Friday, May 31, 2019

Carolina Cotton Appreciation Post

All the way back in...2012 (nooo, it can't have been that long ago!) I discussed the 1940s musical I'm from Arkansas. A pretty decent picture, and one that had a certain actress of note-one Carolina Cotton! I took an immediate liking to her,but never got around to reviewing more of her content, mainly because her 200+ strong filmography left me daunted. Recently, however, I realised there were only 20 or so credits to her name, and I'd misread an extra 0. I haven't had much luck finding many of these, and I'm from Arkansas may well have been her biggest role, so I probably won't get the chance to review more of her films any time soon, but what I can do is write an appreciation post!

Born in 1925, the Nordically named Helena Hagstrom found a talent for that divisive singing known as yodelling. Performing both on the stage and behind the camera, as well as hosting a radio variety show for a time, she honed her skills over the years and had many fun little distinctions. There are more complete and knowledgeable sources of her life, and it's a decently interesting one, but I'm not here to write a full biography. Rather, just to give a general outline, and lighting a path for others to follow. Whether or not I'll eventually look at all her other films remains to be seen, for the two aforementioned reasons, but this post won't be my last or only word on her, because I've written a very special tribute in a certain upcoming project, which will be announced next month. In the meantime, the best place to start  Carolina Cotton is definitely her music, which was certainly the highlight of whatever she appeared in!...Well, unless you hate yodelling, that is...

They Call me Trinity (1970) and Trinity is Still My Name (1971)

They Call Me Trinity

The lazy outlaw Trinity, known as the Right Hand of the Devil for his shooting prowess, has just come into town, where his gruff brother Bambino has become the sheriff. Hardly happy to see Trinity, but happy at least to get some help, Bambino tells him how he managed to inadvertently become the law of this town. Unfortunately he's having trouble while waiting for his gang to come pick him up. It seems that a local Major has his eye set on the wide pastures owned by a group of Mormon farmers, and will go to any lengths to get his hands on it. Together, the duo concoct a plan to protect the farmers, and to steal the Major's prized horses for themselves...

Coming at a time when the western genre was in a bit of a slump, They Call Me Trinity gave it new life for a time with its comedic nature, and talented leads. It's a great watch, with an effective story. The film runs a little long though at almost two hours. Not that it's boring, or that I'd mind watching these two cowboys for two hours, but the plot is still pretty simple, a 90 minute plot stretched out.

There's action aplenty here, and it's the kind of fun Tom and Jerry style violence that never fails to make you laugh, where the bad guys constantly get the stuffing knocked out of them but no one is ever seriously hurt (well, except for the ones who are killed, anyway). The brawls are lots of fun, and time and time again, Bud and Terence remind you why you should never mess with them! There's just the right amount of action, and the movie balances them out with scenes of =.

With its lighthearted tone, They Call Me Trinity is often hilarious to watch. The opening scene is a perfect introduction not only to the film, but the Hill and Spencer outings in general! The film is a funny take on the western genre while also not being a full-on parody, and certainly not a mean one. This is a comedy that loves being a western! Probably my favourite line of the film comes courtesy of Bambino. "One store destroyed, three heads split like overripe melons. One man wounded and one man castrated. All in two hours, just two hours I left you alone, two hours!"

The characters are the other highlight of the film. Trinity is a goofball who could kill you stone dead in the wink of an eye, if he doesn't fall asleep first, and Bambino is a stone-faced giant who's probably spending the whole movie fantasizing of killing his brother.

The farmers are likeable enough, despite being Mormons, which I consider an impressive feat! The conflict between them and the Major is firmly established, with the villains being a real low down bunch of varmints. The Major could easily get what he wants, since there's more than enough room for both parties, and the Mormons are open to sharing. He's your typical 'If I can't have it all, I want nothing!' bozo. Mezcal and his cronies are an amusing bunch too, with bizarre and outrageous personalities that make him amusing to watch.

The acting here is a lot of fun. Terence Hill and Bud Spencer are polar opposites, and do great jobs, carrying the movie very well! Hill has a blue-eyed boyish charm, and Spencer's stoic nature is complemented by his occasional displays of emotion. Farley Granger's performance is a bit weird, but then again I think he was always like that. The only real downsides for me in the cast besides the sometimes annoying Chico was that it's sometimes a little hard to tell who's who in the final brawl.

The music in They Call Me Trinity is famous, for good reason. The main theme is one of the best that ever graced a spaghetti western, and whether it's taken in an ironic way or totally seriously, it's still a great tune! The scoring in the final showdown is a bit weird though. Tender and serene chords, while a bunch of people beat the crap outta each-other!

Not only is this a great place to start with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer (it's where I got mine!), if you're looking for a fun western, as well as one that'll make you laugh, look no further than They Call Me Trinity...

Now if only the American distributors would release less ratty copies, because Jesus Christ!...

Trinity is Still My Name

Trinity comes home to his ma and pa, who are as happy to see them as Bambino isn't. The parents concoct a little scheme to force the two to move past their differences and work together, to try to become the fearsome outlaws their mother and father always wanted them to be. This goes less well when expected when the brothers can't help but assist the people they're supposed to be robbing, and fight against a criminal scheme that's causing trouble from town to town...

Trinity is Still my Name is a perfect example of a sequel done right. It brings just enough of the same, while also adding new things to the table, and expanding on what came before.

The movie starts out more as a series of vignettes than a story-driven vehicle, and it's hilarious to watch! Eventually a plot does rear its head, and it's a pretty decent one, even if it is only a means to an end (that end being bad guys getting hit a lot). A downside to this though is that the film reaches what amounts to its first act in what would be the last in most other pictures. It's also a little hard remembering who's who when we're in a new location every 20 minutes.

The humour in Trinity is Still my Name is great! We've got a few golden recurring jokes, that repeat to great effect, and just enough as to not be overused. Also iconic is Terence Hill's 'slap and draw' scene.

As for the familiar elements present, we've got the typical sharpshooting and punch-ups. The final battle is similar enough to the one from the last movie (and different enough to feel fresh), but it's a lot easier to tell who's who this time. The choice of music is still a bit weird, but it's a great finale!

The rascally but good-natured (depending on the person) Trinity is as endearing as usual,while you can't help but feel sorry for poor Bambino. All the big lug wants to do is rob a stagecoach, but he keeps getting roped into doing the right thing.

The family the duo keep bumping into are likeable enough, and the daughter is a pretty love interest.

The villains are less strong (figuratively and literally, as evidenced by their numerous trouncings!). We never stick with one group long enough to really get to know them. The man antagonist Parker is the only one with a hint of a personality, but after his first scene he's absent until the climax. Funnily enough, the crooks we come to know the most are the most minor as far as the plot goes-The four guys who keep having the misfortune of bumping into the boys!

The music here is fantastic! The main theme is both rousing and moving. In a way it feels a bit out of place, especially for a film that's even sillier than its predecessor, but it works. The instrumental rescoring is great too, and is exactly the kind of music you'd want accompanying you on the end of a quest!

Trinity is Still My Name is a great spaghetti western, and a great comedy! Both these film are evidence of the power of comedy. If it can resurrect a dying genre for a few more rounds, what more could it do!...

Monday, May 27, 2019

House of Horror (1946)

Experimental art critic Marcel is on tough times after a brutally negative art critic trashed his reputation. He's just about to kill himself when he spots a man struggling in the river. He saves him, and the man, a hulking giant, is indebted to Marcel. The artist takes an instant fancy to the mystery man, who's more than happy to hunt down all those who'd attack his new friend's reputation...

House of Horror is a nice slice of spooky fun, with a nice dose of the macabre. It feels almost like a predecessor to films like A Bucket of Blood, with its ghoulish story steeped in the art world.

Ostensibly another film in the Creeper series, the noteworthy ghoul is basically just set dressing here. It was a bit disappointing to watch after The Brute Man, where he was front and centre, but this did come first so perhaps this was like a proof of concept?...But then again, Hatton had previously portrayed a character named the Creeper in Sherlock Holmes and the Pearl of Death, too, sooo...

The characters are ok. Artist Steve and critic Joan are the main protagonists, and while I'm not sure if I'd ever wanna hang outwith them in person, they're fun to watch. Steve is almost perpetually working, while Joan seems to be striving to wear something different and bizarre on her head in just about every scene, looking like Minnie Mouse at one point.

The art critics who earn the ire of the diabolical Marcel are great to watch. Real 'love to hate 'em' types. The police are rather dim. When faced with several murders with the Creeper's exact MO, only a day after he escaped custody and his body was never found, they pretty much discount the idea of him being the killer right away. The model Stella is nice enough. It's a shame what happens to her! I wish she got a happy ending. She was sweet enough to deserve one. Plus, her death scene feels completely superfluous, not really making much sense in the plot.

And lastly, the villains! Marcel is well-characterised, from his inner hatred, to his inability to carry out any of his evil desires himself, and the way he treats even those who are supposedly his friends. The Creeper isn't utilised to his full potential, but he's still an effective enough antagonist. He'll break your back in an instant if you're frightened of him, but if you do him one good turn, you have a friend for life! He's a little underdeveloped though.

Despite its macabre tone, House of Horrors is a playful film, with plenty of funny dialogue. Steve: "Look, she didn't kill him."-Joan: "I did too! Don't be telling Lt. Brooks I'm innocent. I'm a female desperate desmond, always going places and killing people."
Mr. Ormison: "My dear fellow, words are my meat and drink, and in the interests of justice I shall make them crackle with venomous fire!"

The movie is quite well directed, with a good use of shadows, and stylishly photographed sequences, like the typewriter focus after a first death scene.

The acting here is all pretty good. Unlike The Brute Man, where Hatton was very energetic, he's much more staid here, sitting down most of the time. He's very nearly overshadowed in villainy by the delightfully loony Martin Kosleck. The less-is-more approach does work well here though, even if I did wish we got a bit more of the man.    His best scene by far is the end. The mix of conflicting emotions on his face is really well portrayed!

House of Horrors is a decent flick. It's not as good as its...predecessor? Successor? It's still a spookfest worth watching, even if it's not the greatest...

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Brute Man (1946)

The city has been gripped with terror because of a string of murders committed by the sinister Creeper. The police are being pilloried by the public for their inability to locate the maniac, even when given a 24 hour deadline by the mayor. New clues soon point to a group of college friends from some years ago, where the popular but brash athlete Hal Moffat was the victim of an accident with sulphuric acid. With Hal as their number 1 suspect, the police redouble their efforts, while the brutish killer forms a friendship with a blind girl Helen, the only person he's met who isn't afraid of him...

The Brute Man is an interesting film from the 1940s cycle of Universal horror, as it stars the legendary Rondo Hatton. Disfigured with Acromegaly, Hatton rolled with the punches of life and found himself with a pretty lucrative career as an onscreen ghoul. This was sadly short-lived, as he died in 1946.

The plot to this film is pretty grim, and those who don't die are assholes, save for the blind Helen. It's well written, though the lack of a true protagonist makes it a little difficult to follow at times. The story has a fascinatingly autobiographical context. A lot of the details were really part of Rondo Hatton's life!...Well, except for the 'becoming a murderous madman' part. He only played them!

The Brute Man opens quite well. It's a little random, and we have zero context for anything, but the movie still gets across what it needs to in relatively short order/quick succession, introducing the Creeper well.

Who the movie's protagonist is is a good question. First up is a storeboy named Jimmy. He's a bit of an asshole who feels the need to hassle the disabled in-case/on the off chance they're homicidal lunatics, and it's lucky for him in this case that he happens to be correct. However, his spying gets him killed! He gets less than 5 minutes of screentime before getting abruptly murdered, which felt strange. He was all lined up to be the nosey lead who gets the girl and saves the day!

The other possible protagonists are police detective Gates, and Hal's old friend Clifford. The former spends his time grinning like an idiot and playing cards, while the latter barely appears, and might not be entirely rosey. Ultimately Helen would probably deserve the title of protagonist, but she doesn't appear enough either.

The film's true lead is most definitely the villainous Creeper. He gets a bit of depth, and isn't quite a one-note baddie. His relationship with the innocent blind girl is reminiscent of Frankenstein, and other 'tender monster' moments in cinema, and I also feel it contrasts interestingly with how Hal's character was described back in his college days! ...Or it clashes terribly, coming across like he's a completely different person than in the flashbacks. Could be either I suppose. Overall, Hal's demeanour with Helen would probably be more at home in the story if he was a misunderstood monster, only lashing out at those who legitimately wronged him. Ultimately, the friendship is undermined a little by the fact that unlike Frankenstein, the Creeper is an absolutely unrepentant murderer. Perhaps it would've been better had there been a twist, such as 'Clifford was the real Creeper all along, and Hal is a noble hero', but it's entirely straightforward.

The Brute Man looks great. The locations feel real, and the direction complements the proceedings, lending not only some interestingly filmed moments, but a gloomy atmosphere that permeates the production. This definitely ranks among the better Jean Yarbrough films I've seen, though that might not be saying much. He directed hundreds!

The acting here is pretty good. The main standout is Rondo Hatton. He was not only suffering from his debilitating condition during production, but was also dying, and wouldn't live to see the release of this film. With that in mind, it's surprising just how good a performance he turns in! I suppose dialogue wasn't his specialty, since/as his line delivery isn't the strongest part of his performance, but I've read multiple reviews that make him out to be a real turkey, which wasn't the case for me at all. As for his non-verbal performance, do I even need to say anything! He's imposing with his stature, and moves like a powerhouse. As for the creep factor, his condition of course played the major part in him getting these roles, but Hatton must've had something that allowed him to portray these characters the way he did. The creepy looks he gives transcend his disability, I think, and nor did it stop him from expressing a sensitive side either.

Another actor plays the Creeper back when he was the unencumbered Hal Moffett, and he's...different! The quiet and almost childlike psychopath is suddenly an arrogant and perfectly spoken college ace. To its credit the film does at least have a token mention of the acid affecting Hal's glands, to explain why having acid splashed into his face made him grow three sizes. It's probably pretty bad science, but hey, it's a horror movie, so realism isn't exactly what we're here for. As long as the writers cared to bother with an explanation.

The Brute Man isn't perfect, but it's a very entertaining picture, and a great chance to see Rondo Hatton in a leading role. I definitely recommend it!...

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Black Widow (1951)

An American man is driving through the British countryside when he's attacked by a thief and left on the side of the road, while the police give chase, resulting in the thief's death. The man stumbles to a nearby ranch, where he's tended to by local girl Sheila and her family, and a doctor soon checks him out. He's diagnosed with amnesia, caused in part by the nasty blow on his head, but also from an unknown shock that must have happened earlier that night. Under hypnosis, he's able to recall a strange forest from his dreams, and a name-Christy...

A forgotten relic from the early days of Hammer Studios, Black Widow is an eerie little picture. It gets off to a mysterious and thrilling start, then settles down for a few minutes to let you get to know the lead, and his new friends. Afterwards, the main plot becomes apparent, and it's an entertaining ride. The atmosphere here is effective, and from the glimpses we get from Mark's dreams, we'll dread going into this mysterious wood!

The title is a bit of a spoiler as to what's ultimately going on, but it's not that egregious. There's no mystery once Mark regains his memory, so it's not like the title gives away a twist that only comes to light in the last 5 minutes or anything. The story is good once we figure out the truth, even if it is comparatively simple to what I was expecting (i.e. monsters, conspiracies, secret cults, etc). I liked the way the lead reacts once he discovers the truth. He's very smart/clever about it!

The score is a great addition. There's tense and unsettling music, which really sells the feeling of something unknown being terribly wrong. There is one moment though that sounds like a truck horn blaring right in your ear.

The 50 minute length is suitably short for the most part. You'd think the film will have to hurry to pack an entire story in such a time frame, but I feel the type of plot this is is perfectly suited . Not too long, not too short, with just the right amount of character, and intrigue. However, there is one particular spanner in this cog! The ending, or lack thereof. That was the only thing about Black Widow that disappointed me. It's not abrupt per se, but it feels like the film is missing its final scene. There should've been a proper ending, with Mark hanging out with Sheila and the others back at the ranch, but there never is, and the movie just stops right after the climax.

The acting is all quite good. Robert Ayres is a likeable lead who we care about and want to follow, while Jennifer Jayne is sweet as Sheila. Christine Norden is cold and calculated as Christine, and Anthony Forwood does well as the somewhat conflicted [asshole] Paul.

Whether as an example of early Hammer before it became  what it was known for, or as a general example of general British thriller cinema, Black Widow is a good time! A little too short, but still worth watching all the same...

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Two friends Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen are going for a fishing trip in Arizona when they make the mistake of picking up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be a deranged fugitive, Emmett Myers. Intent on getting past the Mexican border to freedom, Myers drags the two across the desert. Once they realise it's not a question of if they'll be killed by their deranged captor, but when, the two   must do something to fight back, or die in the process...

The first noir film directed by a woman, The Hitch-Hiker is a wonderfully creepy film. A film that makes the most of its low budget, you wouldn't even realise this was probably made for only a couple of bucks! It takes place largely in a car, with the same three guys, and despite such a 'limitation', it never comes across as boring. Far from it, it's a really tense picture! The tension builds and builds as the heros start getting more desperate.

The setting is really effective. Any scenes that don't take place within the small car are set in the expansive American/Mexican desert, which feels as oppressive as Myers in places. Also, on a sidenote I liked how the Spanish characters actually speak Spanish with each other, not English.

Perhaps the biggest potential issue/obstacle facing The Hitch-Hiker is that movies predominately set in real time with just a couple of people aren't always heavy on character. They can be, but in this case, we've got two guys who already know each-other, and a gun-toting psychopath, so there aren't any moments of enlightening character development where the protagonists chat with their captor about their hopes and dreams. Because of this, the actors have gotta work with the material they have to bring their characters to life. Thankfully they manage quite well. Their characters are pretty average guys, but that's the point. This could happen to anyone, no matter how normal you are.

The villainous Myers gets a decent amount of character, which becomes a big factor in the climax, in a really satisfying way!

The score here is very =, aiding well in building up the atmosphere. A good thing too, because the way this movie is directed, it could've been boring as hell without the music! It's amazing the effect (or lack thereof) music can have on a film. A scene could be tense and thrilling even if it's just a man walking down a street, but you take the scoring out of the equation, and we're just watching a man walk down a street.

Lastly, the actors here all do fine jobs. William Talman is wonderfully creepy as the villain, while Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O'Brien deliver good performances, and are believable in all their actions.

The Hitch-Hiker is a unique noir film, and well worth a watch. If you're looking for a movie in the genre that's a bit less stereotypical than the usual fare, this is for you!...

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Town Went Wild (1944)

The patriarchs of neighbouring families the Conways and Harrisons have been feuding for just about all their lives, and despite the rest of the clans being on friendly terms, the fathers refuse to see reason. Unbeknownst to them, young David Conway and Carol Harrison have fallen in love and intend to elope, with the help of her reluctant brother Bob. Unfortunately the town hall has just discovered an alarming fact-It seems an argument between the two fathers on the night their boys were born caused a clerical error, and the babies were swapped...

The Town Went Wild is a movie that sure lives up to its title and then some!  As you can imagine from such a mix-up, there's lots of drama in this previously quiet little township. It's probably the most entertainment they've had in ages!

Despite being a film about (possible) accidental incest, The Town Went Wild is quite lowkey, never coming across as gross or creepy. I felt the plot moved along at a decent pace, showing well the confusion such an occurrence would cause. No reaction feels unwarranted or out of place, and it never becomes too downbeat.

Then of course there's how the adventure is concluded. At first it seems like this whole mess is going to be cleared up by a massive contrivance, but it all ends up being explained really well, and with a plot detail I'd up to that point thought unnecessary!

Besides telling a good story, this is quite a funny film, and many of the lines had me laughing, with one of my favourite moments being the 'somewhat' hard to read opening title card.

The characters are a thoroughly entertaining bunch. While the two female parents get along perfectly well, it's the two redblooded males who cause all the trouble. Even so much as hearing each-other's names is enough to set them off, and they refuse to see reason until they're both in the lurch themselves and have to protect their kids. It's quite interesting really watching what exactly would cause two such enemies to band together.

David is a fine lead, with well fleshed out motivations, and Bob is a funnyman, and voice of reason. Even if he and Bob look practically identical, their characters are at least distinct enough from each-other. Carol is nice, and pretty, even if she doesn't actually do a whole lot herself. My favourite character, meanwhile, is Millie. Hilariously snarky and completely aware of Bob's active disinterest and avoidance of her, yet still wanting some of that action anyway. The only issue I have with her character is that she is rather a little pathetic. Her ending in that regard is a bit forced too.

To list the actors all by name would take forever, so suffice to say they're all good. Some of them I've seen before (such as Edward Everett Horton), and others are new to me, but not for much longer I imagine!

The direction here is quite good, with some interestingly filmed sequences, like when the three kids find out the 'truth' of their parentage.

If you're looking for an amusing comedy, The Town Went Wild is a great choice to go with, especially if you can find a good print of it. I'm sure you'll be entertained...

Friday, May 10, 2019

Uptown New York (1932)

Pat is a young woman deeply in love with the doctor-in-waiting Max. He seems to feel the same, but his family has arranged a marriage for him, and he feels he can't let them down, so he marries this other woman, leaving Pat despondent. A while later she meets Eddie, a gumball machine operator on the streets of New York. After he helps her out of a jam, the two become friends, then more, but when Max returns, intent on taking Pat back for himself, trouble seems to be surfacing...

Uptown New York is a nice romance from the dawn of Hollywood's golden age. Predominately a character piece, a film like this would rise or fall depending on its characters, and thankfully they're an interesting bunch. Pat is a strong female character who shows firm agency and independence. Her attitude to the unhealthy overtures of the now-married but still apparently enamoured Max are admirable.

Eddie is brusque but a gentleman. He's got his rough edges, but he's a good guy, and accepting of Pat's past. Despite having voiced his displeasure of such behaviour earlier in the film, he accepts her no matter what, and stays by her side.

Max is probably the weakest character. He's not doe-eyed enough to stay as the romantic lead, nor is he enough of an asshole to be a full on villain, so it's a bit hard to know how to feel about him. Maybe that's the point. Still, we don't go to the cinemas for complex real life characters, we go for the entertainment, consarnit!

As this is a Pre-Code film, it was able to show such scandalous sights as...a taxi leaving the apartment a young couple are staying in! GASP! Heavens to Betsy, how shocking! Pretty telling what was considered extreme back then that even the implication of sex would've been completely unacceptable as far as censors post-Code were concerned.

What I find most interesting about Uptown New York is its unconventional love story. In Hollywood, the good-looking guy always gets the girl no matter what, and unattractive people are rarely serious love interests. Here though is the best example of an 'ugly' guy getting the girl since Marty! It's very refreshing to watch.

With a screenplay by Warren Duff, Uptown New York was based on a story written by noted 'uppity dame' Vina Delmar, noteworthy for being quite the trailblazer during a very male-dominated time when women were practically barred from the 'boy's club' of cinema. Perhaps it's apparent from the get-go that this film was written by a fellow woman given the agency Pat has, and thankfully a like-minded film crew brought the story to life.

This is a good looking film, and there are quite interesting moments of direction, such as Eddie's arrival home after the accident, or the 'life going by' moment in the hospital, which feels like it could've inspired the likes of MASH (the film, that is).

On a sidenote, the quality of the print I watched of this film was pretty low. Good enough to watch and hear, but not perfect, so you get the typical super whiteness that sometimes threatens to subsume the actors, and also a hilarious example of the opposite, which is just as good an invisibility effect as anything you'd see in Harry Potter!

Jack Oakie was most famous for his comedy roles, and while he's still exhibiting a comic persona, he gets his fair share of dramatic moments here too, and he does really well. Shirley Grey is a lovely lead, and you really believe her in her role, in just about everything she does. Leon Ames meanwhile is a good 20 years younger than the movies I'm used to seeing him in. He's great in the handsome romantic role, even if he's not quite the hero in this particular picture.

Uptown New York is a sweet film, and worth a watch if you're in the mood for a sentimental romance...

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Ghost and the Guest (1943)

Newlyweds Webster and Jackie Frye have just arrived at the country house purchased by the bride's father. The property gets off to a bad start with the fences that fall apart and the piano that needs tuning, but things get creepier with the presence of a former hangman as a caretaker, and the arrival of a coffin containing the house's former owner-A notorious gangster. The body inside mysteriously disappears, and before too long the house is full of not only the law, but the criminal's former associates, looking for his hidden dough...

The Ghost and the Guest gets off to a fun start. It's a simple tale of boy and girl moving to a new house, where spooky shenanigans are at play. Definitely a subgenre I enjoy!

It's about 20 minutes in when one of the biggest problems with the film becomes apparent. There are simply too many characters! There's the main couple, their chauffeur, the hangman, the mystery man in the coffin, the half dozen criminal associates, as well as at least three police officers! I mean, just look at the screenshot below!

Another problem I had is that after while the story just seems to stop being interesting. Or even keep being that much of a story period! It's like things just happen, and it's not super cohesive. Like, it all makes sense, but it doesn't all add up for a fun story in the end, even though none of it is outright bad.

For both of these reasons, the climax is a bit disappointing, and the wrap-up doesn't feel like it's done enough to either explain what's going on, or do a satisfactory job in tying everyone's stories up.

The dialogue here is quite funny. Definitely the best part of the movie!
Harmony: "That's it, boss, you've got to be firm with her! Now take my wife for instance, this morning I balled her out for being so extravagant"-Webster: "What happened?"-"I'm giving up cigars."
Harmony: "That's what I always says...But what I says and what I does ain't always what I do."
Jackie: "It smells kinda mysterious and musty in here"-Webster: "Yeah. The smell of the dew on the grass, the smell of the new moon haze, the smell of the cow...It smells, period!"

The direction and cinematography is alright, but there's a big issue present. A lot of the scenes later on are bathed in darkness, sometimes to the point where the entire screen is just black.

James Dunn and Florence Rice are good leads. Sam McDaniel is funny as chauffeur Harmony, while Mabel Todd is a mix of grating and adorable. The remainder of the cast are all fine. Nothing remarkable but they do decent enough jobs.

It's promising title aside, The Ghost and the Guest is a little underwhelming. Still, it's not all bad, and it is only 55 minutes long, so it's hardly a bad idea for a quick distraction one night, preferably a stormy one!...

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Magnificent Rogue (1946)

Enterprising woman Pat Morgan has been managing her husband's business during his time in the military, but now that he's home the overly traditional Steve insists that his wife not work, but instead stay at home as a cooking, cleaning, and baby-raising housewife. Pat strenuously objects to this, and the pair's mutual friend, the secretly duplicitous Vera, eggs the two on to have a contest determining each-other's marketing skills in order to win a new cigarette contract. Unfortunately for Steve, the owner of said company is the dashing Mark Townley, a man with a reputation for how he handles women as well as business, and it doesn't take long for Pat to start falling for his charms...

The Magnificent Rogue is a thoroughly entertaining romantic comedy, with a lively cast of characters. A few years ago I saw a Doris Day-James Garner picture focusing on a similar subject matter, that was absolutely awful! The whole runtime I couldn't tell if it was a commentary on the battle of the sexes, or unironically siding with the sexist husband, which in itself is a problem. By thr end of it, it was a dirty and unpleasant affair. The Magnificent Rogue on the other hand makes it quite clear from the outset that Pat is a more than capable businessman...errr businesswoman, and that her husband is being unreasonable.

Since this film is from the 1940s, you're probably wondering if it sticks to its guns, or caves in to the traditions of its time. Well, it never says that Pat will give up her job by the end, but she certainly does seem to be on her way to becoming a good little 1940s housewife. All in a rush, too! It's like the film was in a 30 second hurry to be sexist before the credits rolled.

The characters are the best part, and without them the whole film would come apart. Their interactions are all golden. Everyone learns the right lessons by the end and everyone gets their just desserts.

Steve is old fashioned to an annoying degree, but in a way that's entertaining to watch because of the conflict it creates. He's never so legitimately annoying that it makes the film hard to watch, even though I wanted to bop him one a couple of times. As for Mark, he may be a wolf, but he's a considerate wolf, and one who's always open to criticism and feedback. He's actually a good portrayal of how a businessman should act!

Vera on the other hand is pretty loathsome, sort-of in a fun way, sorta in a you wish someone would smack her kind of way. At first I thought there's be a Too Many Husbands style comedy of errors and everyone would end up with the other person in their lives rather than who they started out with, therefore Steve would get together with Vera, but nope! She gets exactly what's coming to her thankfully.

Burlesque queen Sugar Lee has a fiery temper that borders on crazy, but she has a heart of gold, and seems genuinely nice. She became my favourite character by the end, and really gets her time to shine despite her smaller amount of screentime compared to the others.

And lastly, a couple of the more minor characters here get a few funny moments, like Pat's business partner Thomas and his kooky mother.

The actors here all do a great job. Lynne Roberts is a fun lead with good chemistry with everyone present, including both love interests. Warren Douglas succeeds in making his character have heart despite his annoying side, and Gerald Mohr delivers a good mix of slightly womanising, but sincere nonetheless.

Stephanie Bachelor gets across the two-faced nature of her character's personality very well, while Adele Mara is lovely and endearing, as well as pretty hilarious as Sugar Lee.

To finish, The Magnificent Rogue is a great time to be had! I highly recommend it...