Saturday, November 30, 2019
That Uncertain Feeling (1941)
...Merle Oberon was a woman?!?! Seriously, I had NO IDEA! I always just assumed they were a man, because Merle is a male name, isn't it? I thought it was! There's Merle Haggard, after all. Imagine my surprise after years of thinking otherwise that Oberon was actually a dame! Anyway, I noticed that I own a film with her in it on one of my Mill Creek 50 movie public domain box-sets-The Ernst Lubitsch picture That Uncertain Feeling...
Jill Baker has been stressed lately, and isn't sure why. She's happily married, or so she thinks, but that feeling is challenged when she meets the eccentric Alexander Sebastian, a hostile pianist and pretentious snob, and the two start falling for each-other, Larry has to figure out how to win back his wife...
I started off enjoying That Uncertain Feeling, but as the story went on, I liked it less and less, and I know exactly where it all went wrong for me-The introduction of Alexander! When he first appeared, I figured he'd be akin to Jack Nicholson's small appearance in the original Little Shop of Horrors, but then the scene didn't end, and I was filled with the fear of 'Oh god, please don't tell me this guy's now a part of the main cast!', and sure enough, he was. The character is incredibly annoying, and his presence completely drags the film down, taking it in a direction I didn't really want it to go.
The film becomes an absolute slog to get through, because of how unlikeable all the characters become. The husband is the only one who gets off with any dignity. Jill is a whore, and Alexander is an insufferably pretentious bastard! They're all so horrible to each-other!
By the end, everything is solved and the two leads are back together again like nothing's happened, but I felt this ending was unearned. She was a cheating bitch who willingly torched a happy relationship for no real reason, shacked up with another man, then when she tired of that she wants to get back with her old husband like nothing ever happened. Larry outlines perfectly in a speech in the climax, and it should've stuck, painting a fitting moral, but instead Jill gets to have her cake and eat it too, and gets her man back. It's not much of a happy ending as far as I see! At least Alexander gets put out by the end though.
The comedy was pretty hit or miss for me. Some lines were funny, others not so much. I also didn't much care for the occasional text cards, which were outright unfunny at worst, and made me want to throw things at the screen. Probably my least favourite part was the somewhat icky/unpleasant divorce scene.
The acting in this movie is all decent. Merle Oberon is fine as the lead, but the unlikeable writing makes her hard to watch at times. Melvyn Douglas is alright. He's nothing special, but he gets the job done., Meanwhile, the character of Alexander is played by an almost unrecognisably young Burgess Meredith! That's cool, since I like him, but here he irritated me to no end. I'm not really sure how to judge his performance though. It's certainly not bad, but it's perhaps a little too good, considering how much I loathed his character.
Finally, Eve Arden is in this, and I was looking forward to seeing her! I assumed she was Jill's friend, particularly because of the somewhat witty/snarky dialogue she got, but then that character disappeared after a couple of scenes, and rarely, if ever, appeared again. As it turns out though, that was Olive Blakeney, not Eve Arden. She plays the fun secretary, and delivers a pretty amusing performance. I was hoping Larry would end up with her! She actually seems to like him!.
That Uncertain Feeling is an ok watch, though not all that great. Thankfully it's easy and cheap to track down, so you won't lose much by seeing it...
The Black Cat (1941)
At the ancient = household, elderly Henrietta = is in ill health. Her relatives are all eager = waiting for her to croak, so they can pounce on her money and sell the property, to the point where two = have even been called over before the woman's died ============
Unrelated to the 1934 film The Black Cat, starring Bela Lugosi, The Black Cat is a 1941 film with Bela Lugosi. Completely different, see?
Far from being the insane creepfest the other film bearing this title is, and totally unrelated to the Edgar Allan Poe story, The Black Cat is a typical old dark house movie, and it gets the job done well. All the old cliches are here, but are presented well enough that you don't mind any cliched moments or characters.
The cast are what make or break a movie like this, and on a shifty front, it succeeds. You suspect everyone here, and there are a few who you're sure have to be the killer. This keeps you on your toes! Where it gets a bit frustrating though is how everyone treats the protagonist. We spend the whole movie] watching the only one who actually thinks there's been a murder constantly being yelled at for thinking =, all the while they =, get crtiticised more, and =.
While this film is dripping in atmosphere, it's pretty light on full-on scares, which is to be expected for a = picture . It gets shockingly ghoulish in the finale though, given what almost happens to Elaine/the love interest! And the fate of the villain/killer is pretty = too!
the comedy relief duo, Henrietta, Abigail, Eduardo, and at least five family members!
is that at first he just seemed like the straight man of a comic relief duo, but ends up graduating to lead character, complete with love interest!
is =, in a negative way. I wouldn't go as far as to say she's a spoilt bitch, but she's also not entirely likeable either, especially with her constant nagging = for thinking there's skulduggery afoot
The acting here is all pretty decent, with Although some deliveries are worse than others, like a completely blase delivery of "Oh, we're too late, she's dead.". Broderick Crawford is interesting in that in any other film he'd be the = comedy relief next to Hugh Herbert or some such actor, and he delivers his performance as if he was, yet he gets the most to do. He's the main protagonist, even if he does get a lot of comic moments throughout.
Basil Rathbone is alright, but not in top form I felt. His performance here is akin to that in Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, but younger and less annoyed. Gale Sondergaard is while Anne Gwynne is = as the love interest and 'nice' member of the family. Cecilia Loftus makes the most of her small role,
Hugh Herbert is seen by some as annoying here, but I find him a lovable enough goof. He has a nice presence, even though I wanted to slap him for all the antique damage he perpetrates throughout the film! One legitimate problem with his character however is how often he'll interrupt or talk over the main cast. On one hand it's a little annoying when his goofing interrupts serious exposition, but on the other hand, the plot is pretty inane, and these family members an [irritating] bunch, so I can't begrudge their being shut up too much. I've half a mind to give Hugh Herbert a medal!
Lastly, there's the great Bela Lugoisi!...You'll notice I only mentioned him again just now, and there's sadly a reason for that. This picture came in the period when A-pictures had lost interest in Lugosi. After typecasting him, they didn't want him anymore, even for roles in the wheelhouses they stuck him in, and so you'd have films like this where he plays pretty minimal parts. It was really only in the B-movies that Lugosi was able to shine.
The location in The Black Cat is very good. We get a lush mansion, dusty catacombs, secret passageways, and creepy crypts. It all adds to the atmosphere wonderfully
The Black Cat might not be as good as The Black Cat, but it's a pretty satisfactory time to be had despite all its flaws. Don't go expecting Bela to do what he's known for, and you won't be too disappointed.
Detective Kitty O'Day (1944) and The Adventures of Kitty O'Day (1945)
Kitty O'Day is a secretary to businessman Mr. Wentworth by day, and an avid detective reader by night. Her two lives end up converging when her boss is found dead, and her boyfriend ends up suspected of the murder. Kitty must work hard if she has to save her partner from suspicion, and find the real killer before anything else can happen...
Detective Kitty O'Day is a pretty decent whodunnit, but not without problems. Its lead heroine is a fun character to follow, although while she claims to be a detective, she stumbles upon more clues than actually finds any, which is a disappointment. She's a well realised lead, but lacks juuust that little bit of oomph she needed to really live up to the title.
The rest of the characters are amusing, from the beleagured boyfriend, to the grumpy policeman and his amiable henchman, the cold widow and her young toyboy.
Where the plot ends up disappointing is as a mystery. I feel there was a bit too much messing around and too little clue hunting. The leads spend more time being hassled by the cops or running away from them than sleuthing.
Because of this, we get to know the suspects very little, and so many bodies hit the floor that the solution to the mystery ends up being obvious. There are only two candidates left, and one of them has been the obvious red herring for the entire movie, leaving only one possible suspect.
When we finally get to the reveal of the motive, it's alright, but not that interesting. It's just gangland stuff rather than being a really juicy motive.
The pacing here is a bit shoddy, especially with the lengthy chase from the police! This eats up at least 10 minutes of an hour long movie, and while this setpiece was pretty funny, and entertains, it detracts from what we really wanna see.
For the most part, the direction here is alright, but exaggerated in places, and the fights aren't very good. Mobsters will get guns knocked out of their hands and then wait a full ten seconds before noticing.
Where it excels is in the rooftop chase! While it stretches credulity a bit, and it drags on a bit, the whole segment is very well filmed for the 1940s! Especially for Monogram cheapie! If they were looking to draw attention in spite of their meagre/humble budget, they sure succeeded.
The acting here is pretty good. Jean Parker is a fun, if screechy at times, lead, while Peter Cookson is a likeable sidekick. Tim Ryan does well as the long-suffering police inspector Clancy, and Ed Gargan is fun as the goodhearted but dopey subordinate Mike.
As far as 1940s mysteries go, Detective Kitty O'Day is nothing special, but it's still a decent watch. You can easily see where a few bits of tinkering might've aided the movie into being something better than it ultimately was. Since it got a sequel only the very next year, I was looking forward to see how they'd iron out the kinks and improve on the previous entry's flaws!...
Detective enthusiast Kitty O'Day has a new job as a desk girl at an up-market hotel, together with her boyfriend Johnny. Things take a turn for the interesting en she recognises someone she thinks is a crook, and a murder ends up being committed in a room while she's on the phone with the victim. Kitty calls the police over, but when they arrive, the body's gone. No sooner than they leave, another body turns up, and another, and Kitty will have to solve this mystery if she doesn't want to end up in the jail cell herself...
As if by cosmic punishment, sequel The Adventures of Kitty O'Day is not only not better that the first movie, but actually worse! Oh, it's so much worse!
To start, Adventures shares every problem the first movie had, but not in the way you'd expect. You seen, not only does this movie share these same flaws, it shares a lot of them because it copies the same story beats from the first movie!
Name a plot point from Detective Kitty O'Day and you can be sure it turns up here. The couple keep stumbling upon bodies? Check. The police keep thinking they're the killers? Yep. Their boss is murdered? Again. There's a frosty widow with a boytoy, who threatens to fire Kitty after the girl's suspicions fall on her? Double/Triple check!
The plot is bad. There's no real investigation. Kitty just so happens to always be around when there's a new body, and she runs and screams more than digs up clues. The majority of the climax is taken up by a tedious police chase through the hotel, which ends when she accidentally stumbles upon the killer, through no real detective work of her own. And once again, the identity of the killer is obvious, because he's the only one left alive who could've committed it! I've said it before and I'll say it again, detectives who don't solve the case until after the intended victims are all dead suck!
The mystery just isn't that compelling either, and the motive is a pretty dull reason-Just a jewel robbery, and that's it. Hardly a really interesting motive! Just "That guy doesn't want me smuggling diamonds anymore, so I'll cap him one!". No-one even has a given motive until the killer is revealed, making it harder for us to follow any sort of mystery.
The acting suffers from a severe downgrade too. Jean Parker is strangely weak as Kitty. I've seen her in enough movies to know she's a fine actress, but here she's quite bad! Unconvincing, flailing, and screaming far too much! Peter Cookson is ok as johnny, and Ralph Sanford tries as Mac, but didn't impress me much. He doesn't get enough to do, and feels too much like a replacement. Tim Ryan is fine as Clancy, but his heart doesn't feel in it. I can't blame him! Shelton Brooks is pretty funny in his short role as African-American bellboy Jeff.
The characters are pretty dreary here. Kitty is a nosy busybody who does nothing but scream and cause/create panic,while = her boyfriend. Detective Clancy somehow has amnesia and Doesn't even recognise the duo at first. Since Ed Gargan didn't return for this sequel, he has a new sidekick, who's ok, but doesn't appear enough to make much of an impression. The worst thing for me was the explanation for Mike's departure, which felt mean-spirited.
There are some bight spots to this affair. The dialogue, for instance. "Why, certainly there was a corpse!" "It was dead too!"
"That's preposterous, no-one would dare commit a murder in this hotel without first notifying me!"
"Y'know Kitty, life with you is just one murder after another."
Other dialogue is pretty bad though, with million-word-a-minute moments that come across as incredibly stilted. Thankfully at least ends with the funny exasperated delivery of "Inspector, are you foolish?"
A cheap sequel both in budget and in spirit, The Adventures of Kitty O'Day is one adventure you can feel free to miss out on, and be thankfully there was (technically) never a third entry! If this was the best they had to offer, it's for the best Kitty never became a long-running character. I do wish she's seen better treatment though, and become a 1940s icon right up there with Torchy Blane, Mexican Spitfire, and Blondie!...
Friday, November 29, 2019
Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay (1997)
In the streets of Pakistan, a devilish gang is roaming around, killing all they see, and trying to rape any woman unlucky enough to cross their path. They soon make a mysterious enemy though, in the form of a violent cat lady who saves women from terrible fates, and unleashes lethal vengeance on these savages. Meanwhile, a virtuous police officer is trying to catch these crooks himself, while adjusting to his new married life, and finding himself uneasily allied with a Robin Hood figure of the underworld, who's gut just as much of an axe to grind with the gang as he. Will they manage to stop the gang in time? And who could the cat lady be?...
Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay came as quite a surprise to me! It's another 'Pashtowood' sleazefest, with elements of horror, action, crime, and musical/romance. What = is how much more = it is compared with the absolutely random and loony s
Now, that's not to say that this is normal. We still have vicious cat-women, insane gangsters, and all sorts of other weirdness, but the general structure of the film is a lot more organised than other such films
The story here is a bit weird, but it all makes sense, and moves solidly from Point A to B to C, etc. There's a healthy roster of characters, and we clearly understand all their motivations. The cat lady is definitely the most interesting, with a tragic past, and mysterious magical abilities, which sadly work a little too well.
While some moments here and there certainly could have been cut, there was never really a moment where I was impatiently yelling at the screen. The ending's a little bit of a downer, but that's to be expected, really. Nothing good can come of marrying a mutant cat lady.
Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay has a pretty sizable bodycount, but it rarely goes to overboard, even with the Robin Hood guy losing either two or three close friends in order to motivate him. It only feels unnecessary during the final rescue, where one of the myriad couples (I rankly couldn't keep track of them all) died, impacting nothing on the plot, and simply wasting time. Thank god this was already a pretty short film for Pakistan, at under 2 hours.
The biggest draw to this film is the cat lady, and she doesn't disappoint! The effects might be lacking a little, since it's clear she's just wearing a black catsuit (hehe), with a painted face and cat ears, but she looks neat, and the actress does a great job with her facial expressions. She overacts for sure, but she gets the job done. Also, while she may might take it a bit too literally at times, I appreciate that she actually acts like a cat, rather than just making a few puns and calling it a day Less clear however is why the crazy gangsters still act like dogs even in life and death battles with mutants.
While the cat lady entertains, the heroes and villains are less interesting. The protagonists are fine, and suitably manly, although they They're perfectly serviceable though. It's the villains who really annoyed me. They're an irritating bunch who won't stop mugging,
The effects in this movie are cheap, naturally, and many look hilarious, and/or terrible, but some are pretty neat, and most are endearing. While the make-up itself for the cat lady is simple, it is neat, and blends in with the actress's face pretty seamlessly. The transformation is quite interesting too! A little overlong and padded, but it shows the human-to-werecat transition quite effectively, especially given the low budget they had to work with.
The songs here are all satisfactory. Not remotely special, but they're not punishingly long, which is a plus. Only about three minutes each, and then they're over!
There are some pretty crazy dances here. It's astonishing how some people consider Muslims to be uptight and prudish. Well these Pashto movies are from one of the most strict Muslim countries on earth, and they sure appreciate a nice sexy dance! Pictures alone can't do justice to the amount of booty shaking and bumping there is in this movie, but I can certainly try!
The acting is a big mixed bag. Some performances are good, others are terrible, and some are really neat! There's a bit of everything-Stoic badasses, hammy villains, comic relief, romantic ladies, vengeful cat-women, etc. There's a lot of range in this movie, that has to be said. I appreciate that even if not all the performances work
Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay is another good example of Pakistan's weird Pashto underground cinema. Not as crazy as others, but = different. Naturally this doesn't come recommended unless you have a very specific set of interests, but if you do, be sure to give it a watch.
Sarkata Insaan (1994)
On a dark and stormy night, a mysterious man digs up a grave and decapitates the body. He takes this grim trophy to a laboratory, where a scheming doctor begins an experiment on the corpse, resulting in its successful revival from the dead. This man is hardly pleased at the situation though, and breaks free, killing almost everyone and escaping into the wild. Stuck with an intermittently disembodied head, the man wavers between consciousness and murderous rage, and it seems like only the love of a = may be able to save him...
Sakarta Insaan is a pretty good horror flick. It starts off with a bang, throwing you headfirst into in interesting situation and
This is a change from other Pakistani films I've covered before. While they/those were Pashto, a large ethnic group in the country, Sarkata Insaan is Urdu. One might just think the only difference would be the language, but no, this feels just as different to those 'Pashtowood' flicks as they do to western films.
Sarkata Insaan actually feels like it takes place in the real world, whereas those crazy Pashto films took place in a fantasy land like the wild west, where bodies were dropping left right and center, and bandits and monsters roamed every corner. This also feels more triumphant and upbeat than those pictures. In those, you'd get so afraid for everyone's lives that you'd just grow numb to it and freely expect that everyone with a pulse would end up losing it as the film progresses, but here you're actually able to catch your breath. And most good characters survive, too!
The story here is alright, and has a lot going on it it, though it wasn't anything special for me, despite its promising intro. It focuses a fair bit on , but the interesting aspects of the move for me was everything else. The ending disappointed me the most. The final confrontation wasn't so much = as inevitable. We spend the whole movie waiting for the obvious to happen-= finally catches up with the bad guys, and chops them all up with the axe in a climactic duel. That's it. Nothing particularly deep, although the fate of the scientist was interestingly unexpected, if weird.
The movie is thankfully not drawn out at all when it comes to the search for a headless man. The police accept that pretty easily, which is unexpected.
Something I commend the/this story for is how easy it is to understand for those who don't understand Urdu. Despite a language barrier and lack of subtitles, there was never] a moment where I didn't at least have the gist of what was going on.
The pacing is a little bit off. It's not bad, and the movie never feels longs despite its two-and-a-half hour length, but there are moments when/where it spends juuust a little too much time on this or that. You almost start to forget you're watching a horror movie. And then the opposite happens, and you wonder where the romance got to/what happened to the romance.
Sakarta Insaan has interesting portrayals of its female characters. Rather than just being one thing, like the tough lady, or the sassy lady, the wimpy, and more, the heroine here (and other characters) are many. She's kickass, and can take down a whole gang of maurauders by herself, and she's also a romantic, and religious, etc.
One unintentionally hilarious scene where the heroine, overcome with emotion, flashes back to all the happy times with her new boyfriend...And he's an emotionless plank of wood in all of them! Honey, this dude was never that into you! I guess the moral of the story is, don't date dead men. [They just can't give a woman what she wants.]
The acting here is mostly quite good, but with some amusingly terrible moments here and there, such as a melodramatic "NNOOOOOOOO!!", to the mad scientist acting like he's got a joy buzzer stuck on his back. Another problem I had is that it seems like every man in Pakistan looks identical, because there are about three characters who look exactly the same. This extended to some of the woman too, with them all looking pretty interchangeable, besides the one with the short hair. Someone does a good job as the heroine. My favourite performance was the lady in the 80s musical number. She was fabulous with all her facial expressions! Definitely a top actress. Lastly, there are some good animal performers here too, namely a scene with simply the most adorable vultures!
The direction by Saeed Rizvi is tense, with some interesting visual flourishes, that/which make this stand out.
The effects here are an interesting mixed bag. Some moments are ok but cheesy, some are downright terrible, but others are really good! They surprised me with how convincing they were, and headless or bodyless effects can be hard to pull off. Even at its most laughable, at least you can't fault this movie for its creativity!
Sakarta Insaan uses the same ooky theme in tense scenes. It's an effective track! It was also effective when I heard it in John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. I can't blame it too much for using that track though. After all, it's not like anybody watched or appreciated that movie and its music back then.
There's also a peppy superhero sounding piece that plays over a lot of the headless man's fight scenes, despite them being more on the scary and gruesome side.
The sons are fine, with a few romantic tunes, and one about how awesome Jinnah is. I can get behind that! The best number in my opinion is the 80s themed one. It's an absolute bundle of fun, and features some very strange but welcome animated additions from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Pink Panther! I think the most surprising thing about this son is that despite sounding like a classic 80s tune, this movie is from 1994.
Sarkata Insaan is quite a good time! It's got its fair share of problems, but otherwise it's a neat example of Pakistani horror...
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