trying to ape Cary Grant's performance in Gunga Din and it comes off primarily grating though he does have a few amusing moments.
The humor between the three is passable enough but Newton and Cusack just don't offer much chemistry or star power, and the script rarely gives them anything to do but banter at Granger and each other and down pints. David Niven, wasted in the role of a superior officer, would have been way better served to have been cast as one of the threesome instead of Cusack. Walter Pigeon, too, gives one of his clunkiest performances as the Colonel, much consternated British bluster is attempted but fails to be very humorous or believable.
The best sequence in the film is the brawl in the tavern with the Scottish soldiers, which is very much reminiscent of Gunga Din's opening, and the battle at the end is well staged and action packed, it just takes about 70 mostly wasted minutes to get there.
Overall the picture is not unentertaining, it has its moments but it's barely half the adventure masterpiece Gunga Din is.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Vile, endless, horrid
I've come to really despise Tarantino's films and everything he stands for artistically. He has a vast knowledge of movie history that he dishonors by embracing only the things that leave the line of decency in the dust at 500 mph. He's the Lord Master of perverted nerds the world over, and only perverted nerds elevate his crap to high status here on IMDb. No thinking human being who isn't lurid and disturbed at heart could find this repellent puddle of blood fetishism and wanton dismemberment a masterpiece of anything but gratuitous and unsettling rubbish. I had never wanted to see it, but a sprained foot and nothing else on TV prompted me to sit through it.
Too long, too over the top, too stupid, too twisted, too much ripping off of Leone/Morricone/Kurosawa and 100 bad Asian Kung Fu flicks that are the worst of the worst of anything calling itself cinema. I'm sick of Tarantino's one dimensional act. He steals dialogue, scenes and images from tons of different movies and morons who don't know the movies and have no clue of his tricks are sold into thinking they've seen some great, profound, original, hip piece of art. Well they haven't. It's dreck. Tarantino's an annoying and limited hack well past his 'sell by' date and this film is as base and putrid - and empty - a piece of crap that has ever been spewed onto celluloid.
A society who embraces this kind of satanic vomit is headed for a black hole. What's next Quentin? A blood dripping musical where a guy singin' in the rain gets anally raped by a Vietnamese version of the Dead End Kids then hunts them down one by one Charles Bronson style with a mystical meat cleaver made by ancient monks in Timbuktu? After being trained in a San Francisco dojo by Fabian? Your following of psychotic anti-social, bloody retro-pop nerds is probably salivating at the idea.
I'll be sure to skip Kill Bill 2 even if I'm laid up with two broken legs
The Land That Time Forgot (1974)
Still a respectable B-budget adventure
I loved this movie as a kid. Can't recall how many times I watched it on the late show in my early teens, but it was more than a few. I hadn't seen it since about 1982 and was pleased TCM ran it recently, so I recorded it and watched it last night.
The scenes came back to me by rote though I definitely needed the refresher after all these years. Seeing it now at 40, it of course has become a little more quaint in the wake of the Jurassic Park series, but it still held my interest as it WAS a very good effort in 1975 with limited resources at bringing to the screen an intelligent Sci/fi adventure with old fashioned heroics reminiscent of King Kong etc.
The script, though certainly not as good as it could have been, stays true to itself, and even though the SFX at times look primitive (they still kick the snot out of the FX in Logan's Run}, the story is poorly paced after the U-Boat reaches Caprona, and the Neanderthals and the obligatory volcanic eruption are more than forced, the film never becomes kitschy or laughable, or outright uninteresting like dozens of other films like this made on the cheap. My only wish is it would have been a bit longer and included more thoughtful dialogue about nature and evolution and survival to give the story and characters more depth. And Ray Harryhausen could have done much more with the dinosaurs in the technical department.
As far as leading men go, Doug McClure is good in this and will always get my sympathy as that likable, two fisted action star who had the misfortune of looking too much like Lee Marvin and sounding too much like Glenn Ford to ever get the kind of roles he deserved in bigger pictures. He was good in these Kevin Connor adventure flicks in the 70's, and is eternally one of my favorite actors as a result.
Lots of details about the U-Boat and what not are probably inaccurate, and the story itself is more than too similar to Verne's Mysterious Island with shades of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but overall, while I wouldn't call it great or even good, it is definitely worth a look and still a nifty little piece of entertainment for the budget it had. Surprising a remake hasn't appeared in this age of CGI. Could be a dandy. Are you listening, Peter Jackson?
His Kind of Woman (1951)
Keeps your attention but it's mostly stupid
This flick was entertaining enough but in the end was exactly what you expect from a Howard Hughes production - a mismanaged laugher that tries to be Out of the Past, stumbles over some unintentional comedy midway through and goes with it with fearless gusto. Vincent Price's character, like Jane Rusell and Jim Backus' characters, is a superfluous ornament padding out the incredibly empty plot once Mitchum arrives in Mexico. But then, as though the director(s) got bored with the script, he gets the green light to chew the scenery with a funnier than hell bit of flamboyant goofiness, rescuing Mitchum, but not quite the picture.
This starts out quite well. Nicely directed noir in the vein of Out of the Past. Nothing indicates a tongue in cheek about face for the first hour. But by the first hour is over you're almost asleep because you don't know the point of the story anymore than Mitchum does. He strolls around the resort bumping into people who have nothing at all really important to do with anything, then finally meets Charles McGraw who only spells out a small piece of what his mission is. Then it's back to more tedious romantic interludes with Jane Russell who is there strictly for the marquee value.
The pacing is dreadful after about 35 minutes, plot holes abound, and the film is overlong no matter which way you slice it. Good performances from all involved keep it watchable, but no one can deny the plot is a mess. A real schizophrenic 2 hours. But some kind of cult classic no doubt and definitely worth a look.
Valley of the Kings (1954)
Lots to like, lots to dislike
The Egyptology in this picture is strictly Hollywood nonsense, so don't even remotely expect a storyline with accurate historical details. Also, don't expect Robert Taylor learned how to act by 1954. His performance in this is as bland and stiff as anything he ever did. Eleanor Parker is eye candy, but her role leaves a lot to be desired. The plot is flimsy and routine, the story clunky and too often melodramatic, and the villains 2 dimensional at best. The film runs only 86 minutes, which indicates the writers had no real ideas how to make this the kind of exciting, exotic two fisted adventure it should have been.
That all said, there is some good stuff in this, and though disappointing overall, it is still a fairly entertaining hour and a half if you like these kind of adventure yarns. Taylor, as mentioned, is a drag, but he does manage to get into a couple of nifty scrapes ala Indiana Jones. The Egyptian locales are stunning and used to maximum effect in Technicolor. The classic adventure elements - camel rides in the desert, exotic temples, pitfalls and puzzles - are all served up and this film was surely one of the templates Spielberg/Lucas/Kasdan used for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
For the adventure aspect alone this film is worth a look. It promises much more than it delivers in most areas but there are thousands of worse films you could spend an hour and a half on.
The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
Worst. Cooper. Movie. Ever
When they mention cornball Hollywood hokum they're talking about pictures like this catastrophe. I honesty don't know how I made it through the whole thing. One of the definitive pieces of half-witted rubbish ever produced. Makes John Wayne's 'The Conqueror' look like a masterwork.
Like the reviewer below mentions, this is Flash Gordon level cheesy. But the makers of Flash knew they were making cheese and Buster Crabbe at least made those serials fun to watch. Cooper sleepwalks through this like he's in shock, or dreaming he's making just another bad movie at Paramount. This one transcends bad. It's not even remotely 'good' bad. It's truly one of the worst films ever made, despite having a solid cast and budget.
It distresses me to no end that the writers of this debacle probably bought a new Packard with their salary. God knows what Sam Goldwyn was thinking when he gave this one the go ahead.
If you get half way through this one with your sanity intact, brace yourself. By the end you'll be fighting the urge to jam a screwdriver in your ears.
Let Freedom Ring (1939)
Poor Ben Hecht
He may have written this script in the hopes that it would have been given a more serious treatment by MGM. Instead his rail against internal industrial fascism on the eve of America's entry into WW2 to fight external fascists was turned into a starring vehicle for Nelson Eddy of all people. Hecht must have gone on an extended bender when he heard his story was going to be punctuated by several of Eddy's baritone interludes.
Does it all gel? No. It's a bit of shizophrenic curiosity piece to say the least. But Hecht's message resonates now as it did then, and the picture does provide many pleasing moments and is actually quite entertaining to sit through.
Eddy is likable and is even believable as a two fisted hero. His scenes with Victor McLaglen, actually beating the hell out of McLaglen in the last act, are a hoot. McLaglen is always a fun ham to watch and here he's playing his usual larger than life Irishman, though more like his turn in the Quiet Man than his lovable appearances as the Sergeant in John Ford's Cavalry trilogy. McLaglen was branded (no doubt unfairly) with the reputation of being a crypto-fascist around the time this came out. This role probably had a lot to do with it.
As far as villains go, Edward Arnold played the most menacing corporate/political wolves captured on film in that era. Here he's at it again, playing Dick Cheney to good effect a couple of years before Dick Cheney was even hatched. He also appeared in a very similar role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the very same year as this release.
This film is uneven, at times unbelievable, and very corny. It lands short of being good but it's still fun, thought provoking (what with the current political climate), and worth seeing.
Romance and Dynamite
A few negative comments here must be countered. This film is a little more drama than action, but it strikes a good balance between the two, pleasing surely both wives and their blue collar husbands who saw it back in 1947. Far from terrible, this story offers up some decent conflict, a couple funny moments (get outta the way, pigeons!), romance, suspense, two fisted action, explosions, and the exotic setting of the Peruvian Andes.
Not one of John Wayne's very best films, but solid and entertaining fare, a cut above many of his more regarded 40's outings such as The Spoilers and Angel and the Badman. Good performances and a bit of everything for everybody. Duke doesn't disappoint here. Deserves a higher rating.
Bad Bascomb (1946)
By all accounts, Wallace Beery was a coarse and miserable A-hole off camera. It's no surprise the man lacked refinement, just look at him, but I hope he wasn't quite the jerk biographers have painted him since his death in 1949. I've always enjoyed watching Wallace Beery movies, if his personality was something less than desirable in real life you'd never know it from many of his films, where the man is just simply...lovable. And if it was only that way on screen, then that's all that really matters I guess. Beery played a persona that made him a good living, and he always delivered the goods once the cameras rolled.
In Bad Bascomb, Beery is hilarious. He spits as many mouthfuls of funny dialogue as he spits his food. He also shows himself to have been a far better actor than he's remembered for as he emotes menace, sweetness, redemption and morosity with his craggy mug as good as any actor of his day. I defy anyone to dislike Beery in this film.
The movie itself is at times unbalanced...moves between a children's film and a more conventional western, with all its back shooting nastiness, a little unseamlessly. But it was all shot outdoors on location and as Wagon Train movies go, this one has a fairly authentic look to it.
Maybe not a great western, but it's great fun to watch Beery and Margaret O'Brien play off each other. The kind of sweetness reminiscent of Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood in Miracle in the 34th Street. One of Beery's must see roles. Well worth your time if you come across it on TCM.
Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)
Lively pirate fest
Hollywood turned out dozens of pirate adventures in its heyday, most, such as The Black Swan, The Spanish Main, Captain Kidd etc etc, were flat and routine swashbucklers that lacked the kind of acting presence, story, and edge that made MGM's 1934 version of Treasure Island, and Warner's Captain Blood from 1935 standards of the genre. The pirate movie throughout the 40's, much like the western, was in need of something fresh.
In 1950, Robert Newton made a stalwart impression as Long John Silver in the British remake of Treasure Island, released through Disney. Though the film was not nearly as good as the '34 MGM version, Newton managed to surpass the performance of Wallace Beery's Silver, which was no easy feat as Beery was exceptional in that role.
Coming off of that success, RKO paired Newton with hit and miss director Raoul Walsh to make Blackbeard the Pirate. Newton's performance in the title role was even better than his turn in Treasure Island - a definitive portrayal of the pirate captain that continues to predominate the genre. Not a single actor from Wallace Beery to Victor McLaglen to Charles Laughton to Peter Ustinov to Dustin Hoffman to even Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp have managed to usurp the pure overbearing sea scenery chewing double-dealing rapscallion that is Robert Newton as Blackbeard. His performance, as brutal as it is humorous, is a joy to behold, and elevates the film to a higher level.
The film itself is not as routine as one might expect either. There is a plot going on here (albeit not exactly an airtight one), and some fine supporting performances from William Bendix (always watchable), Linda Darnell, and Keith Andes, a mostly forgotten actor who apparently could do it all in show business from sing and dance to swordfight. His cutlass battles in Blackbeard are of Flynn/Rathbone quality, but actually remind one more of the kind of swordfighting seen in Lester's The Three Musketeers 20 years later. For a film made in 1952, there is a surprising amount of gore in this as well.
Not a great story, but a good one, and entertaining throughout. Everything you'd expect from a 50's adventure on the high seas is delivered here - action, romance, blood and treachery. One of the best pirate movies of all time.
The narration holds it back
Shot and structured in a quasi-documentary style, this low budget noir from Eagle Lion pictures succeeds more than it fails, but still manages to fall just short. It takes awhile for it to heat up but when it does it shouldn't disappoint fans of hard-boiled and tough talking crime pictures. Much credit must go to Charles McGraw, who elevates the film to a higher level the minute he appears. Everything about this man bespeaks of film noir, and here as the head torpedo he's as nasty as they come.
What shoots this picture in the foot is the jumpy plot structure which is constantly filled in with unneeded voice over. The psychological inner workings and tension fail to ebb and flow every time the narrator fills in the blanks. With a bigger studio throwing more money at it this film might have been one of the A list classics, but made on the cheap as it was it remains just a better than average B movie.