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I also write for Influx Magazine--where many of my opinions and reviews are also posted.
An interesting combination of live action and animation.
In the 1920s, the Fleischer Studios made a series of wonderful animated shorts starring Koko the Clown. They usually involved Koko interacting with the real outside world...and often the animators themselves would interact with him. Here in "Bobby Bumps in Their Master's Voice", the Bray Studio tries out this same sort of formula with their character, Bobby Bumps....but the results are only okay...mostly because the film is too short and Bobby gets little to do. Worth seeing if you love the series, though it is clearly a lesser film in the series.
Recently, Turner Classic Movies showed about a dozen Bobby Bumps films and I was impressed. While the cartoons were silents and a bit primitive compared to later films, for its time, they were very good and hold up pretty well.
In this short, Fido the dog uses a mouse to get to the cat's milk bowl. In the meantime, the mouse and cat run about the house getting into all sorts of mischief.
This short is odd because Bobby is barely in the story. So, instead of seeing this budding sociopath, we see his dog during most of the film....and instead of Bobby being a jerk, the dog clearly is in this one.
As in so many Bobby Bumps films, there is the character of Goldie the maid...who is a very stereotypically drawn black lady. Folks today will likely feel a bit uneasy watching her, though throughout the series Goldie is competent and no dummy. Worth seeing if you love old animated films.
Bobby Bumps at the Dentist (1918)
Bobby isn't a jerk in this one!
In this installment in the Bobby Bumps series, Bobby's dog, Fido, is having tooth problems. Oddly, he takes the dog to a human dentist...where there is a huge line of folks waiting to see the guy. How does Bobby manage to see the dentist without this huge wait? See the short...as well as how poor Fido does during this process.
The quality of this short is deceptive when seen today. While it's a silent and the animation a bit jerky, for 1918 it's quite good and the Bobby Bumps films hold up very well. This one is a bit unusual, however, because Bobby seems like a normal kid...not the brat he usually was! Quite enjoyable.
Bobby Bumps, Surf Rider (1917)
Goldie wins the day.
Recently, Turner Classic Movies showed a bunch of Bobby Bumps shorts and I was rather impressed. While the animation is poor compared to later films, for its time, the animation is quite good and the stories rather enjoyable...mostly because usually Bobby is a bit of a jerk!
This is an unusual film because surfing was a rather unusual topic as it was still mostly confined to Hawaii and wasn't widespread. It's not surprising, then, that the surf boards folks are using at the beach look little like surfboards. Bobby is impressed and wants to surf, so he steals Goldie's ironing board and tries his hand at the sport.
As I've mentioned several times in reviews of other Bobby Bumps cartoons, Goldie is a very stereotypical black lady...the type very indicative of the time and one that no doubt will offend many today. It's not so much WHAT Goldie does...more the way she looks that will bother people. Still, despite this, the cartoon is enjoyable and Goldie is no dummy. In fact, she gets the better of Bobby and shows she can surf amazingly well herself! Worth watching and cute.
Bobby Bumps, Chef (1917)
The Bobby Bumps animated shorts from Bray Studios were an enjoyable series of films released from 1915-1925. Compared to other animated films of the day, the animation quality was a bit better and the films hold up well because Bobby is NOT a sweek kid but a bit of a jerk.
In this installment, Bobby wants to be a chef and his dog helps him by securing chicken and eggs. Not surprisingly, things do NOT work out well...and much of it is Fido's fault....as well as the cat's. Goldie the maid is NOT amused and soon gives chase.
As I've mentioned before, Goldie is a character that will doubtlessly offend some today. She's a very stereotypically drawn black lady. Try to look past this and enjoy the film...as there is a lot to offer and it's a cute and diverting film.
Bobby is evil.
While very, very few folks today have heard of the Bobby Bumps cartoons, back in the day (from 1915-1925) they were popular and pretty well animated for the time. Sure, the animation is a bit jerky when you watch it, but the shading and animation quality is good....and the films hold up pretty well despite being silents. A few days ago, Turner Classic Movies showed a bunch of them...including "Bobby Bumps Starts for School".
Bobby goes to school...and not surprisingly he's a bit of a daydreamer and pest. He's pretty much a pest in most of the shorts! And, not surprisingly, his teacher is NOT thrilled with him and his shoddy work. Well, Bobby isn't particularly thrilled with school as well and he does his best to avoid learning anything....and makes his teacher's day pretty awful....and he ends up in the hospital thanks to Bobby.
I liked that the doctor at the end of the short looked like Freud...though that alone is not the reason to watch this one. Instead, it's because Bobby was a jerk and was NOT a nice kid...which make them enjoyable. Worth seeing.
Oh, that Goldie!
"Bobby Bumps at Fido's Birthday Party" (also known as "Bobby Bumps's Fido's Birthday") is an unusual installment in the Bobby Bumps film series because Bobby is NOT an evil jerk in this short! Instead, the film highlights the maid, Goldie, as she was seen in quite a few of the shorts but had very little to do...here, she has plenty to do!
When the story begins, Bobby is going to throw a party for his dog, Fido. After writing up invitations, Bobby has Fido go out an invite his friends. Not surprisingly, things get a bit out of hand at the party and Goldie decides that the party is over!
Goldie is a problematic character today, as she's a very stereotypical black character...the type common in the 1920s but which would give some folks a heart attack today! Still, she does NOT act offensively (other than hating dogs in her house) and if you can look past this, it's actually a modestly enjoyable and well animated film for 1917.
Bobby Bumps Adopts a Turtle (1917)
Short but enjoyable
The Bobby Bumps cartoons were made by Bray Studios from 1915 to 1925....and were one of the earliest successful animated series. I think the cartoons have aged better than most because the title character is NOT some sweet kid but a real jerk who is constantly getting in trouble. The quality of the animation is excellent for its day though the use of a politically incorrect maid character in many of the films will no doubt offend many.
As you'd expect with the title, Bobby finds a pet turtle in this short. Unfortunately by the end of the film, the turtle is gone....watch this one to find out how the animal escapes.
This is a very short episode...shorter than many others and because of this, it's not quite as satisfying to watch. Still, given its age, it's pretty enjoyable and worth seeing.
Not as funny as most....but still worth seeing.
Back in the early days of films, the Bobby Bumps shorts by Bray Studio were among the best...with nice animation and a mischievous jerk of a leading character. By today's standards the films seem quaint...but for 1916 films like "Bobby Bumps Helps a Book Agent" is exceptional.
Like so many of the shorts, Bobby makes Pa's life difficult. In this case, he messes with a door to door book salesman and Pa....and as punishment, Pa makes the boy buy a book and read (what scum!!). Naturally, Pa's infamy must be punished by Bobby and his pup.
Due to changes in sensibilities, this might be a VERY problematic short to watch today and I am glad TCM didn't edit out the offensive portion of the short (the very stereotypical black child eating watermelon) but it still is sad to see. In addition, it's not one of the better ones...with fewer laughs but excellent animation.
Bobby...menace to society...or at least to Pa!
Recently Turner Classic Movies played a bunch of old Bobby Bumps cartoons from around WWI. While they might seem very old fashioned today, the quality of the animation for the time was great...and the prints TCM showed were pristine.
In all the Bumps cartoons I've so far seen, the boy is a bit of a sociopath...always getting into trouble as he's a real jerk. In this case, he's supposed to be practicing the piano but delegates this job to the dog. While the idea sure sounds fool-proof (???), Pa eventually realizes Bobby's ruse and hillarity ensues.
So, apart from looking good, is this short worth your time? Well, a lot of it depends on you. If you love silent animation, it's cute and worth your time...particularly if you are longing to see Bobby get his!
By the way, several Bumps cartoons (including this one) feature a black maid who is bound to offend many today. Those were the times...and folks will either have to try to ignore this or skip the films.
Bobby Bumps' Fly Swatter (1916)
Once again, Bobby is a bit of a jerk!
When I watched this short and other Bobby Bumps cartoons on TCM, I was shocked at the very high quality for its time. While people today might not realize it, the Bumps films were among the best animated of their time....and "Bobby Bumps' Fly Swatter" is no exception.
The story begins with some flies bothering Pa. He's trying to sleep but they keep driving him to distraction. Soon Pa instructs Bobby to come inside and spend his day swatting flies away so Pa can sleep. Since Bobby is a rather evil sort, he quickly finds a way around his duty. When Pa realizes this, a chase ensues...and Bobby once again shows his evil streak.
While Bobby was a cute looking character, his sociopathic behaviors helped to make these Bray Studio cartoons a lot of fun...even when you see tem more than a hundred years later. Well animated for the time and most enjoyable even if it does seem rather quaint and old fashioned today.
Could Bobby be the AntiChrist??
"Bobby Bumps and His Pointer Pup" is the first film in this Bray series that I've seen...and from what I can tell, Bobby is a hellishly evil child....and the cartoon was entertaining!
This installment in the series finds Bobby walking by a petshop where there's a cute doggy in the window. It's $5 so he goes to steal a piggybank to buy it. However, in the process he ends up assaulting several people, shooting a cop in the eye with a rock from a slingshot, stealing the dog and committing a variety of other crimes. Fortunately, the career of this habitual criminal is halted by the end of the film and humanity is saved!
The quality of the print of this film shocked me....as it was completely pristine...at least this can be said for the one shown on Turner Classic Movies and it was recently restored. Also, for 1916 the animation is great. Sure, the figures move jerkily and it's not up to the standards of much later cartoons but for the time it was a fabulous looking film and is quite enjoyable even today.
Port of Missing Girls (1938)
About average for a B-adventure film.
When the story begins, Della Mason (Judith Allen) is abducted by some creep and as he drags her along, he stops to shoot someone. Sadly, while she was a victim, folks now think she was involved in the murder and so she runs and stows away aboard a ship. The Captain (Harry Carey) at first wants to turn her in to the authorities but he oddly changes her mind and helps her. He diverts the ship to an island filled with folk running from the law. But is she then destined to spend the rest of her life on the run?!
While it's never explicitely said, the place Della stays at appeared to be a brothel. The Madame in charge, by the way, was a terrible actress and could barely deliver her lines....but aside from her, the rest were competent and the film mildly enjoyable. A middle of the road B-adventure movie...one that is best when you are feeling blah and just want a time passer and nothing more.
Shanghai Surprise (1986)
"It stinks so bad I can't think"....Sean Penn in "Shanghai Surprise"
Back in the 1980s, "Shanghai Surprise" was a notorious stinker...a film EVERYONE seemed to hate. And, with a score of 3.1, it's obvious that even today many people hated the film....and with good reason.
The story is a confusing mess. A missionary girl (??) (Madonna) seeks the help of a ne'er do well (Sean Penn) to locate some jewels or opium (they never seem sure WHICH they are seeking) in China in 1937. All sorts of bad people try to kill them and along the way they take time to have sex (which is quite strange for a missionary who just met this guy).
So why did I hate the film? There were many reasons and the most obvious is Madonna. Her performance mostly consists of her shrieking and whining...to the point where you wonder who, if anyone, would find her character anything other than 100% annoying and hateful. It was much like her poor performance in "Swept Away"...but even worse and more grating. Second, the script was inept....with lots of story elements that simply didn't fit together...such as the missionary girl who boinks the hero AND spends much of the film trying to find opium. What sort of religious mission is this she's running? Our Lady of Perpetual Whining, perhaps?! Third, having the ultimate treasure being opium suggests the 'heroes' want to get rich by selling horribly dangerous drugs...which seems anything other than heroic....and so it's hard to like or care about them. Fourth, the direction was poor and many re-shoots SHOULD have been made (such as any time Madonna opened her mouth). Overall, a painful vanity project with several songs by, of all people, George Harrison! Odd and not enjoyable....just grating.
Paradise Express (1937)
Pluck and determination versus evil and not-niceness.
When the story begins, the local railroad is in receivership--meaning that the court has appointed an overseer to watch over the day to day operations of the company. Not surprisingly, the owner of the railroad (Harry Davenport) is not happy and he doesn't yet realize that the receiver, Larry Doyle (Grant Withers) is a decent guy who really wants to help. But what neither yet realize are the depths to which a local trucking company will go to put the railroad out of business. Can Larry manage to get the railroad out of its financial woes AND defeat the wicked truckers?
Despite being only 52 minutes long*, this B-movie is quite enjoyable and lacks many of the usual B-movie cliches. Well acted and worth your time.
*It is obvious the opening scene is missing as later there is a reference to this scene where Larry meets a local lady....but it's no where in the film.
You Can't Beat the Law (1943)
DON'T read the summary on IMDB...it's filled with spoilers!!!
I hope you did not read the summary of this film currently posted on IMDB. This is because there are tons of spoilers listed...plot elements that would be ruined if you see this picture AFTER reading the summary!
As for the movie itself, it's unusual in that I will freely admit that the script is utterly ridiculous...yet I enjoyed this B-movie from Monogram. Why? Because despite having small-time actors and a strange plot, it IS entertaining. Plus, Jack La Rue was very enjoyable as the hard-headed mug!
When the story begins, Johnny (Edward Norris) is a rich playboy type...and his girlfriend insists he grow up and make something of himself. Shortly after this, while on his way home, Johnny is forced at gunpoint to be the getaway driver for a band of crooks. When most of them (including Johnny) are caught, the gang insists that HE is a member of the gang and was their leader. Why? Because their real leader escaped and blaming Johnny meant that the police would assume they caught everyone.
Johnny is soon sent to prison for robbery....and like everyone else in prison he claims to everyone he's innocent. But with at least 10 years ahead of him, he has a terrible attitude and appears ready and willing to head to a real life of crime. However, the new Warden is a decent guy...and he hopes he can somehow get through to Johnny that he should keep his nose clean and work hard to make something of himself. What's next? Well, it's utterly ridiculous....but enjoyable nonetheless.
The acting is generally very good despite small and no-name actors in the film. Not a great movie but better than average for Monogram and well worth seeing for the portion I did NOT tell you about....even though the summary does!
Murder with Music (1941)
I think I liked the music more than the plot.
Back in the 1920s into the 50s, America's movie theaters were often segregated...with black audience members either forced to sit in designated 'blacks only' sections or they were outright banned from theaters. Not surprisingly, this racism resulted in entrepreneurs in the black community opening their own theaters and producing their own movies. Some are rather entertaining but most are pretty poor when you watch them today...mostly because the budgets for the films were paltry. "Murder with Music" is one of those films designed for black movie theaters... if you are curious to watch it.
The story begins with a pushy and cocky guy barging into the editor's office looking for a job with the newspaper. Instead of telling him to get lost or hiring him, the patient editor tells the guy a story about another reporter...one whose cockiness got him in a heap of trouble. Interestingly, soon within this story the cocky reporter watches television*....so it becomes a story within a story within a story for some time! The lady in the editor's story, Nellie, is very pretty and very popular. When one of her old boyfriends is killed, the question is who did it and why. Confusing...huh?
So is it any good? Well, some of the acting is suspect--with quite a few scenes where the actors' delivery was poor. In more expensive productions, the directors probably would have re-shot the scenes...but most of the black films of the era simply didn't have the budget for re-shoots. I should point out that the editor, in contrast, was a pretty good actor and it's a shame Bob Howard didn't do more acting....with less than a half dozen credits to his name. There is also a lot of music and dancing in the film. Most of it looks VERY cramped as they pushed the performers into minuscule sets...possibly to save money. Despite this, some of the music was exceptional--particularly the band about 15 minutes into the film. At times, however, the music and dancing acts seemed like distractions from the plot...though a few were enjoyable distractions. My overall verdict is that compared to similar productions, this one is about average....though compared to the average cheap B-film of the era it comes up a bit short. Entertaining...provided you cut the film some slack.
*Televisions were nearly unheard of back in 1941 and were definitely in the early stages. Only a couple American cities had broadcasts and what they did broadcast was extremely limited. And, the early TVs were often the weird glass projected units like the one in this film. Also, the show on TV featured a mostly black cast...along with an actor in black-face! Such racism, surprisingly, did creep into some of these productions and I've seen black-face actors or Stepin Fetchit-type characters in these pictures. I also suspect the black-face actor actually might have been a black man posing as a white man posing as a black man!
Sam's Song (1969)
Glacially slow...and amazingly dull.
Whether you are a fan of Robert De Niro or not, you must admit that "Sam's Song" is clearly NOT among his best work. The film is an amateurish mess and despite a bit of nudity here and there, it's duller than dust. What's worse is that you really don't care anything about the characters nor do you really understand them.
The film seems often like there's no script or scenes are simply taken out of the editor's trash can. You really have no idea who the couple is in the story nor why they'd bring along their friend, Sam (De Niro). You eventually (after way too much story has passed) that they are going to their second home to have a party with friends. A blonde shows up and chaos ensues...or should have ensued. Instead, things happen but so slowly it make you wonder if everyone involved was sedated throughout the picture.
Bad acting, much worse direction and editing make this film VERY difficult to stick with or care about in any way. A total bomb....and a very dull one at that.
The Death Collector (1976)
Really cheap...but surprisingly good.
"The Death Collector" is a very cheaply made film with mostly lesser-known actors although the posters play up Joe Pesci being in the film, as he became a huge star in later years. And, with such an inexpensive project, you expect the film to stink. However, oddly, it didn't. Now I am NOT saying it's a great film by any standard, but considering the costs involved the finished product has some merit.
Jerry Bolanti (Joe Cortese) is a young punk who wants to work his way up through the mob the quick way. Despite having little in the way of common sense, he manages to get a job as a debt collector and he seems well on his way up the chain of command. Suddenly, he's somebody. However, when one of his cases goes sour and nearly kills him, soon he's in serious trouble...and practically everyone seems ready to kill him!! What's next?
The worst thing about the film is its uneven acting. Some is quite good...some seems a bit amateurish. However, it's never dull...and that makes it worth seeing.
I should point out that this film is NOT for everyone. It's really violent and early in the film there is some pretty extreme nudity. Do not show it to your kids or Father O'Malley if he drops by for a visit!
They Met in the Dark (1943)
Very familiar! Too familar!
James Mason was a darned fine actor...one of my favorites. However, I'd be an idiot to say that everything he did was as good as gold....and "They Met in the Dark" is not a particularly good film. The acting is decent but the script is essentially a ton of cliches and familiar movie plots....and I can see why it's never listed among his best work.
The plot to "They Met in the Dark" is essentially a 1930s mystery B-movie, Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" and a wartime propaganda picture all rolled into one. Because of this, so many cliches are present...annoying and overly familiar ones. For example, a woman discovers a dead body and tells the police. In the meantime, someone hid the body and the cops IMMEDIATELY assume she's making it all up and refuse to investigate. Would ANY police force do this? Probably not...but it's a common trope in films. Other cliches abound and the actors try their best....but it's all just too familiar and trivial. After a while, I just didn't care about the ship's captain and his struggle to prove his innocence in a dereliction of duty case.
Watchable, certainly...but poorly written and if you've seen a lot of movies, you'll probably be a bit annoyed by all this.
Perhaps this is a tad self-serving!
"Give Yourself the Green Light" is a public service short film produced by General Motors. Now considering the subject matter, I found myself thinking that the film was incredibly self-serving! Why? Because the film is about how terrible it is owning a car when the highway systems and roads in America are so inadequate! There may well be a lot of truth to this. After all, in 1956, the government passed a grand highways act...authorizing a HUGE increase in the number and quality of roads. Considering the timing, I am sure the short had some impact on this law, though watching it today is very ponderous and it's a bit obsolete. Overall, a historical curio and nothing more.
Pay attention to what they do to the actress instead of the narrator!
If you only listen to the narrator, "Hell Is a Place Called Hollywood" is a well-intentioned film meant to warn young ladies of the dangers of exploitation. Again and again, he talks about the dangerous weirdos who want to take nudie pics or other exploitation pics of unsuspecting and vulnerable young women....a real public service film, huh?! But what mostly happens is that they actually show this women nearly naked or completely naked and it's intended to sneak nudity past local censor boards! In this 'story', you hear about it all....and see a lot as well. An incredibly cynical film and unlike most exploitation films of the era, it doesn't just please the audience but actually shows quite a bit of skin.
Rolling Home (1946)
A bit schmaltzy but a nice chance to see Raymond Hatton actually acting.
In the 1930s and 40s, Raymond Hatton made a long string of B-westerns....mostly with such franchises as the Three Mesquiteers and the Rough Riders. While these were enjoyable films, they were also rather predictable and gave Hatton an income but little in the way of opportunities to show he could act. When I began watching "Rolling Home", I was surprised as Hatton was cast without the usual gang of heroes...and he showed he could really act. In fact, he was so good I wish he'd made more appearances like this one....so even while it's far from a great film, it's worth your time.
When the story begins, Pop Miller and his grandson are traveling about the country as Pop makes his living with the rodeo. The problem is that Pop isn't a young man and soon his prize horse, Briar, is badly injured and it appears as if he'll need to be put to sleep. Fortunately, Pop meets up with a friendly preacher, Reverend Owens (Russell Hayden) and he helps them treat Briar and, hopefully, get him back into shape and on his feet. The preacher offers to let the Pop and his grandson stay with him during Briar's convalescence. There's quite a bit more to the story than this...probably best you see it yourself.
While I must admit that this film is pretty schmaltzy, it's also pretty good family entertainment...provided you can get past all the saccharine. Overall, pretty well done and worth seeing....but a bit heavy-handed and cliched to make it a must-see picture.
The Dude Ranger (1934)
A bit better than average.
Ernest Selby (George O'Brien) is an Easterner who has traveled west to take possession of a ranch he inherited. However, before arriving, he learns that about half is cattle have disappeared! But instead of sending in the sheriff to investigate, Selby decides to go undercover himself to see if he can learn the truth. He approaches the man running the ranch, Hepburn, and gets a job as a hired hand...telling no one about his real identity. Soon Hepburn's daughter begins showing a ton of interest in him....which could be a problem if Hepburn himself is stealing the cattle. What's next? See the film.
In many ways, this B-western is better than average. The locations for the shoot were amazing--incorporating many of the greatest spots in the American Southwest, such as the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce National Park. It's just gorgeous because of this. Additionally, O'Brien is quite nice as the hero....very enjoyable and a good western actor. The only negatives are the use of a few of the usual cliches and a somewhat weak ending where the villain sure was stupid and sloppy! Still, the good outwieghs the bad and this one is worth seeing.
Silly? Perhaps...but also a lot of fun.
If you combine Robin Hood with a communist, you'd get Jack Drake (Tom Walls)...a high-class crook who delights in stealing from the rich and giving to various deserving charities in Britain. Despite being a crook, however, you cannot help but like Drake and his exploits. The same can be said of Drake in the story...he cannot help but like his exploits as well...so much so that he wrote his memoires and had them published anonymously. Now, millions of Brits can read about 'Crackerjack' (his alter ego) and his brushes with the law.
While you might think that the police would be Crackerjack's worst enemies, there is a vicious gang who want to capture him even more. Why? Because twice during the course of the film he outsmarts them and steals jewels the gang intended to steal. To stop him, the gang recruits an innocent lady...the Baroness (Lilli Palmer). But once she realizes her mistake, can she alert Crackerjack before their wicked plan is enacted?
Tom Walls is a middle-aged man in the film and not especially handsome. However, despite this, he is mega-charming and easy to like....and it's a shame that very few these days have even heard of this excellent actor. My advice is watch the film....he's amazingly good in it and manages to make a somewhat ridiculous plot work...and work well.