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Inspiring Story of a Life Well-Lived
If you're a fan of TCM, you might know Marsha Hunt as a lovely, charming, and very talented young actress of the '30's and '40's (Pride and Prejudice, The Human Comedy, Cry Havoc), and you may well wonder why she never quite attained the "household name" status of some of her contemporaries. This engrossing documentary shows how she never left the movie business, but the movie business shamefully left her. (Like me, you may never again think quite as highly of Humphrey Bogart and John Huston.)
Fortunately, in some ways, the movies' loss was the world's gain, as she turned her attentions to many serious causes - hunger, homelessness, promoting greater understanding and cooperation in the world through the United Nations - while continuing to work as an actress on the stage. Eleanor Roosevelt became a friend and mentor over the years, and the documentary has comments from many well-known admirers attesting to Marsha's eloquence and persuasiveness on behalf of good causes.
The screening we saw was attended by Miss Hunt herself, 100 years young, and still recalling a trip she made with Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor to meet FDR in 1937 on behalf of what would become the March of Dimes. Living history.
This film should be essential viewing for anyone interested in Golden Age Hollywood and equally important as inspiration to lead a deeply fulfilling life.
Coronado 9 (1960)
Tough, Smart, and Fast
Rod Cameron makes a believably rugged hero in this excellent detective series. The stories are tough, smart, and fast, packing a lot of plot, and a lot of plot twists, into efficient, engaging half-hours. With episode titles like "Three's a Shroud" and "A Bookie's Not a Bibliophile", the whole show could have come from the pages of Manhunt magazine, or Black Mask. Fans of vintage detective fiction will know that's a compliment. A frequent director is William Witney, who had directed many of the best movie serials, so you know he could deliver action on a budget. Stunt doubles are often a bit obvious in fight scenes, but that's typical of the period, and not that distracting. Location work is a big plus, not only around San Diego, but as far afield as New Orleans. It would appear that only Cameron and a camera crew got to go to some locations, with dialogue scenes done back at the studio, but still, it adds to the visual texture of the show. One episode has an extended sequence filmed on the roof of the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, predating the film "The Stunt Man" by 20 years.
This show won't change anyone's life, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do, and holds its own against any other detective show. My wife and I only wish there were more than 39 episodes.
Megan Leavey (2017)
Excellent, Effective Film Deserves a Wide Audience
For some reason, my wife and I had not even heard of this film before watching the trailer here on IMDb yesterday. We went to see it today. One of the best films we've seen this year. Thoroughly believable and engaging. Well-made, well-paced, and well-acted. Not the literally flag-waving war endorsement of its own poster, but a universal story of finding meaning and connection.
Weakest Daniel Craig Bond
Like most of the world, it seems, we have been quite impressed with the Daniel Craig era of 007, but Spectre is the least satisfying of the four. There's still bravura film-making here, notably in the eye-filling opening spectacle set in a too-perfect fantasy version of Mexico City's Day of the Dead, but that leads into the series' worst title song and bad decisions by the filmmakers only continue from there. (Bond has survived mediocre title tunes before, especially post John Barry, but they've never been saddled with one this dreary.) While the film includes virtual re-enactments of some past action scenes, such as the train fight from From Russia With Love, they were done better the first time. And even though a little more humor is allowed to creep back into the series (I liked that not all of his gadgets were working) the film overall feels bloated, lugubrious, and self-important.
Worst of all, if you're going to resurrect a major villain from the books and early movies, and even name the film after his evil organization, why would you then ignore the Fleming version, and artificially, almost arbitrarily, tie him not only to Bond's childhood, but to the villains of the past three films? It's not believable, and twists all four plots into one big personal vendetta against one British agent. This feels like a major miscalculation.
Mannix: Who Will Dig the Graves? (1968)
Golden Age Screenwriter's Last Shot
Some nice twists in this final script by the great Daniel Mainwaring, author of the classic "Out of the Past." Not in the same league, of course, but above average for '60's episodic TV. (Slightly spoiled by an all-too-typical scene in which cops pull up and, without a word, haul away only the people that need hauling away. Weekly TV heroes often seemed to have a psychic connection with local police. I would guess this scene was handled somewhat better in the script.)
Anyway, always nice to see Barry Atwater, here a few years away from playing the title role in "The Night Stalker". Harry Dean Stanton gets to sing a little and play guitar. And Linda Marsh proves that her career should have been more than TV guest shots.
By the way, the appearance here of the band Peppermint Trolley, who would go on to perform the themes for Brady Bunch and Love American Style, seems a little less historically significant than the first season appearances of Buffalo Springfield and Neil Diamond.
Thunder Over the Plains (1953)
This just became one of my favorite Randolph Scott movies.
First, there's an intelligent script by Russell Hughes, who wrote for some good radio shows like "Nightbeat" and Alan Ladd's "Box 13", as well as such films as Anthony Mann's "Last Frontier", Delmer Daves' "Jubal", and even the best of the giant-bug movies, "Them".
Then, there's the look and feel of the film. Director Andre De Toth and his great cinematographer Bert Glennon (who had done remarkable work with the likes of Josef von Sternberg and John Ford) light and shoot for realism and emotional impact. Glennon had also shot "Man Behind the Gun" (available on the flip side of this DVD), so I suppose director Felix Feist could be blamed for that film's phony-looking stage sets. Here, in "Thunder... ", a barroom scene looks like it was shot in a real barroom (foreshadowing Clint Eastwood's "natural lighting" technique by decades) and exteriors are shot outdoors. To be fair, the Feist film may have had budget or producer issues, but given that film's potential (dealing with water rights, corrupt politicians, the possible secession of southern California, even the semi-legendary Joaquin Murrietta as a supporting character) it still seems like a typical, entertaining, 40's-style B-movie. "Thunder...", released the same year, 1953, seems more forward-looking, more compelling, more of the age of the "adult" Westerns, even though the literally flag-waving ending with its narrative paean to the great state of Texas kind of pulls us back to B-movie-land.