Monday, October 15, 2018
Juggernaut, eh? With a title like that I'm imagining Karloff the Uncanny either creating or playing some kind of gargantuan mutant or robotic behemoth to menace a city into giving him what he wants!... However, after the Regis Toomey crime caper Graft and the revelation that its title is simply referring to government corruption rather than sinister plastic surgery, I must say I'm not necessarily expecting a large payoff. Still, one can hope...
Doctor Sartorious is working on special experiments for the medical community in Morocco when his funding is cut. With not long to live, Sartorious is desperate to acquire the funds, and while running a practice in Cote d'Azur, France, he's approached by the venomous Lady Clifford, who's intent on getting her much older husband's fortune and run away with her young lover. She hires Sartorious to give Lord Clifford a deadly injection, and in return he'll receive the funds he needs to complete his research. The murder is pulled off successfully, but Sartorious' nurse Eve Rowe begins to suspect the truth, and has to stop these plotters from murdering the final roadblock to Lord Clifford's wealth-His son Roger...
Unlike in previous outings, Boris Karloff is playing a more unscrupulous mad scientist here. It was actually a bit hard getting used to seeing him as a doctor I wasn't meant to root for. As for his status as a scientist, he's not particularly mad as whatever it is he's so determined to study doesn't play any role in the plot, so we don't get any mutants or monsters terrorising the Cote d'Azur. Despite this clear and obvious setback (who doesn't wanna see that??) he's a decently characterised villain, and we believe his desperation. His final act was a well-executed one on the part of the writers too.
Nurse Eve is the heroine of the piece, and she's quite intelligent! She quickly realises Dr. Sartorious' attitude isn't normal, and suspects him of some kind of foul play, cleverly hiding the missing syringe and sending it away for analysis. I'm afraid I'll have to dock some points though for her neglecting to mention to the chemist 'If you happen to ring me back and reach a certain Dr. Sartorious, do not trust him! And certainly don't give everything away!'. She makes up for it with her quick escape in the climax, and her efforts in taking the bad doctor down, all without any help.
The ending is incredibly abrupt. Lady Clifford doesn't really get any onscreen punishment, which isn't very satisfying, and there's not any kind of denouement with Eve and Roger bar a single hug before The End. Their friendship/chemistry wasn't the stuff of legends, but the two were nice enough together that I did want to see some kind of ending, but I guess the filmmakers were concerned that 61 minutes was long enough already and decided to cut filming then and there.
Despite being a serious film, I have to wonder if some elements of Juggernaut were meant to be comedic, like the young trophy wife yelling at her aging husband "I've given you the best years of my life!".
Karloff gives his all as usual, even if his character becomes a bit more one-dimensional in the last act. Joan Wyndham is likewise quite good as Eve, especially in the climax. Mona Goya is hilariously bad as Lady Clifford, over-emoting to a ridiculous degree. She's actually French though, so if nothing else her accent is at least legit. The rest of the performances range from decent to poor.
Juggernaut has an interesting plot on paper, and an intriguing title at first glance (mainly in how much of a non-sequitur it seems to be (and ultimately is), it makes you wonder how it'll tie into the proceedings), but I can see why it isn't an oft discussed entry in Karloff's filmography. Not bad by any means, but it's just a mediocre quickie...
Monday, October 1, 2018
Long believed to be lost until its rediscovery in the 1980s, The Ghoul is a Boris Karloff film that I was quite looking forward to! I can't help but feel rather quite disappointed by what I saw, however...
Egyptologist Professor Henry Morlant is dying, and wishes to go into the afterlife on his terms, with a mystical artifact he acquired from the country he admires so greatly. Swearing to come back from the grave if it's ever stolen, he soon makes good on his promise. Meanwhile, Morlant's heirs Raiph and Betty (plus her goofy fiend Kaney) arrive at the estate to find out what'll become of his money, meeting a mysterious Arab along the way who claims to be a friend of the late professor, but is really intent on reclaiming the jewel. He'll have to stand in line though, because not only are there other thieves on the prowl, but the undead Morlant himself...
The Ghoul is a little slow to start, but has some great spooky build-up. This ends up being squandered when the movie meanders along without much happening. It's almost half an hour before the main protagonists are introduced, and they barely interact with the story. They're just...there. They don't witness much spooky goings-on at all, and when they do finally go to take action for the first time in the movie, there's only 10 minutes left, and the undead Morlant has already found what he's wanted and is actively trying to kill himself. By simply getting involved, you get the feeling that the heroes will only end up needlessly prolonging the movie. That doesn't come to pass though, only because all they do is watch the ghoul die again, having contributed zero to his downfall.
Getting specifically to Morlant, I'm a little confused by his motivations. So he's acquired the 'fire of life', and will carry it with him to the afterlife, but what next? Is he seeking immortality, because he makes mention that he'll only come back if the jewel is stolen. Sooo...he doesn't want immortality then? Why's he bothering with the whole expensive rigmarole in the first place then if he just intends to die like anyone else?
All of that end up being irrelevant with the reveal that Morlant was never really dead, but had just fallen into a cataleptic state. That's a pretty rubbish twist as it removes any tension or interesting story from the proceedings. Instead of an undead ghoul seeking revenge, we're instead just witnessing a cataleptic old man slightly inconveniencing a couple of people before dropping dead. This is such a disappointment. It takes forever for the titular ghoul to come back for his revenge, and shortly after he does, we're given this cop out. It's why I don't mind spoiling the twist because of it delivering such a negative effect, and opening up a fair share of plot holes (like why is Boris made-up to look like a zombie, or how he literally bends steel).
Despite being your typical strapping young hero in looks, Raiph is very shouty and abrasive, and comes off as a tad unlikeable, though he mellows a little in demeanour (if not in pitch) as the movie goes on, and the way he takes care of the human villain is hilarious as it is swift. Betty meanwhile is a bubbly ball of sweetness, who is much more pleasant to watch, even if her female companion gets more to do. Speaking of, Kathleen Harrison is darling as Kaney, the comic relief, providing practically the only amusing moments in the entire film. She totally saves the day in the end, too!
It is a little annoying how horribly judgemental the otherwise nice local parson is of Morlant's faith, constantly insulting the Egyptian religion. We do get a nice comeback from the Arabic Aga Ben Dragore though, when he proclaims "The Egyptians were not pagans, sir!". Kaney is approving, as is even the kinda rude Raiph! It's particularly amusing how Dragore indulges Kaney's wild fancies about exotic Egypt. She also seems to exhibit a bit of a kinky side with him, wanting to be treated like a Circassian slave girl. I imagine any Circassian moviegoers would laugh their ass off at this, and be impressed that a movie period (let alone one from 1933) mentions their existence!
The turn of Dragore's character into a bit of a villain at the end didn't really make much sense. He's not a bad guy-All he wants is the return of his country's stolen property. All he could do is ask and they'd probably give it to him. His turn was also unnecessary considering there's already a human villain in the climax. I guess the writers were in a bit of a pickle when they realised that Raiph's big moment clocked that guy out cold well before the final reel.
The climax to The Ghoul is a total mess. First it reveals that Morlant's resurrection wasn't supernatural at all and he anticlimactically dies for real. Then the Parson is revealed to be a criminal mastermind as he steals the jewel. No sooner than he opens his mouth with this revelation is he punted on the head with a vase and almost forgotten. Then Dragore busts into the tomb and traps the leads in with a roiling fire, stealing the diamond for himself until bumping into Morlant's lawyer, who would steal it for himself if not for the fact that Kaney has gotten ahold of it. This all happens in only 10 minutes, by the way! We go from not enough happening to too much happening at once! Nearly half a dozen characters are suddenly revealed to be bad guys, the jewel changes hands just about every 30 seconds, and the main duo only escape a fiery fate through what I presume to be an act of God, after which the movie just stops, satisfied that everything has been wrapped up, and not bothering with a denouement.
The acting is one of the better parts of The Ghoul. Boris Karloff's performance falters a little to begin with thanks to his character's ailing condition, and the weird make-up. He already looks like a ghoul even when alive! Things don't improve when he dies. The make-up he has then is good (really good in close-up!), but he doesn't get to say as much as a single word once he's back from the grave. Makes sense I guess, but when the actor comes off as awkward in his delivery because of his character's sickness, it kinda sucks to not hear him speak in a more healthy condition.
The rest of the actors do well, save for Anthony Bushell's pitch, and some of the overdramatic acting, such as Ernest Thesiger's (bearer of a possibly phony sounding accent to boot).
I think the biggest issue I take with The Ghoul is that its setting is fantastic, and thus feels hard done by being in this movie. The large house is a grand and Gothic abode, and the mock-up of an Egyptian tomb in the English countryside looks. The direction is quite nice too, with many well framed moments. I dig the poster, with its almost surrealist design, like it's a fancy European flick!
To finish, I don't recommend The Ghoul. It's not very enjoyable, and poor Boris is mostly absent. I'd suggest watching bits and pieces if only for Kathleen Harrison though!...
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Finally, a movie starring martial arts greats Jackie Chan and Jet Li together! Let's see how well it fares...
Jason Tripitkas is a martial arts film fan who regularly visits a Chinatown shop run by the aging Hop. One day he's cornered by some young hoodlums and forced to help rob the store. Hop is shot when trying to fight off his attackers, giving Jason a mysterious staff that he tells him to restore to its rightful owner, before the youth is cornered on the roof and falls off. Suddenly finding himself in a new land in a new time, Jason learns of the benevolent Monkey King, a trickster deity who crossed swords with the Jade Warlord, a despotic general in the Heavenly Realm who took control of the land when the true ruler was meditation, and imprisoned the monkey king through deception. Finding out that he holds the Monkey King's staff, Jason is told that it's the key to freeing its master. Along the way, he meets a variety of allies, who are all determined to help stop the evil Jade Warlord and bring peace back to the land...
Taking its inspiration from Journey of the West (though isn't a strict adaption, as far as I know), The Forbidden Kingdom is quite a good adventure fantasy. I'm not exactly crazy about really heavy Wuxia films, so it's a testament to the quality here that this is able to keep interest the whole way through. With its mix of Kung Fu, philosophy, drama, and a thankfully minimal use of flying wire fu (which I always find to look absolutely ridiculous, especially in movies that are supposed to be serious), this encapsulates a lot of the themes of the genre.
What I find impressive is that how apart from the opening 10 minutes, literally everyone in this movie is Asian! A good chunk of the dialogue is in Cantonese, too.
The story in Forbidden Kingdom is a good one. Despite knowing little about any of the characters, we still get to care at least a little about them. The villains don't have a lot of depth though. There's a surprising amount of death here for a pretty family friendly journey! There are also some possible inconsistencies with the immortality elixir, but then again maybe not. I guess I'd make more sense in the source material, given that's a lot longer than a 90 minute film and can explain things better.
The martial arts on display is very impressive, as can be expected from the two world-famous stars, as well as everyone else behind the scenes working tirelessly. It can sometimes get a bit too frenetic to see clearly (mainly when there are more than just a couple of belligerents), but it's usually great to watch, with spot-on choreography.
The main draw of The Forbidden Kingdom is that it stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li together in one movie. Their fight scene is very good, though it stretches on perhaps a bit long. I at least get why, since Lu Yan and the Monk are on the same side from then on, so this is really their only opportunity to have a fight scene. The only thing coming close is when they both spar using Jason as a shield and weapon.
Jason Tripitikas makes for a decent hero, and The Forbidden Kingdom successfully keeps from falling into the 'unskilled white guy saves the helpless foreigners' trope. In fact, I'm sure the Chinese co-producers made damn sure we see that this American only learns the amazing stuff he does because the fantastic Chinese taught him. They do so love doing that in their co-productions. Anyway, getting back to Jason, he sometimes whines a bit and can be impetuous, but he's not egregiously annoying or anything, and when he is a bit of a pain in the neck, it's intentional. When he becomes more skilled at martial arts, it feels earned, as we've seen him gradually train over the course of however much time has passed. While it's a bit silly that he's a bit of a Kung Fu master by the climax, I guess that's excuseable for a movie, and we do see him as not an entirely flawless fighter against the main baddies, so there's that. Jason does get sidelined a bit in the climax, but for the most part each hero gets their own opponent to do battle with at any given moment.
Through no real fault of his own, Jason's 'sidekicks' each eclipse him. Lu Yan is a fun drunken master, whose booze habits never make his skills falter. The 'Silent' Monk feels more lively than other strong and silent badasses by getting amusing moments (some of which might verge on too much for some viewers, but I didn't mind). Lastly, Golden Sparrow is a more gloomy character, with good reason, and her non-personal speech pattern is typically strange, though she does something incredibly stupid in the last act. Try the art of stealth, Sparrow!
The acting in The Forbidden Kingdom is mixed, and I'm not sure if it's a matter of talent, but rather one of language. Being 100% English, Michael Angarano does fine. Jackie Chan is mostly good, though a bit hard to understand in places, especially in the scenes set in our world, where a mix of awful and creepy old age make-up and a put-on croaky voice make him almost indecipherable. Jet Li's line delivery is sometimes a bit weird. I hesitate to say bad because I've seen him in enough English language roles to know he can act, but he's oddly stilted in places. Whether it not it's a deliberate quirk of his character I've no idea. Liu Yufei gets a lot of the movie's drama, and handles it ok enough. Collin Chou makes for a fun villain, whose line deliveries are deliciously evil, even if a bit overdramatic at times. The witch is much of the same, but just to a lesser degree.
The score is made up of traditional sounding Chinese music, while other parts sometimes sound reminiscent of Once Upon a Time in the West.
Filmed on location in China, the scenery is often breathtaking, and it's no surprise that nearly half a dozen tourism companies are given thanks in the ending credits. The set design is well-realised, and the practical effects are impressive. Overt computer effects are kept to a minimum, and while some of the more bigger CG stuff can be a tad noticeable, there's not much here to complain about. The opening credits are pretty neat, made up of the posters to various kung fu flicks.
The Forbidden Kingdom isn't perfect, but it's by no means a bad time. While there are many better Kung Fu and Wuxia movies out there, you can't go too far wrong with this one...
The American Leo Vincey is called back to his home country of England by his dying uncle, a scientist who devoted his life to searching for a mysterious life-bringing element. Telling of a fantastic journey made by their ancestor John Vincey and family, he convinces Leo to search for this element. Accompanied by his uncle's partner Holly, Leo travels for months, until the two finally find themselves in what they believe to be the right area. Along the way they meet an unscrupulous trader/guide and his beleaguered daughter Tanya, encounter frozen snapshots of prehistoric monsters, brave deadly avalanches, and eventually locate the lost city of Kor, dominion of the cruel tyrant Hasha-Motep, She Who Must Be Obeyed...
She is a great 1930s adventure film, in the same vein as King Kong (not surprising since this shares the director). The pace is great, going from one setpiece to another, with several varying locations. The story is never short of adventure or intrigue.
The ultimate main setting of Kor is quite a good one! While we can't be shown too much detail in under an hour of film, what we do see is an interesting hybrid of various cultures, with many interesting rituals and shocking practices. What impressed me most is the dance sequence at the climax. At nearly 10 minutes long, it's a spectacular sight, and it really makes Kor feel alive. Despite its length, it's never boring or overlong, either, and I can't imagine the climax without it, as it'd lose so much of the build-up!
The story is The amount of time is takes for the characters to reach the lost city of Kor is longer than the journey to Skull Island (if I may reference King Kong once more), but the build-up, as well as the thrills of what happens before that point make up for the duration it takes. Once we do reach Kor, the pace slows down on the adventure front, giving way to more downtime, which makes sense given the characters' new circumstances and surroundings.
I haven't read the original book, but I have enough of a familiarity with it to be aware of the changes. Some are quite sizeable, but not bad. The location is drastically changed, from the deserts of Africa to their polar opposite*, in the frozen wastes of the Russian Arctic. Tanya replaces a native love interest and meets with a different and more pleasant fate (H. Rider Haggard novels are depressing!), and Leo's ancestor is moved closer in history, from ancient Greece to Shakespearean England. I don't mind this, as while some feel a shortening of 2000-ish years to 'only' 500 robs the story of its impact regarding how long Hasha-Motep has waited for her 'lost love' to return, I feel that not only is 500 years plenty of time, but also that if she'd waited upwards of 2000 years, she would've eventually just lost interest in that one random dude she liked.
*That pun wasn't intentional but I apologise for it all the same.
The characters are all good, displaying the right level of intelligence all he way through. Well, most of the time, anyway. One has to wonder why Leo is so down to get together with the queen he's only just met, though I suppose it could be explained by these being quite exceptional circumstances, finding out you're a possible re-incarnation to this immortal woman's lost love, and witnessing the perfectly preserved 500 year old body of your ancestor, as well as an unexplainable vision from the past, it would get to anyone I suppose, as well as the temptation of being a king...Then you remember that the married John Vincey died under rather suspicious circumstances, and Hasha-Motep even admits to Leo that she kinda sorta murdered his ancestor for not leaving his wife. What a dope Leo is! Run away, dude!
She is a well-realised villain. A firm leader to the point of cruelty (if only all of Kor had one neck!), but not without her more caring and tender moments. Just a shame that she hasn't quite gotten a handle on her murderous rages during her long immortal life.
As good as it is, She does have its hokey moments. The exposition text that comes up on the screen for us to read is one. This was an amusingly archaic thing to see in a movie, and I enjoyed its inclusion. Why can't more films do this? The romance between Leo and Tanya is as rushed as you can imagine, but the actors at least share good chemistry. Less well written however is Tanya's line to Hasha-Motep about how she shouldn't have Leo because 'Love is for the young', and Hasha can't because since she's old, she can never truly know love. You speak for yourself, Tanya, you brazen hussy! She also gets an amusing moment when trying to speak pidgin English to a native of Kor, as if saying 'Him very sick!' will make someone who doesn't speak English go "Oh, NOW I understand what you mean! I'll go get the doctor right away!". Finally, there's the denouement about how the real flame of life is that in the fireplace of every happy couple. A sweet but groan-inducing ending.
The acting in She is very good. Randolph Scott is good as the hunky hero, as is Helen Mack as the love interest, while Helen Gahagan is the best performer in the film as the titular antagonist. To those accustomed only to his more laidback turn as Dr. Watson in the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series, Nigel Bruce's performance as Holly is quite a surprise! While I don't exactly find his Watson to be as much a buffoon as his reputation suggests, he's still leagues behind when compared with his more adventurous and action-oriented counterpart in She.
This is a very well It was originally meant to be a technicolour production, but I believe didn't have the money for it. It looks great in black-and-white, but I prefer watching the Ray Harryhausen supervised colourisation. It provides a lot more bounce and grandiosity to the imagery, even if the (really good) matte paintings look a bit more obvious in colour, and there's a pastel-y quality to some shots (and an unintentionally terrifying face in one scene).
She is definitely one of the greats of 1930s adventure cinema, and while it's not as well not as other contemporaries, it still stands strong as a shining gem of the period...
Andie is a schoolgirl who lives in the poorer side of town, but is happy with her life. A frugal sort, she's often experimenting with new second hand clothes, and helping her unmotivated father find a job. Blane is a rich kid, but unsatisfied by how vapid and insulting some of his friends can be. Seeing something special in Andie, he falls for her, but friends on both sides object to the two's pairing, feeling that either Blane is an unsincere rich brat only interested in a quick lay, and that Andie is 'beneath' someone like Blane, respectively. Despite these criticisms, the two try to make their relationship work...
Coming from noted writer and director John Hughes, Pretty in Pink is one of his best works, I feel. It's a thoroughly enjoyable teen movie focusing on the everpresent issues of class. Can two people from different walks of life make it in a relationship?
While the pacing is good with the story, it isn't with the characters, as Blane barely appears during the first half, with all the screentime being hogged by Duckie, an excruciatingly unlikeable character. He's a real pain to watch, and the movie is so unbalanced! Thankfully after a certain point, Blane starts appearing more regularly, but then Duckie is the one to mostly vanish, which still feels like a problem despite my dislike for the character.
Pretty in Pink has a few things to say, including interesting examinations on masculinity, both positive, negative, and in-between. On the positive side is Blane, a rich kid who's not a stuck-up brat, but rather is sweet and caring, and also the first to ask Andie out rather than the other way around. Then on the other end we've got Steff, a toxic asshole who does try asking 'nerdy' and 'poor' girls out himself, albeit in a rude and condescending manner, then accuses them of low standards and bitchiness when he's rejected. Blane lays out his internal reasons for his actions at the end and it's great to watch the guy squirm! One has to wonder what becomes of Steff after the credits roll. Does he stay an asshole forever, or does he learn the error of his ways with his friend's guidance? Duckie, meanwhile, has issues with entitlement, as well as just being a prat to women, then wondering why he has no luck with the ladies, eventually learning that just because he 'love's Andie, it doesn't mean she has to love him back. Finally, there's Andie's father, who's got his own issues to deal with, and is more often than not in an unmotivated slump, being taken care of by his daughter rather than the other way round, with the two having a positive relationship based on mutual respect and admiration, even if his borderline laziness does upset it at times. Man, with all this focus on the male psyche, it's a surprise that the female characters don't get nearly as much psychological attention! I guess it makes sense, since John Hughes would be more familiar with the internal behaviour of men. And it's not like toxic femininity is exactly a common thing in America.
Pretty in Pink may be a great movie, but it is not short of awkwardness. Most of it comes courtesy of Duckie, but some of it from other places. The party scene where Blane takes Andie to meet some of his friends is cringey to watch, although it at least is meant to be. And finally, it's hard watching what Andie does to her two pink dresses! Yikes, those poor outfits! Those are new threads from your dad and a gift from Iona (her old prom dress), kid, don't tear them up and cannibalise them!
Andie is the best character, as she's very well-written, and played excellently by Molly Ringwald, who's the best actor in the movie. As for Blane, he may have a snooty rich name, but he's very likeable. Andrew McCarthy is great here. The moment when Blane calls Duckie an asshole, I was once again reminded why he's one of my favourite living actors!
In actuality, he's my favourite not only because I like him, but because of how versatile he is. Three examples-Weekend at Bernie's, Mannequin, and Pretty in Pink. All three films have performances from him that are so different! Weekend at Bernie's was the first thing I ever saw McCarthy in (at least, the first I saw knowing who he is), and I figured the guy's niche was playing goofy and snarky comic-relief types, but then I saw Mannequin, where his character is a total 180 as a romantic dreamer.
Onto Duckie. I don't like Jon Cryer. Nothing against the man himself, I just can't stand him as a performer. He's annoying! Really annoying! And Duckie is a freakin' scumbag for most of the movie. He's only likeable in the last eight minutes, and when he fights Steff. I wish more care has gone into making his character less of a pain.
The rest of the acting is all good. James Spader's performance as rich asshole Steff isn't anything special, but he's still James Spader, so he's definitely watchable. Annie Potts as Andie's older friend Iona is awesome! She needed more screentime! Thankfully she does get enough, and her and Andy's friendship is nicely written and believable.
The soundtrack here is pretty good. While I don't think it's anywhere near being one of the best ever made, as others have said, it still really compliments the movie well. My favourite tracks were the title song (the verses and general composition moreso than the singing), and If you Leave by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, which is a great pairing with the finale.
Pretty in Pink is an 80s classic that still holds up today just as well as it did back in the day. Not dated at all and still relevant to the modern day, it's not a movie that'll fade from memory anytime soon...
Finally I reach the last two films on the classic Hollywood mystery set I've been chipping away at for the past year or so. Having covered such 'gems' as Sh! the Octopus and The Smiling Ghost, and such gems as The Hidden Hand and Find the Blackmailer, I now reach The Patient in Room 18, and Mystery House...
The Patient in Room 18
Noted detective Lance O'Leary has undergone one of the few failures in his otherwise impeccable and illustrious career, and with his sense of self-worth shattered, his doctor recommends him a stay at a rest home. The relative peace there however is shattered when a wealthy new patient is murdered, over a supply of expensive radium he had for medical treatment. Together with the nurse Sarah Keate, O'Leary must uncover the killer before another death occurs...
The Patient in Room 18 is a disappointing film. Bit of an issue is how the movie spends so much time building up O'Leary that by the time we get to the main story, it all starts feeling a bit much. Too many characters to keep track of, not helped by them all looking pretty interchangeable, and all Doctors or nurses to boot, often with similar hairstyles.
Whodunnits with large body counts are usually disappointing in the respect that the suspect pool thins with each new murder. Patient in Room 18 has such a bodycount, but that's a moot point since we see who the killer is the moment he commits the deed! For the life of me though I had no idea who I was looking at. It's also a bit of a cheat that O'Leary's big clue to finding out who the murderer is a witness, rather than clues he's discovered himself. O'Leary's skills rarely contribute to the discovery of new information (often they're found by other people, like the manservant Higgins or Keate), and there's very little actual investigation into any of the murder victims. The leads just sort of bum around until they stumble upon new things.
The round-up and reveal is very confusing and contains many conveniences, but one thing I did find pretty hilarious was the fate of the murderer. I guess that's one thing this has in common with The Wayne Murder Case. Neither are that great showcases of their genre, but boy do they have satisfying death scenes for the villains!
The biggest crime is this movie is that it's just rather dull. It's not bad, entertainingly so or otherwise, but it's all so perfunctory.
As far as characters go, Lance O'Leary is certainly interesting, but the film paints a pretty glum picture of him, if he's prone to legitimate nervous breakdowns after a single unsolved case! We less want him to solve this current mystery and more to see him leave it to the professionals, because he's clearly not mentally fit for this line of work! If one failure was enough to drive him into mania, then I hate to see where he'll end up!
Nurse Sarah Keate is your typical 'take-no-guff' 1940s woman, and is much more enjoyable, getting in a few snappy lines here and there, like when the police detective was talking with her. "Now listen, lady"-"Keate is the name!".
One very interesting scene is when Lance is trying to smoke and his gruff nurse beau tears it from his mouth, because "They're not good for you!". Wow, nice to see a film from 1937 acknowledge that smoking is bad! You go, guys, and for that reason alone I'm more forgiving of this movie for its flaws.
Another quite impressive scene was a scene shot all in one take, when the other nurse is trying to move some flowers and keeps getting interrupted by others.
The acting's pretty ok. Some characters are more annoying than others, but there's nothing that wrong with the performances. I wasn't much of a fan of Patric Knowles as the lead detective, but I liked Ann Sheridan!
Overall, The Patient in Room 18 is a bit of a snooze, but it's not an awful way to spend an evening. Just not a particularly striking example of the 30s/40s detective boom...
22:08, 32:18ish, 36:31,
As with all the other films on set I was going to cover Mystery House separately, but as it turns out this film is another Lance O'Leary vehicle! Man, it's a good thing I realised this was a sequel before posting my review for Patient in Room 18! It's also lucky I chose to discuss Patient first, deeming Mystery House to be a broad enough title that it should be covered last.
Businessman Hubert Kingery gathers all of his board members together at his secluded hunting lodge one night to bring up the matter of extensive theft that could lead to the company's downfall. Before he can go further with is accusations, Kingery goes to his room and is shot dead. Since the door was locked and the windows were barred, his death is believed to be suicide, but his daughter Gwen suspects differently, and asks the household's nurse Sarah Keate if she knows any good detectives...
The plot to Mystery House is more of the same when compared to its predecessor, not because the plot's that similar, but because the bodies keep dropping the floor and thinning out the suspect list! At least the location is smaller and the suspects easier to tell apart this time around. There are also enough suspects remaining even when as many as three people are dead.
The mystery s ok. The solution to the locked room dilemma is certainly clever and reasonably plausible enough, but there's no way for the audience to work it out. There's zero way for the viewer to work out the motive either. For all their sniping at each-other, we don't really know much of anything about the suspects, and why they'd want to commit all these murders beyond the basic reason of vague criminality.
The climax is pretty good, with some neat stuntwork taking place! These poor actors look like they took a bruising for their art! And for course, who should come to the rescue but the amazing German Shepherd!
Mystery House is not a good film to watch on a cold day, because you can feel the chilliness emanating from the screen! The snowed-in setting is quite effective
Lance O'Leary is played by Dick Purcell now instead of Patric Knowles, and acts completely differently. He's not exactly serious, but he's a bit more mature and less insufferable than Knowles' take on the character, which is a relief. Ann Sheridan returns as Sarah Keate, and feels like an anchor tying the two films together.
The rest of the acting is decent. Present is a bad Irish accent, while another sounds like Jimmy Stewart. There are a few other familiar faces here, such as Anthony Averill, Hugh O'Connell, Sheila Bromley, and even Elspeth Dudgeon from Sh! The Octopus, of this very DVD set!
One last note to discuss is the true protagonist of these stories. Upon reading I discovered that not only is Mignon a girl's name, but also that Nurse Sarah Keate herself is apparently the protagonist of Eberhardt's books! That's what sources say, but I think Lance O'Leary is still a character in them, so I'm not sure what to think.
The Patient in Room 18 doesn't come highly recommended from me, but Mystery House fares a bit better. I suppose the best course of action may be to find the books, as they might bear the highest quality. Still, 1930s and 40s mystery cinema always had at least a little something to offer...
Friday, August 31, 2018
Perhaps the last (or one of the last) classical British shows before everything took a turn for more down-to-earth fare, The Persuaders is a highly enjoyable show. Fanciness exudes from every frame with all of its glitz and glamour, beautiful women, fast cars, and two playboy leads. The plots can get sometimes over-the-top, and not all are as good as each-other, but they're usually fun times, and overall this is certainly worth the praise it's received over the years.
The biggest fault of the series in my eyes is that more often than not it fails to live up to its premise. It started out as two powerful men with the potential to make a difference, but are too lazy and unmotivated to do anything beyond having a good time until stirred into action by Judge Fulton's influence. Instead, the majority of stories feature the duo simply stumbling into adventures by accident, usually by being on the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than intentionally seeking trouble out. Taking the first episode as an example, the plots could've had the duo go on missions directly from the Judge, or simply investigate suspicious goings-on in tandem with him (perhaps a better choice, that wouldn't reduce Fulton to an exposition box and the heroes to errand boys) We could've had a healthy mix of those types of stories, and those where criminal stuff just so happens to befall our heroes by complete coincidence.
I think the reason why Fulton wasn't a bigger presence was perhaps because the writers didn't want the two larger-than-life stars to be always knowing less than another character, and to avoid Fulton becoming like an exposition machine who always knows what going on.
Another thing I feel doesn't really fit the show's tone are the cold war centric episodes. They're good, but I'm not sure I feel like such stories
Something a little confusing is the order of episodes. Persuaders was aired in a specific order, but the DVD's arrange it differently, perhaps in the original production schedule, since we witness Tony Curtis' hair gradually go grey rather than switching back and forth between episodes. I prefer the DVD's arrangement, although one drawback is that a lot of the European adventures are all clumped together, leading to several set in England in a row, so perhaps the variety of the TV airing wasn't all bad.
The acting in The Persuaders is all fine. Roger Moore and Tony Curtis are great leads, embodying their characters well. Laurence Naismith is practically the only other recurring actor, and while he only shows up in about half the episodes, he's always a pleasant sight who .
As with most shows involving two lead actors, there's been lots of gossip about whether or not Moore and Curtis got on on set. Some reports are negative, others are positive, and Moore and Curtis themselves quashed any such idea. If I had to guess, perhaps the reports are true in that they didn't quite get on, but it was more a case of clashing personalities and work ethics rather than them full-on hating each-other. That would probably explain why they looked back on the experience positively and spoke nicely about each-other.
The music in The Persuaders is definitely something to speak about! Many jovial, rousing, and bouncy tracks that really complement the series.
The effects are usually well, but there are amusing constants such as the often bloodless shootings, and the obvious rear-projection during car rides, some occasions moreso than others. The beautiful filming locations are a lovely sight to behold, and there's rarely a moment where you look at the action on screen and sarcastically go "Yeah, I totally believe these were shot in the same place. Nice soundstage, guys!".
The Persuaders only lasted for one season. Despite its huge success in the U.K., wider Europe, and good ol' Australia, the series wasn't popular in America, therefore cancelled. Goddammit, America! In any case, producer Lew Grade cared for the show so much that he was willing to foot the budget for a second season, but by that point Roger Moore had finally accepted the role of James Bond, and while some workaround solutions were bandied about (such as finding a replacement character), the show was ultimately ended.
Interestingly enough, the foreign dubs of the show were very different to the original! Since the translators threw up their hands and figured the jokes and cultural stuff was too hard to translate effectively, they rewrote huge swaths of the dialogue, making not only the characters totally different, but the comedy a lot broader. I don't know if the DVD releases of Persuaders in those respective countries are released with those dubs, but I certainly hope so, 'cause I'd sure like to see them someday!
One last thing to mention is how this show, like a few others of its time, was re-edited into movies for a second release (mainly for tv, I believe). What they'd do is take two episodes and splice them together, then act as if they were the one story all along. This worked better with some series' than others. A more serialised show like that Planet of the Apes one for example didn't go too terribly. As for Persuaders, I haven't watched these efforts in full, partly because I've only just rewatched the series proper and don't wish to see these episodes again so soon, but also I can't be bothered. From what I can tell from skimming through, they seem like hatchet jobs, as clumsy as they are pointless.
Ok, now it's time for a more in-depth look into this show's run...
The former Judge Fulton is unwilling to let his retirement stop him from taking a part in putting criminals behind bars. To this end he gets together two bored millionaires-English Lord Brett Sinclair and American businessman Danny Wilde. He views each as having vast potential, but use it for nothing but womanising, drinkin' booze, and getting into brawls. After receiving mystery invitations to Cote d'Azur, Brett and Danny meet and almost immediately start coming to blows, culminating in their arrest. Faced with 3 months of jail time, Fulton offers them the chance to take up a job for him-Investigate a beautiful woman...
Overture is a great first episode, and perhaps my favourite in the entire run. It does a great job introducing us to the leads, as well as the series' style and tone, not to mention the beautiful scenery of the French Riviera.
By far my favourite scene is the chase between Brett and Danny, scored to the fabulous song Gotta Get Away by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, and utilising split screen technology to great effect.
Where the episode excels at is the character introductions, but less satisfying is the remainder of the plot. It's by no means bad, but after the womanising section is over, it's just a bit routine, and we see so little of the villain that he doesn't really leave much of an impact.
To the Death, Baby
Independent young heiress Shelley Masterton is being manipulated by the Lothario con-man Carl Foster, convinced he's reformed his past misdeeds and loves her for real, and isn't just after her money. Her concerned legal guardian is hardly convinced, and pleads his case to the vacationing Brett and Danny, who each take turns trying to romance the girl themselves, and persuade her away from Foster, while also proving his ill intentions...
To the Death, Baby is a mostly good episode, with some fun twists and turns, but first you have to suffer through some more annoying moments, almost all courtesy of Shelley. She's smart in some scenes but a bit of an idiot in others. She's determined to even if he is a con-man because 'At some point I've got to be allowed to make my own mistakes'. Yeah, but not ones you're actively warned about and can tell is a mistake going in, and that'll cost you your entire $30 million dollar fortune! Stupid girl.
The leads interact decently enough with Shelley, but there's no introduction to Danny and Brett meeting her. They witness an altercation from afar and talk with her guardian, and the very next scene everyone's already acquainted. As annoying as it is that such an important moment remains unseen, I suppose this was at least partly a good decision, so things don't resemble last episode too much. As for the duo's bet, it could perhaps be seen as a bit creepy depending on how you see it, but it's mostly fine, mainly since Shelley knows what game they're up to, and they know she knows (hope I didn't just kill you with that ).
As the plot rolls on, and you wish you could hang Shelley out a window, there's an interesting reveal, which puts everything that came before in a new light. I definitely approve!
The Spanish setting is quite pretty, but there are a couple of obvious rents in the seams. While the majority of the episode was indeed shot in Europe, a bullfighting scene early on is obviously lower quality stock footage interspersed with the leads and a few extras sitting in an obvious stadium set.
Jennie Linden is good at showing off her character's exasperation, Thorley Walters does well, and the deceptively Harold Innocent plays a deliciously evil baddie. Roger Delgado shows up briefly, which is a treat. It's especially interesting seeing him play a Spanish character, as that was his heritage (though not recently enough for his Spanish accent to not be put-on).
Five Miles to Midnight
A wanted criminal in Italy, Frank Rocco is not only on the run from police, but also the mafia. Willing to testify against them for the U.S. government, he's to be smuggled out of the country by Brett and Danny, on the instructions of Judge Fulton. Coming along for the ride is a plucky photographer, and after a chase to distract the police in the city, the gang head out into the wide open mountains and valleys, journeying on foot. Their plan runs into several snags, and it seems like the two millionaires bitten off more they can chew...
Five Miles to Midnight is one of those breakneck on-the-run type stories, usually set in an approximation of real time. This can go either way. When done well it's very good, but when done poorly it's leaden. This is thankfully a good example, and even if it was rock boring, we'd be taken through beautiful Italian hills and mountains, which would more than make up for any boredom.
The story is simple but effective and to the point, though it seems a bit weird how literally everyone in the Italian countryside seems to be working for the mafia. There's a great reveal at the end, though the climax itself is a bit anticlimactic, with the threat of over half a dozen goons being upturned by the entrance of one guy with a gun on Brett and Danny's otherwise defenseless side.
The leads have fun banter, and we get some insight into their characters and motivations...sort-of. We get none into Danny's, but in an effectively mysterious way, and as for Brett, he's probably telling a half-truth. While these risky venture perhaps do make him feel more alive, I'm sure he does genuinely do it for noble reasons too.
Joan Collins' character Sidonie is either sexually liberated or a cheap floozy, depending on how you see her. I found her to be quite annoying. She's fun at first, but she goes from vociferously insisting on coming along to whining about being stuck on this venture, despite having been warned away at repeated intervals and told about the risks involved.
The remainder of characters are ok. Frank Rocco is a probing crim who's sometimes more trouble than he's worth, but overall does well. Judge Fulton only gets a couple of scenes and makes the most of them, and the baddies are basically all just lackeys, so not really all that interesting.
While in Cannes for the film festival, Danny meets an old childhood friend from the Bronx, Angie. He's overjoyed to have met the guy again, but Brett and Judge Fulton are skeptical, suspecting Angie of being a contract killer hired to assassinate a popular union leader. Danny tries proving them wrong, but finds to his horror that Angie isn't who he thinks he is anymore...
Angie...Angie is a good episode, with plenty of dramatic moments for Tony Curtis, and things are entertaining enough that you forgive the contrivances that drive the story, such as how fortuitous it is that Danny just so happens to find Angie again, not only because his girl friend is the suspicious woman Brett and co. are looking for, but because Angie himself is the hitman operating the whole scheme.
Despite it being awkward watching him trying to defend a friend who the audience knows really is a murderous lunatic, the episode paints Danny in a good light, showing him as someone who doesn't forget his old friends from the slums just because he's made it big
Angie is ostensibly the story's main villain, but there's a man behind the curtain. Something a bit weird is how determined they are to kill Angie for a single botched assignment, when according to him this is his first ever failure. Although given Angie's desperate demeanour as the episode progresses, maybe he was lying? In any case it's a bit contrived and overly dramatic that this just so happens to be Angie's last assignment before he can retire.
Something that does kinda thankfully this is only Episode 4 in run, but given how that doesn't fully gel, particularly since the duo got over their general enmity for working with Judge Fulton after Overture. Still, it's not like The Prisoner, where the jumbled episode order actually creates inconsistencies
Tony Curtis gets the spotlight here while Moore is more proactive, though not a huge amount. Laurence Naismith barely appears, with just a couple of scenes before disappearing at the halfway point. Known for more silly roles such as Corporal Agarn in F Troop, Larry Storch delivers a neat performance. He's good at the part of both a sincere old friend and that of an unhinged murderer, even if he is a tad over-the-top in places (especially the climax).
The actress who plays Angie's sidekick is weird, always looking like a still photograph rather than a real human being, and she has this creepy look on her face like she's an alien unconvincingly trying to seem human (no offense to said actress, I swear!). Even when she moves, she seems to stay perfectly still, if that makes any sense.
A local dancer and prize swimmer is found dead in the French bay by Brett and Danny, and after the highly suspicious death is rebuked by the authorities as a 'clear suicide or accident', the enraged duo decide to investigate the case themselves, accompanying the dead woman's friend Pekoo, eventually finding themselves facing a dangerous conspiracy...
Powerswitch begins with a very effective intro, switching well from comedy to more serious matters, all without a single line of dialogue. It's a case of superb visual direction! This keeps up throughout, namely in the clifftop finale.
There's an intriguing plot, and it only gets more interesting the more you find out, with a thrilling climax, unfortunately followed by a very rushed ending. I dug Fulton's role in the story's events, too. While I don't normally like how he manipulates his two agents from behind the scenes, since the first episode kinda established their willingness to assist him by the end, I really liked his role here as a show of his wiles and intelligence. I didn't however appreciate that Fulton once again only gets one scene, at the start, and that's it. Not even a moment where we see Brett and Danny find out the truth behind their involvement in the case. At least we do get the return of a more appreciative Inspector Blanchard at the end.
The villains here are a pair of cunning bastards, while Koestler is presented as a more sympathetic player. The actors all do their jobs very well, with Terence Alexander being menacing from the get-go, and Melissa Stribling being convincingly easygoing and nice at first, then cold and calculating once her true colours are revealed.
Her weird name aside, Pekoo (played by the lovely British tv stalwart and Aussie traitor Annette Andre) is a worthwhile sidekick, much better than Joan Collins in Five Miles to Midnight. Her motivation is strong, and she does just enough to warrant her presence, never feeling like a useless addition.
One thing I found cool is the amount of unsubtitled foreign dialogue there is, rather than the show taking the easy way out and having everyone in France speak English. It also shows off Brett's lingual capabilities.
The Gold Napoleon
Danny is about to board a plane back to America when the woman next to him is struck down by sniper fire. He believes the round was meant for him, but it soon becomes apparent that the girl is mixed up in some serious trouble, thanks to her uncle's reluctant involvement in a gold smuggling operation...
The Gold Napoleon is a good episode, with a few little hiccups. It's strange how Danny is so jetset to leave and unwilling to receive protection despite someone trying to kill him. Then as soon as there's another attempt on his life, his opinion reverses, despite adamantly refusing to stay in the very preceding scene. The episode actually brings attention to his indecisiveness, which sounds good on paper, but that whole exchange between Danny and Brett is just a bit mind-melting.
My least favourite part of the episode is the exchange when Brett is talking to the girl's uncle under the guise of a German. It's not only annoying, but his actions net him zero results, but he also totally gets the uncle killed! On that note, his death feels pointless, and doesn't really effect the story. After it happens, the rest of the cast are still pretty chipper about everything.
overdramatic music stings
While both heroes certainly get their funny moments, they're also annoying in equal measure, from Brett's somewhat painful German impression that lasts nearly 5 minutes, and Danny's insistence on yammering on to the Judge when he's on the phone. Time and a place, Danny boy! Shut the hell up! The whole scene where Danny sneaks in the foundry is pretty unbelievable, but despite that it's very well executed, and Tony Curtis is clearly the one performing these stunts for most of it (maybe even all, assuming a stuntman wasn't procured for the narrow building-to-building walk).
This episodes villain is a pretty typical Italian/Spanish mobster (the fact that the actor Alfred Marks is neither made it a tad unclear), but he does the job well. Regarding said baddie, for a guy who doesn't exist, he sure talks in the third person a fair bit. His main henchman is ok, but a total idiot, not noticing Wilde sneaking about in the foundry right in front of him, the very man he suggested the murder of. Harold Goldblatt is ok, but I guess the actor had something better to do since he abruptly dies partway through and is barely spoken of again. Susan George is quite good as far as this show's female side characters go, as she spends a lot of the episode being proactive on her own, even before the events of the episode (hence her getting shot to begin with).
The Gold Napoleon features one of the lesser effects in the show's run. It's a recurring thing in the series, but exacerbated here. It's the typical rear-projection car scene, except for someone on a motorbike, making the facade so much more obvious when there's not the back of a car to hide at least some of it. There was also a gunshot wound that we seem to plainly see there's no blood, but on close examination there is. I was just a dope looking in the wrong place.
The Old, the New, and the Deadly
Danny and Brett are staying at a French hotel, where Suzy, an old flame of Danny's shows up with her new husband. The daughter of a disgraced French politician who's believed to have sold his country out to the nazis, she's happy to be hitched to someone who doesn't hold that against her. Also present in the hotel crowd is a mysterious man with a suitcase that breaks open, revealing a statuette of a bird, which Danny helps put back. A photographer snaps up the event while focusing on the blushing newlywed, and the following newspaper gives off the impression that Danny is the bearer of the statue, leading to several attempts on his life, orchestrated by a sinister count who very much desires the bird for himself...
Rather than be a more open and sprawling adventure, The Old, the New, and the Deadly is all in the one location (still in pretty France though!) over a shorter length of time. While I prefer a greater variety in places to visit, I still like this format, and this is a decent episode, though hampered by a couple of things.
The villains talk tough, but are a bit bumbling in practice, having to constantly rely on an endless stream of assassins who are all conveniently in the Paris area At least Groski (an overdramatic dandy who comes off like an evil Jason King, if my memory of that show is serving me correctly) actually plays a sizeable role in the story, unlike the first, who gets dispatched almost as soon he appears.
There is one thing that stops me from enjoying this episode, and that's Suzy's husband. He's a jealous and vindictive prick, who makes rash assumptions, sweeping demands regarding his wife, acts aggressively, drags his wife around, etc, and he never apologises either! I suppose you're meant to assume he did at some point after the credits roll, but we of course never see that, so we're still left with a sour taste. His presence also kinda spoils a lot of the episode's comedy too, as there's a lot of funny moments, particularly the ending, until he shows up.
One of the funnier moments is Brett's family anecdote about his ancestor's bad luck in the French Revolution. You have to wonder if his family history really is this downbeat, or if he's just screwing with Danny.
Patrick Troughton doesn't let a silly wig and accent detract too much for his performance, and is a fine villain. The episode's opening shot is rather terrifying, to boot.
A young heiress is shocked when her long thought dead brother Mark shows up, claiming control of the estate At the behest of Judge Fulton, Danny and Brett investigate the hostile new heir, believing him to be a fraud...
Take Seven is a change for the series, with a more homegrown British feel to it rather than a European one. The story is entertaining enough...Riiiight up until the twist at the end, and then the whole thing falls apart. It feels like a shock reveal just for the sake of one, and doesn't gel with the previous events at all, such as Mark's behaviour or actions throughout It also puts Judge Fulton's judge of character in a pretty bad light! A good twist is one that makes you rewatch the episode and see everything in a whole new light, with these revelations apparent now that you have that knowledge, and you can see all the clues leading up to the climactic reveal. Instead, Take Seven literally never mentions or sets up any such twist save for one little clue that's not anywhere near enough to guess anything from, and the first we hear about the switcheroo is at the very end.
Sinéad Cusack is good up until the last act, whereas Christian Roberts does well at being an annoying git until becoming suddenly likeable in the last 10 minutes. Also here is a surprisingly young Richard Hurndall (well, younger). I've only ever seen him before in The Five Doctors, where he was a good decade older, and possibly making his voice and general demeanour different in order to act like William Hartnell.
Someone Like Me
Brett is on his way to a family jumble sale when he's lured out in to the woods and assaulted. He wakes up in what seems to be hospital, but soon realises that there's more to the place than there seems, eventually almost escaping his false surroundings. Once Brett regains consciousness, he's back in his car, and the whole hospital experience feels like a dream, but mysterious phone calls that cause him to experience missing time make Brett realise that something serious is gong on...
Now this is a weird 'un! The Persuaders is usually a lighthearted show, and even the more serious episodes like Angie...Angie are still normal. Someone Like Me however is just plain weird! It feels like a cross between The Manchurian Candidate and the Schizoid Man episode of The Prisoner. While it's a bit less freaky on second viewing as opposed to when you go in completely unexpected, it's still a pretty compelling watch!
While well written, this episode does still fall into the same problems as The Schizoid Man, to an extent. Just like we know the No. 6 we're following isn't really an imposter, we know that this really is Brett doing these things under hypnotic control, though we at least don't know what's up with the whole plastic surgery angle until late in. It's also very late in when we finally learn about Brett's relationship with Sam Milford (or indeed hear about him at all). It's a shame because the dialogue he gets goes quite a way to establish and inform their relationship, but we don't actually see them interact until the last 5 minutes, or even hear Brett so much as speak his name before very nearly the last act.
The villainous scheme is good, but a tad overcomplicated. For all the trouble they go to, it'd be much easier if they cut out all this brainwashing and plastic surgery stuff. After all, as a private secretary or something the main bad guy has access to Milford, so you'd think he could just come up to his office, say 'Hey, here are some new cigarettes, straight from Havana!', then scarper while they either poison or blow up his target. Also feeling a bit tacked on is Milford having gotten engaged/married to the female conspirator, as that just raises further questions. As his wife, she'd surely have unfettered access to his life. If introduced earlier, this could have been a fine plot point, and quite dramatic, but because it's first raised in the last 3 minutes, it feels unnecessary.
The acting is quite good all round, and we even get to see Bernard Lee as Brett's targeted friend. He does well as you can imagine, although suffers from a lack of screentime. The standout performances come from Moore and Curtis, who do well with more dramatic material, playing off well against their often more playful attitudes.
Chain of Events
While out on a camping trip with Brett, Danny stumbles upon a dying parachutist, who uses his last moments to handcuff a mysterious suitcase to the American's wrist. This instantly marks Danny for trouble, as several parties are now after him, determined to take the suitcase for their own country's secret service, regardless of what befalls its wearer...
Chain of Events is another 'on the run' episode, with all the action taking place in the one short stretch of time, though we've got a little more room than a hotel this time. It's amusing watching how our two heroes are just out camping and yet still find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death manhunt. it's frustrating however that the macguffin the whole story was centred around ends up being entirely pointless. There's nothing interesting inside, to the point where it retroactively made the rest of the adventure less exciting for me.
There are quite a few over-the-top moments here, and most are forgiveable, though the intro's a bit silly (however, it does have some interesting moments of possible foreshadowing on rewatch). One moment that had me chuckling was Brett trying to break the chain on Danny's wrist by hooking it to a car and barred stone wall. Thank god the wall gave out first, because the only other alternative would've involved something breaking, and it wouldn't be the handcuffs!
The onscreen villain of the piece is the freelance spy Schubert, and as you can tell from that German name, he's played by a British actor. Does a good job at least. As for the ep's lady guest star, a tough British intelligence agent, I wouldn't say she's introduced too late since she's a constant, albeit a somewhat infrequent constant. I Suppose the issue is that we only get properly introduced to her later on when she finally meets Danny and is convinced of his innocence. and see her begin interacting with fairly late in. Aside from a crack about Brett having given her measles as a teenager, there's zero insight into her personality, and they're only onscreen together during the final minute, where they barely interact.
While it was seemingly filmed in a wet and muddy season of British weather (would it be mean of me to suggest there's any other kind?), the scenery is nice.
Brett has taken Danny to the Sinclair family estate of Greensleeves, a previously run-down place that has since been completely refurbished, in Brett's name, despite him having no such involvement. The duo discover that the house's occupants are looking for an actor bearing a close physical resemblance to the seemingly absent Lord, so Brett decides to volunteer and impersonate himself, discovering a secret plot to manipulate the idyllic leader of a new African nation...
With its conceit of Brett impersonating himself, Greensleeves is very interesting on paper, and it mostly lives up to the premise, even if I wish that angle had gone on for a little longer. Also neat is Brett's relationship with the now-Prime Minister of an African nation. Less intriguing though is how mundane and almost dull the villains' motives are. They're not unrealistic for a big evil corporation, but they're hardly complex, especially when compared to the effort they've gone to to plan this whole affair.
While neither the African leader or his spunky daughter get a great deal of screentime (nor any in the denouement), they make the most of their roles. I still wish they'd appeared more though, particularly the daughter. I liked her interactions with Danny, especially involving Hungary!
The Greensleeves estate where the majority of the episode takes place is quite a pretty place to be, and I feel like slapping Brett upside the head for letting it fall into a state of disrepair. Thank goodness for this evil plan!
The Ozerov Inheritance
While holidaying in Geneva, Brett and Danny are sent a secret message by an aristocratic Russian family, who are desperately trying to prove their connection to the royal Ozerovs and thus get their long unclaimed inheritance. There's clearly something to their assertions when armed thugs ransack their duo's hotel room and people start dying...
The biggest drawback to The Ozerov Inheritance is how talky it is to begin with. The first 10 or so minutes are mainly just an exposition dump, and it's only after that's over when the episode properly begins. Once it does finally get going, it's pretty good, with a good plot, and pretty Swiss scenery. I especially like how noble Brett and Danny's goals are this episode, simply to restore dignity to an old woman and her family.
The villain is probably the next biggest fault. Firstly, he's just not that interesting, but another part of what makes the story lacking in this department is because it offered what could've been a clue to someone else unexpected being the baddie, but no, it's the predictably evil nephew. His hired assassin was more enjoyable, despite the lack of much screentime, or how he's kind-of all talk given how easily Danny disarms him. On that note, a later scene of Brett and Danny breaking free from captivity is a bit embarrassing. No-one can be as stupid as this goon is, surely!
One last plot point to touch on comes in the last few minutes, and while it does live up to a previously alluded to guess I'd made, it came a bit too late for me, and reduced much of the episode's journey pointless. All these issues aside, this is hardly unenjoyable, and is a fun watch.
The Morning After
Brett wakes up one morning in Sweden with a massive headache and no recollection of the night before, only to find he's now married. Concerned about the affair, he believes he's been drugged as part of a scheme, and he and Danny try and find out why...
The Morning After is a decent episode. Danny gets the lion's share of the action, while Brett is saddled with his potentially duplicitous new wife a lot of the time. Just a shame that Brett's scenes are a bit awkward, and Danny's scenes are somewhat held back by his eyesore of a fashion choice. The villains aren't an interesting bunch, but Bibi, the sidekick for the story is better, played well by Danish beauty Yutte Stensgaard. A shame her character disappears from the story after both leads are back in Britain. I also liked Brett's butler, so it's a shame he gets killed! Doubly a shame the episode forgets this, too! Lastly, Judge Fulton is present but doesn't really do anything, and one has to wonder if he's only in the episode because the writer couldn't be bothered establishing who this intermediary was and just figured 'Eh, judges are involved in organising political meetings, right? Let's just stick Fulton in there'.
Given this is an episode of The Persuaders, it stands to reason that at least one of the duo has to escape from some sort of bondage. As for whether the way it happens is silly, it's not, and actually pretty clever, albeit relying on the convenient presence of a boiler, and the luck that it doesn't full-on blow up and kill Danny and Bibi. There is one amusingly dumb moment earlier when Danny is in the wedding registrar's office, having been knocked after the man's murder and had a gun stuck in his hand to frame him. Upon waking up, Danny's first thought after checking the door is to stuff the pistol in his pants! As crazy as this is, it does at least come in handy for his method of escaping the police (don't worry, it doesn't involve taking potshots at them).
Element of Risk
While at the airport, Danny is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up being mistaken for an American criminal by the organisation that's hired his services. With the real Harvey Lomax in the hands of airport security, Danny plays along with his newfound 'compatriots', while trying to get in contact with Brett and tell him what's going on, before the crime of the decade can occur, with Danny at the helm...
Bloody hell, another episode about Danny being mistaken for someone else? Why does this never happen to Brett?!
Element of Risk is a very enjoyable episode. While it can get a bit awkward at times due to the whole misunderstanding nature of the episode, it's still a cracking good time, with intrigue, tension, and a decently thrilling final act, although it's resolved perhaps a bit too easily.
The denouement's a bit weak though. The criminal girl gets the short end of the stick with her implied jail time, which is perhaps deserved, but then again she did aid the duo in saving the day. Also, not only does Danny totally screw over Brett's planned double date, but we're also subjected to Roger Moore attempting to disco dance. There are some things Lords shouldn't do...
Getting to the antagonists, Lomax takes his sweet ass time properly showing up, but once he does we really do get a glimpse at the studious and methodical planner the others had been talking about beforehand, and he has a commanding presence. Peter Bowles does a nice job too, in his joviality, and his more steely-eyed moments.
One bit of potential set and music recycling from episodes past I noticed is the disco we visit a few times over the course of the story.
Brett is getting back into motor racing, but his efforts are halted when attempts start being made on his life, with a mysterious link to the past...
Someone Waiting is a mixed episode. It's partially very good, taking a sometimes more serious approach, and telling an intriguing mystery that you're keen to see uncovered. The problem for me lies in how a totally unrelated plot about fixing a race seems a bit crammed in and takes away screentime from the much more interesting main story. It's also a bit of a confusing subplot to take in, especially when compared to the much simpler main attraction.
There are a few entertaining and odd touches to the episode. There's an amusing dynamic we see with Brett cooking for Danny like a housemaid. Coming to the odd, there's a bizarre exaggerated silent film style fight at one point, where it's very difficult to tell what's even going on (just that Brett and Danny are the winners). There's also a somewhat hilarious moment when Brett opens the curtains in a dark room, and the 'daylight' floods in so much the light turns on!
The acting is all fine. Donald Pickering is weird but alright as the effete and bungling career-criminal, and John Cairney is very good in the first half of his role, but overacts too much in the second.
Anyone Can Play
Brett and Danny are out at a casino looking for a good time, and when Danny inadvertently utters a secret paymaster codeword, he's making a killing at the games table, not realizing he's being covertly given the funds for a communist ring's paymaster. Making things worse for the group is that a secret handler was watching the whole thing, and will be following and relaying information about the organisation members' whereabouts to Danny, not the real paymaster...
Anyone Can Play starts off a tad boring, with not terribly exciting casino fluff, but it quickly gets very interesting as soon as the plot becomes clear! Also, really, Danny? Another case of mistaken identity? This is thankfully less cringy than previous occasions, due to Danny not getting caught in tricky situations as much (until the end, of course, when he has to give the big rousing speech that only the real paymaster knows).
Despite starting off strong, there's a bit of a weak ending. Also, depending on how safe or fatal being thrown off a train is, the communist ringleaders at the end either all got away, or Brett and Danny have quite the amount of death on their consciences!
The special police bureau that shows up this story are...strange. The majority of them just come across like regular cops, but their leader comes off like a cross between Judge Fulton (in that he's presumably a fill-in for that stalwart character in absentia) and John Steed of The Avengers at his more exaggerated.
The villains are an ok bunch. It's interesting that we see the bad guys from such a vulnerable perspective, with them having completely ballsed up, spending the entire runtime trying to rectify their mistake. Next up is Danny's Russian contact. I know she's an enemy agent and all, and I really shouldn't be siding with her, but I like her spunk! I kinda hoped she'd turn good, but alas.
The acting's all pretty good. Playing one of the casino gang is an Aussie actor (Ed Devereaux), which you'd better believe I appreciated!
The Time and the Place
While out for a relaxing country drive, Brett and Danny are stopped by a mysterious hitchhiker, who promptly leaves the two alone. Danny finds a dead body, but when he goes back to get Brett, not only has it disappeared, but the dead man is purported to be alive at the house of one Lord Croxley. A convenient car accident soon after confirms Danny's suspicions that a murder has taken place, and he and Brett seek to uncover the political machinations behind the man's untimely death...
Time and Place is another episode that gets off to a really intriguing start, with a strange central mystery. Things kinda kinda stall a bit at the halfway point, with plenty of action, but little in the way of actually furthering the story. Thankfully we do eventually find out what's going on, and it's a pretty interesting plan.
Despite being a case of 'show don't tell', the ending was funny, although it doesn't really offer any satisfactory answer or conclusion to the main story, and what became of the antagonists and their scheme. Less funny and more painful (or the other way around depending on your opinion) is Tony Curtis' attempts at impersonating a Scotland Yard detective.
The baddies are an ok bunch, with the most rounded being the lady (if she was named, I clearly missed it). I like that her being a woman doesn't make her eventually side with the heroes. That happens a fair bit in this show, the female co-conspirators turning on their bosses after realizing the error of their ways and siding with Brett and Danny. It's almost like those episodes of the 1960s Batman series! Here though, the woman shows sympathy, but never hesitates to accept deadly force, nor reneges on her part in this attempted revolution. She even sorta becomes the defacto villain in the final minutes, until thrown in a clothes hamper.
Roger Moore is in the director's chair this time round, and he does a somewhat stylish job.
The Long Goodbye
While out on a Scottish wilderness trek prompted by Judge Fulton, Danny and Brett stumble upon a decaying old plane wreck hidden in some underbrush, containing a skeleton, and a written plea to destroy the 'formula' on the body's person. Upon their discovery, several 'somewhat overeager' parties now wish to either kidnap or buy the duo in order to steal the formula. Brett and Danny's only hope is to find the dead man's long lost daughter, before her father's fears come true...
The Long Goodbye is quite good. It really nails the repressive feeling that comes from suddenly being the centre of attention of half a dozen different groups. Unfortunately this section takes up a good chunk of the episode. I suppose it's understandable, since the elements and players of the story are already in place, only needing conversations to further the story, but still. Right up about the point the real Carla Wilkes shows up is when things properly start to progress.
The ending is a case of real life dictating the story. While it would be nice for the world of The Persuaders to receive a perfect fix for the oil crisis, it of course can't seeing as it's trying to mirror reality, and thus can't present such a boon, since it didn't happen in real life I kinda wish shows would break from the present day's history more often. It'd be unpredictable at least!
There are far too many characters to keep track of here, and that's gotta be the ep's biggest downfall. With all the different Carla Wilkes, I wondered if the rocket car lady would show up again as the story's sidekick, revealing herself to be the real Carla. If so, that'd be welcome since I liked her, godawful taste in vehicles aside (technically not her choice, I know), but it would be incredibly contrived. She does end up making a brief return though when Brett employs her assistance in breaking-and-entering the bad guy's lair. He does this of course despite her protestations to his presence by kissing her, because that's how the minds of women work, right? Lastly, Judge Fulton makes a welcome return, even if he is rendered immobile by gout. I wonder if Laurence Naismith really did have some sort of malady that necessitated the plaster cast.
Speaking of a different sort of cast, there are a few familiar faces, and voices. Peter Sallis briefly shows up as a baddie, and I instantly recognised his voice! Then there's the ethereal beauty Madeline Smith, marking the second Hammer babe to show up in an episode of The Persuaders (though her role is much smaller than Yutte Stensgaard). There's also Deborah Moore, daughter of Roger. I'm not sure I'd say she's a great actress, but moreso in the sense that she talks like an unscripted kid, so not that good, but also not unconvincing.
The Long Goodbye is another episode directed by Roger Moore. His work is mostly fine, though a vehicle accident at the end is a bit confounding.
A Home of One's Own
Danny has just purchased a ramshackle cottage out in the English countryside despite skepticism from Brett, but his plans of refurbishing the property are threatened by an arrogant neighbour who wishes to own the cottage for himself, and a dangerous cult...
A Home of One's Own shapes up to be a most interesting episode thanks to the presence of a sinister cult, but the execution is disappointing for two reasons. First is that there's about a 40 minute gap between their appearances, and second is that they're only disguises for enterprising smugglers and nothing more. Awww! I know an episode about an actual cult threatening the heroes would perhaps have been a bit unrealistic and potentially silly (moreso than usual), but it'd be better than leading the audience on only to pull the rug out from under them with the reveal that the spooky goings-on are less fun than previously thought. While amusing in a way, the ending's a bit depressing and unlikely for poor Danny and his homeowning dreams.
Danny seems like a weird sort to get into such a homeowning spree, but his American stubbornness is certainly believable in the face of the intense adversity he faces from all sides. Brett gets his 'suave' moments, such as his pick-up line to Lucy, where he's basically like 'What are you doing this evening? No, don't tell me. We're going to have a nice pheasant over sauce with a drop of champagne'.
Lucy is a good character, but only after a certain point. She's effectively mysterious early on, but it's eventually frustrating to watch in how often she fobs Brett and Danny off about how she's doing something important but 'don't ask me what', or 'I'll tell you later, when the time is right'. How about you tell us now instead of dragging this out, lady?! What's most disappointing is that she ends up being something perfectly mundane, and didn't have much reason to be so secretive with what she knew (at least not to the leads). I grew to like her more after we find out her identity.
Danny's new neighbour is overtly and cartoonishly evil, not exactly presenting a good villain.
I suppose this could be explained by them not being a real cult, but isn't is rather unfair and improper to stick pins in a voodoo doll if you're gonna kill the person yourself?! That's cheating!
That's Me Over There
An anonymous source has spent the last few months feeding information regarding the corrupt and untouchable businessman Thaddeus Krane to Brett, and has just retrieved the last piece of information needed to indict the man. Things go awry when he's caught on a security camera, and Krane has his treacherous employee murdered. With the dead man's evidence now in the hands of his collaborator, she follows her friend's last instructions by setting up a meeting with Brett and only Brett to hand over the data. Unfortunately things take another turn for the worse when Krane discovers Brett's involvement in the whole affair and has him kidnapped, leading to Danny having to impersonate his Lordship...
That's Me Over There is a fun time, and you really feel the thrills as the leads try and take down a seemingly unbeatable crime lord.
The auction section drags on a tad too long, not because it's bad or poorly paced, but because it perhaps overestimates the difficulty in handing over a 1 inch microfilm in a densely crowded room. It takes over 10 minutes to accomplish what should've taken 5 seconds. The ending is funny, though I kinda wish we'd gotten a proper denouement with the two women, seeing as they are important and all.
Danny is one again guilty of an awful 'pip pip cheerio' accent when he answers the phone as Brett, but he uses a more restrained one when impersonating his friend in person. It's still not good, but it's at least more subtle than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins...almost.
Brett's contact is a bit of an idiot in his final scene. He's scared senseless when at work, so if he's gotten the last evidence he needs to send his boss to jail, he should've just immediately left, but not only does he not, he accepts the ominous call up to Krane's office, where the predictable happens. At least when he's caught out, the guy does at least make a decent attempt at escaping, but it fails when he makes the boneheaded decision to run up to the roof instead of a lower floor. Oops!
Something weird is how neither Brett's contact or his friend ever use their own home phones to contact Brett, or even a random pay phone but always the one in Krane's office. Also, where in god's name do you buy a mummy, sarcophagus and all, for only 30,000 pounds?!
There are a lot of familiar faces here. Geoffrey Keen and Derek Newark turned out to only be known to me from other movies and programs (James Bond and Doctor Who, respectively), but Juliet Harmer did indeed appear in a previous episode, as the same character! It's nice to see a bit of continuity like that, in a show where the main three characters are the only constants among a sea of ever changing faces.
Read and Destroy
British freelance spy Felix Meadowes has written his memoirs, and each side is tetchy about the contents of his book. He's content to play the East and West off each-other and sell the manuscript to the highest bidder, and Brett and Danny are each approached by their respective governments to try and get ahold of Felix's book before it sees print...
Read and Destroy is a bit of a weird episode. It's another cold war thriller, perhaps moreso than anything that's preceded, and it opens with an out-of-place narration by a tertiary character. Despite this, the story starts out interestingly enough, but then the intrigue dissolves away when we find out all this fuss is just over a memoir. Brett and Danny don't really get much to do, and the conceit of them being pitted against each-other doesn't really go anywhere. Eventually the plot just sorta fizzles. The ending is decent, though since Felix vanishes from the story in the final act, we never see the look on his face as he realises his plans are up in smoke. Also, in-case you were wondering, the odd narration at the beginning courtesy of an American spy leads nothing, and it doesn't even act as decent exposition, since it tells us practically nothing we either don't already know, or can't infer for ourselves.
The majority of the story is confined to the one house, which is mostly a dull decision, but made up for partially by the house being nice from the inside and exceptionally beautiful from the outside.
As the episode went on and I saw one of the women, I thought to myself "...Is that Kate O'Mara? Hey, that makes three! Now all we need is Ingrid Pitt and the Collinson twins!". Funnily enough, there's another actor in this episode who I struggled to recognise at first, until remembering he's also from The Vampire Lovers! Unfortunately he's saddled with an awful Russian accent, complete with 'comical' moments such as calling unhelpful cats 'capitalists'.
The two British agents who try to get Brett to retrieve the memoir are extremely British in a borderline phoney way (with their monocles, umbrellas, and bowl hats, as well as them talking about 'sticky wickets', and heavy use of the word 'wot'), which is quite impressive for an English program Finally, George Merritt is eminently enjoyable as Brett's manservant Chivers, and he even gets to play an important role in the climax! When Brett declares needing an experienced thief, and that he knows just the man, I jokingly said 'Chivers!', but as it turns out I was bang on the money!
Brett has just arrived in Spain to meet Danny, who's set up a double date for the two of them. There's barely enough time to swap names when one of the women, Lisa, is kidnapped. Danny gets in his car and gives chase, leaving Brett in the unenviable position to explain to Lisa's powerful father what happened and that Danny is not involved in the abduction. Failing to convince him, Brett has only 24 hours to find not only Danny, but Lisa too, and bring her home safe and sound before his friend
Nuisance Value starts out with the character of Lisa acting similarly to the heiress from To the Death, Baby, thus immediately earning my dislike for her choice in men, but thankfully she improves come her very next scene (the double date), so we seem to be saved her prattling about how much she loves her beau Michel and that he's not just after her money...until the twist, which spoils the story and any sympathy I had for Lisa's character.
There's also a second twist, technically a third depending on how you count these things. Both of these feel unnecessary as I was already interested at least in seeing how the plot would resolve itself after the first reveal, but instead it just takes the cheap way out.
Despite all these setbacks, the story does at least all come together, and the ending is very funny, as well as satisfying, with every important character present and getting a final moment.
We're back to Spain this episode, and the locale provides some exceedingly pretty sights as the cast whizz by.
A Death in the Family
A relative of Brett's is killed, and any doubts about whether it was an accident or not are dashed when more relations start biting the dust. Brett and Danny have to figure out who the killer is before the next target is ...
Ugghhhhhh, not this episode! Ranked as my least favourite by far the first time I watched the series (it was the only one I outright disliked), I haven't been looking forward to seeing it again, save for the chance to finally tear into it a bit.
My second biggest problem is the gimmick of casting Roger Moore as other member of his family. My first biggest problem is that it goes to the trouble of setting this gimmick up, yet one of said characters dies in the intro with barely any dialogue, another is slathered under tons of make-up to the point where he's nearly unrecognizable as Moore, and doesn't say so much as a word before quickly getting killed, while the final role is a one scene joke character. The rest of the relations (i.e. the important ones) are played by other actors.
Another issue with Death in the Family is that it's awfully depressing! At least half a dozen of Brett's family have been brutally murdered, yet it's played off like a big joke. Also, what kind of dope commits murder to get an inheritance when he's 11th or so in line?
This is one of those murder-mysteries where the killer is only caught after they've killed off just about everyone they wanted to, which are always frustrating. Another drawback to them is that eventually the identity of the killer becomes plainly obvious because there's no-one left it could be besides the only surviving suspect!
The climactic revelations are a cheat reveal. Firstly there's a whodunnit no-no involving who the killer turns out to be, and then there's a fake-out 'Oh no, Bret just died!' moment, where it's clearly Roger Moore in the shot where he's 'killed', but an obvious mannequin in the next. Lastly, the killer's motive is rubbish, and his plan is ridiculous. The actor is bloody awful, too, and sounds about as Australian as Bela Lugosi.
Some of the jokes work, but the majority aren't that funny, and are sometimes cartoonish, or tonally awkward. One weird choice is the goofy mask the killer wears, which surely has to be a teensy bit conspicuous?!
A Death in the Family is definitely an episode worth skipping, that's for sure!...
Man in the Middle
After an espionage mission for Judge Fulton goes wrong, Brett finds himself forced to impersonate a defecting British agent selling secrets to the East. With the Russian spies keen to nab him, and the local authorities not realizing he's really undercover, the only people Brett can safely rely on are Danny, and his clumsy cheapskate relation...
I'm not quite sure what to think about Man in The Middle. It's good, I guess. The story is decent, but I'm not sure if it's a bit uneven or what. There's not really one villain for a lot of it, and Brett and co. are mainly trying to avoid everybody, and getting kidnapped by everybody. A lot of the episode is getting shanghaied then rescued only to be nabbed once more, all the while we're treated to comic relief courtesy of Brett's not distant enough relation.
Judge Fulton thankfully does show up one last time, but acts like a total dickhead. He can certainly be a wily type, but he's surely not this much of an ass.
Terry-Thomas runs the fine line between amusing and annoying, partly because of his own goofy demeanour, but also because of his characters' tendency to sometimes be a total louse. He's somewhat endearing at times though.
As far as final episodes go, Man in the Middle is a decent one. I wish we'd gotten a better last episode, but overall this won't leave you too unsatisfied. It didn't for me the first time I watched it, despite the skeptical mood Death in the Family had put me in.
While not every episode is perfect, The Persuaders is a really good show, and is a great example of what British tv used to be. Whether or not what it used to be is your cup of tea might vary, but as for myself I miss programs like these. While I lament that this show only lasted one season, at least 24 whole episodes is plenty to enjoy