Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Heart of the World (2000)

State scientist Anna has just made a devastating discovery. The world is suffering from an illness, and will soon die of a heart attack. When it goes, so will everyone else living on the planet, and a panic sweeps the globe. While Anna tries to figure out what to do, her two suitors make a final effort to woo the girl they love before things come to an end...

Guy Maddin is an eclectic Canadian filmmaker and artist, whose body of work carries a significant silent film influence. He's made a few features over the years, of varying quality (They range from fascinating, to laughably stupid, or outright pissing me off).

With 2000's entry Heart of the World, it was his intention to create a short film with enough story and scenes to fill a feature, yet come in at under 10 minutes. In this regard, the project is an unequivocal success. I was skeptical going in, because from the synopsis I read, I'd assumed it was a full movie, and discovering it was only 6 minutes disappointed me. But it manages to cram in a 'complete' story in that time, so for that I applaud it!

The movie bears the appearance of an old Russian silent, like Battleship Potemkin, to name a famous example. Touches of Metropolis and other such movies give the movie the rest of its identity, and these inspirations come together to create a pretty original watch. While incredibly fast, and confusing in some scenes because of this, the movie is mostly well-crafted. The title cards are often extremely dramatic, with lots of build-up. And at times they race by a bit too fast to read. It's borderline subliminal.

A lot of the imagery is madcap, but without being too in-your-face. It gets its themes through familiar visuals or motifs, without going so far as to become obnoxious about it. What I didn't like about the visuals is how overexposed they can be. I can handle faux low quality, as here it gives the move a look of authenticity, but don't make it look that bad, Maddin!

Due to its very nature, Heart of the World is not to everyone's tastes, but overall I admire it. Does the  have any missteps though? Oh yeah, I thought so at least. It was a bit pretentious and anticlimactic for the solution to saving the Earth to be dramatically yelling "Kino!" to its heart, magically saving it. Art cinema can be interesting for sure, but I have doubts chanting its name will cause successful heart transplants!

The film has a small but distinct set of characters. The lead is scientist Anna, who is clever, and heroic in some ways, although I seriously question her taste in men! Nevermind her inability to choose between her two paramours, she has so much trouble deciding that she eventually lets herself be seduced by a gross old industrialist/millionaire.

A daffy mortician and an overeager stage performer, the two brothers are weirdos. The former's way of impressing Anna is to create a conveyor belt for corpses, and the latter is apparently such a devoted actor that he never removes his stage gear, not when he goes to see his girlfriend, and not when the world is ending! Although this turns out to be fortuitous, as an image of Jesus is just what the panicking throng need to see to snap them out of any orgiastic crazes.

Akmatov is an analogue to the corrupt and sinister businessmen of silent classics past. Though as it stands he doesn't actually do anything villainous, he's just gross, which makes Anna's decision to strangle him to death a little suspect. Come on, honey, I thought he was a perv, but you were into him 100%, then as soon as you regain some good taste you murder him??

The music here is as fast-paced as the action, and liable to get your blood pumping by the end, with its classical orchestral sounds, and industrial beats.

As an experiment and as a short film, Heart of the World succeeds, though it may only leave you wanting more, even if you enjoyed it. But still, it's hardly a failure, and may be a source of inspiration to many...

Friday, June 25, 2021

Exit the Dragon Enter the Tiger (1976) and Return of the Tiger (1978)


Bruce Lee has just died, and his friend David suspects foul play. He investigates he last woman to see him alive, learning of a secret plot by a drug lord known only as The Baron. Seeking to avenge the Dragon, the newly christened Tiger sets out to find the hidden evidence of this operation, and put it out of business permanently, just as his old friend would have wanted...

 In the wake of Bruce Lee's tragic death, many copycat wannabes sprang up in his place, with increasingly ridiculous pseudonyms. The most notable of these is Bruce Li, because he had the closest resemblance to the star, though it's hardly like gazing into a mirror. Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger is a =.

 It is strange that the movie is simultaneously trying to push the character of David as a successor and different person, while also casting Bruce Lee knockoff Bruce Li, selling the movie on the fact that this is THE Dragon (or close enough). I think this can be attributed to the [star's] motives, and the film's marketing

Not content with merely trying to ride Lee's coattails with their replacement, the movie is constantly trying to remind us of the icon, with posters everywhere. Even the villains have Lee posters littering their hideouts.

While the move was only made with the intention of cashing in, I did really like the concept of Lee being a larger-than-life figure who chooses a successor to replace him should anything go wrong, and his man honouring Lee by fighting evil, with the help of his friends, neat disguises, and fancy gadgets. One line I liked which reflected this is "There was a dragon." "And here is a tiger!"

David is an alright protagonist, and you really get the sense he cares about his friends. In fact I think he cares about 'em a little too much! His girlfriend says, with complete sincerity, "If I can mean as much to you as Bruce Lee did, I'll be very happy". Dial it down, mate, and pay more attention to your girl!

What I found most surprising about him is his fallibility! He suffers a real beatdown midway through, and is really put through the wringer! It makes you like him more, as it shows he's not just an invincible warrior.

David's allies are ok, though it's a bummer his friend got killed. I was liking the movie building up a roster of characters, and would've been nice and consistent to see them all return in a later film.

The villains are just your typical gangsters. Nothing special. I found one henchman funny with how he offers to find his boss 'for real' no less than 3 times, betraying David each time, and promptly earning another beating. The highlight is the snappily dressed Baron, who goes around in a fancy bowler hat and cravatte, with a sword cane.

For all the talk of going to the police, they are bizarrely non-existent here, not during the public brawls, and not when David is leaving the broken bodies of his enemies everywhere. And they are completely forgotten by the end, when David just decides to challenge the Barron to a duel to the death, and presumably leaves the police to find his impaled corpse by the ocean.

The plot chugs along at a reasonable pace, and the movie is a breezy watch at only 80 minutes. The climax is surprisingly impressive! It's a pretty stripped back encounter, just David against the main villain (=), =. I also liked the foreshadowing of the back kick, and how it was used in the final fight.   It's the location that deserves the most praise. The rocky outcrop with waves crashing against it is a really =   and is filmed so well.

The ending itself however is disappointingly abrupt. As soon as the Baron is dead, the movie just stops. No coda, no happy wrap-up with David and his recovered girlfriend, just a last minute voice-over from Bruce's earlier dialogue, and that's it.

The choreography is pretty decent here. Nothing on par with a real Bruce Lee movie, but most Chinese movies could be reliably engaging with their fight scenes, and this is no exception.   One scene that's less impressive though is the laughable head-bashing later on. It's quite weird, actually. They didn't skimp on the make-up, yet despite looking like he's actually been brutally beaten, there's Ed Wood levels of =.

The acting here is alright, and the dub actors all do fine jobs, if incredibly goofy at times. The 'real' Bruce Lee briefly appears, and is played by Le in a splitscreen effect. Of note are two things. One, the Baron's dub actor seems to change in his final battle! And two, none other than James Hong has a role! His voice is instantly recognisable, and it was a real treat.

Overall, Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger is not one of the worst 'Brucesploitation' films, nor the most tasteless, but it still bears a few problems to its name, some to do with its =, and others all of its own. But if you're gonna watch any films from this subgenre, this is probably the best...

Return of the Tiger

A mysterious man and woman begin making trouble for foreigner Paul's martial arts operations, determined he stop his drug trafficking. He refuses, and tries reasoning with the man, even attempting to hire him as a bodyguard. Paul's opposition meanwhile notices what's going on and also tries hiring the man. Neither realise what these two have really got in store though, but they'll certainly fight to keep their criminal empires...

Return of the Tiger is a surprising film in a couple of ways. The first is its status as a sequel, and this is more of a negative. It doesn't follow on from the previous film at all. It's a shame, I was honestly hoping for a continuation to Enter the Tiger, to really go all the way with Bruce Lee's successor being a superhero fighting all manner of crime each entry, with new disguises, gadgets, enemies, and women. Instead we get a movie that doesn't even try and pretend to be a sequel. I suppose this wasn't the fault of the writing, since it's the English title that makes the connection, but still.

The second surprise is the story itself. It begins with an immediate hook. A mystery pair make an attack on the villains, with abilities and motives that suggest they are very much in control. I was expecting a typical chopsocky protagonist we get to know well. In fact the movie is built on his identity being a mystery, both to the villains and to us.

The two leads are a ballsy duo, who just burst right into the villain's gym, beat up his entire academy, then demand he shut down all his nightclubs, gyms, dojos, and cease his drug smuggling operation. Oh, is that all? He even in complete seriousness suggests Paul should also commit suicide!

The plot started to lose me at the halfway point, after a major twist revealed a Sleuth style game going on, before being complicated by *another* twist, making everyone's true allegiances and identities hazy at best.

Huge stretches of time go without the lead and his lady friend, meaning we get very little insight into their true personalities, and don't get as close to them as we could've. This also has the effect of focusing on the warring crime lords more than it does the heroes, turning this into more of a crime film than martial arts.

The climax doesn't really clear the plot up for us, instead just delivering a big brawl that has double crosses, triple crosses, and heroes who seriously fall for the oldest trick in the book0"Hey, look behind you", and they do! The bare minimum is that at least we do find out who the heroes really are. As far as explanations go it makes sense, even if it's rushed, though it's a bit mundane. The final one-on-one battle is pretty neat though, even if there is no ending.

Return of the Tiger has an ultra groovy soundtrck, comprising of some 70s bangers like Play That Funky Music, White Boy, =, and =.

The villains are decent, with the main duo being distinct from each-other. I liked their grudging interplay. The henchmen are your typical lot, though one scene amused me. When Paul discovers one of his men is a spy, he sends some others to deal with him. You expect them to just kill the traitor, but they encourage him to spill the beans, even offering him money and a plane ticket to flee the country! Very accommodating! So much so that I was kinda disappointed when they inevitably kill him. I just got such a laugh out of these henchmen genuinely good chums to offer a traitor [money and a plane ticket] if he co-operates.

The fight scenes range from fun to confusing. The best was a nifty motorcycle battle. The weirdest was by far the shipping container scene, where the hero is cornered by goons, only for a container to suddenly movie into view and drop down, releasing a couple dozen men all ready for business. This frightens away the baddies, after which the men immediately get back into the crate and it's flown away, then a taxi comes to get Chang Hung from another shipping container!

The acting here is alright. Le is a reasonably charismatic lead, and I really liked Angela Mao, though was sad she didn't get to appear more. Paul L. Smith is a fine villain, and gets to throw down like Bud Spencer in the fights. The other main villain is alright, and his dub actor delivers a great evil laugh.

Return of the Tiger has its pluses as a movie, namely it's not at all a 'Brucesploitation' film, outside of who it stars. In some ways it impresses, in others it's a bit boring after a while. At least it's rarely dull, and that's never a bad thing...

Overall, Bruce Le may have been a decent success if he had tried to do his own thing, though comparisons with Lee would always have been inevitable. The real question is, did he truly honour the man's name? Well, he could fight, and made a few decent movies, so I guess he did alright. As alright as any of these actors could've...

Monday, June 21, 2021

Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla (1994)

The Japanese government is developing two plans to neutralise Godzilla. The first is the direct one, creating a mobile attack robot named Moguera, while the second is the more human Project T, hiring resident psychic Miki Saegusa to take control of the monster's mind. All these projects might be needed sooner rather than later though, when a diabolical clone emerges from space, kidnapping Godzilla's son and wreaking havoc in Japan...

Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla catches my interest right out of the gate with its goofy yet wonderful title, and in most ways it doesn't disappoint. The movie isn't a favourite of many, with some people feeling it doesn't add to the overall mythos, and feels like a filler entry. While I can see where they're coming from, I don't begrudge it these things, as a series about monsters fighting monsters is allowed to just have a 'fun' entry where they hit each-other, and that's it. There's enough mythos already set up for the story to fit snugly too, without adding any new material.

The setting and story for Spacegodzilla is very simple. The first half takes place almost entirely on Godzilla's home Birth Island, and the second half in a city block. I was afraid this would be boring, but this simplicity works in its favour, as the main crux of the movie is a father trying to defend his child from harm. Giant monsters really are just the same as us. They just want to protect their children from danger.

What detracts from the overall experience is the unneccesary 107 minute runtime. The film could've been around 80-90 minutes, easily. This is especially apparent thanks to the completely out of nowhere espionage plot halfway through the film. It's not that it's bad, it just comes so suddenly, without any warning or setup, then ends just as quickly.

The human cast are decent, though there are two many, and some could have easily been combined. Miki Saegusa finally gets to be the main character, though still shares the screen with four other leads, so she doesn't get as prominent a role as she could've. She's alright, but just doesn't leave much of an impression. Dr. Gondo is more distinctive, and cute, and has a nice connection with past films. The two soldiers are alright, with the more serious one being a love interest for Miki, and the other being comic relief.

Yuki is perhaps the best and most distinctive character, bearing a one-man grudge against Godzilla, and is even willing to befriend his son to get to him! Scoundrel. He's likeable despite his obsession, and the movie does a good job of portraying it as a negative, without demonising him as a character. I did question his intelligence though, if he thinks a single bullet, no matter how fancy, is going to kill the king of the monsters.

After a while I felt his character arc just kept stalling. You think he's gonna learn the error of his ways, and give up his revenge and settle down with the girl who likes him, but each time he seems like he's learnt this, the dumbass just keeps on hunting Godzilla, most egregiously in the end, ruining his big moment. Thankfully he does finally do the right thing and even gets the girl in he end, though if I was her I would probably have slapped him.

There is one human villain, in the form of the evil-looking doctor who tags along with the crew for the first act, until Miki is kidnapped and he reveals his intentions to use her powers to keep Godzilla under his control. This naturally goes awry. "What went wrong???" he dramatically cries. I don't know, maybe choosing to hatch your scheme when Earth is under invasion by a giant space monster?

One minor character I found amusing was the hilariously overdramatic newsreader. Yet she probably reports more honestly than most do in times of crisis!

The military are generally sensible here, not portrayed as callous assholes, or as useless bureaucrats. I was confused by why they bizarrely decide to attack Godzilla near the end. Come on guys, you know he's probably here to help, why are you being difficult! And this leads to Yuki losing his cool again and using Moguera to get in on the action, though luckily the other two stop him, and Godzilla presumably takes the first few laser shots as a way of getting his attention. That's a relief!

The climax is a spectacular brawl, and culminates with one of Godzilla's most satisfying victories. Although I admit I started to zone out after a while, with the endless sea of Roger's and Hai's all blending together a little. The action did drag a lot after Spacegodzilla's destruction too. I kept looking at the runtime and going 'It it still not over yet??'. But thankfully the ending itself is lovely! It's low-key and romantic, and shows that even amidst the destruction of this city block, things are still hopeful, and that humanity can count on Godzilla as a friend.

Godzilla is an unequivocal hero here, even if he does have a bad habit of leveling buildings when he goes for a stroll on the town. He's attacked by man, by monsters, and by robots, all while trying to protect his son. If there's one dad deserving of a Father's Day present, it's him!

One thing that sounds a little off though is his roar. His regular iconic roar is here, but alongside a more high-pitched screech he makes. It threw me through a loop every time I heard it. It just sounds...wrong. Spacegodzilla's roar is more fitting though, the higher pitch working in his favour to make him different.

His son Minilla continues to be absolutely adorable! He's a gentle giant, and friend to all. Some say Godzilla is a heartless monster, but tell me, could anything evil spawn such an adorable creature? The only issue is that he disappears midway through, and isn't seen again till the end of the film. I understand why (even if his imprisonment wasn't established in the clearest way), but it's still a bit weird how totally he disappears.

Spacegodzilla is a neat villain. Almost identical to regular Godzilla, his bulking crystalline nature gives him a distinct appearance, and his meaner visuals come across well, especially combined with his actions. He's a bully, even attacking Minilla!

The robot Moguera is a welcome addition to the film, originally having appeared in the 1957 film The Mysterians. It's nice seeing how respectful Toho are of their past, and bringing forgotten or obscure characters back into the limelight. Moguera didn't really get much to do in his original film, playing second fiddle to his alien masters, but here he gets the screentime he deserves. He may not be as visually interesting as Mechagodzilla of the previous film, but he's still a worthy mecha.

The moral of the movie is a bit skew-whiff. We mustn't pollute space with leftover Godzilla cells from battles with his plant clones, otherwise they might reach a black hole and create an evil twin. Ummm, ok? It tries to use this as a jumping off point to criticise general space pollution, which is good, though the way they do it is a bit wonky, especially when neither of the two theories that are proffered for Spacegodzilla's creation are due to man's actions.

The effects are a treat! The cityscapes and destruction is all fantastically realised, as is the integration of monsters with their surroundings. There's never a fake moment. Godzilla is perfectly designed, with a few new touches, such as more orange eyes. They're menacing in a way, despite his more heroic role here. Spacegodzilla. His back crystals do look a little lightweight and hollow, but I otherwise applaud the effort. Minilla looks a little plastic-y, like a big toy, but this is a small thing, and he's otherwise fantastic. And lastly, Moguera is fantastically designed, and even has a few different forms! Such a level of effort was put here.

The direction here is very good, stunning at times with its visuals. Not only does the lack of locations not detract from the movie's appearance, it allows the director to really flesh out these places, and we get to know them very well. The lighting is again great, complementing the scenery perfectly.

The actors all do fine jobs. Megumi Odaka is still a bit so-so as Miki Saegusa. Not really her fault though, moreso the script. Akira Emoto impresses as Yuki, and I liked the other two guys, even if they did blend together at times. Towako Yoshikawa meanwhile is cute as a button! The Heisei's tradition of casting Americans who can't act once again makes an appearance. It's amusingly cheesy, and I can't fault Toho or the Japanese for being diverse.

The music is neat! Akira Ifukube did not return this time round, for a variety of reasons, but Takayuki Hattori does a fine job. What surprised me most of all (pleasantly), was the J-pop ballad at the end, which serenades Godzilla as he walks back to his home during the rolling credits. Even when you think it's gonna freeze-frame on the Earth for the last part of it, it shows Mothra flying about, from several different angles too!

Godzilla vs. Spacegdzilla isn't a perfect entry in the series, but it's got far more good qualities than bad, and is a great way to spend an afternoon in...

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Iron Rose (1973)

French auteur Jean Rollin predominately made movies about vampires (often of the lesbian variety), but with some exceptions. The personal odyssey Lost in New York, the stylish crime flick Sidewalks of Bangkok, pirate-themed revenge flick The Demoniaques, and today's film, The Iron Rose....

A man and woman meet for the first time, and their date leads them to a cemetery. While the girl is hesitant, the guy insists, and they soon lose track of time, and find themselves locked in after dark. The duo try and leave, but just can't find the exit. And soon the girl begins to act strangely, more and more hostile, until the man is frightened for his life, in a place of the dead...

The Iron Rose is a fascinating little picture. Shot primarily in the one location, with only two actors, and little actual story, it manages to enthrall the viewer, and with its almost dreamlike atmosphere it really captures a feeling of unknowable horror. It's a very subtle horror film, with no blood and no onscreen death to speak of, but it still manages to spook you out.

The majority of the movie takes place within the confines of a cemetery. This could run the risk of being boring. And Rollin himself certainly wasn't immune to such a thing either, as a couple of his films are more than just a bit on the slow side. But The Iron Rose is captivating the whole time. Not a single moment is boring, and the pace is very quick, with each scene making an impact.

While at first glance the characters seem like idiots for being unable to hug the fence for 5 minutes until they find the gate, it's effective how trapped they are in this cemetery. Maybe by mystical means. Perhaps a sinister force is keeping them in here, unable to find the exit. Also, if they did find the exit in 5 minutes, there'd be no movie.

The story is quite ambiguous. Is this girl mentally ill? Is it just the strain of the experience making her erratic? Or is there more than meets the eye? Perhaps external forces are messing with her mind...Or maybe she's part of the external forces! That alone shows the level of detail this movie has, and how such a simple plot can really grab your attention and make you think.

The Iron Rose manages to build up such an eerie atmosphere, all without showing a single monster, zombie, ghost, or vampire. The only menace is the girl herself, but due to the actions of the characters and the richness of the location, it feels as though we're surrounded by the dead

The dialogue here is very interesting and evocative. Never feeling pretentious, it's the kind of spooky poetry that leaves you interested, and wanting to know more. There's such an air of mystery.

The direction in The Iron Rose is stunning. So may shots are filmed with such a talented eye, with the highlight being the dizzying grave reach. The locations are brilliant too. The decaying train station is only used briefly, but looks fantastic, and really sets the mood, and the magic. The cemetery is most impressive though. With its grand tombs, endless rows of headstones, dilapidated fences, and overgrown plantlife, it has a life of its own.

The characters are an effective duo. We first properly meet them at the most typical French party ever, whereupon they go on a date together, and have a lot of fun. Pierre adores her quirkiness, and is entranced by her beauty. Unfortunately he really should've taken things slow, because she turns out to be crazy! If he'd instead taken her out to a restaurant, I bet her conversation would have gone something like this: "I know you're not meant to say this on a first date, but I really like you! I think I want to get engaged! And I want to move in! In fact I took the liberty of having a key made earlier."

Pierre is a bit of a dick for dragging the girl into this cemetery, and for insisting they go down into the crypt, but as the movie went on, I felt so sorry for him for having to deal with such a crazy date that I eventually forgave him for his earlier actions. Poor due just can't catch a break! The true moral of the story is, never go out on the first date!

The actors are the most important facet in a minimalistic movie such as this, and they do not disappoint. Francoise Pascal is great as both a playful and seductive minx, a hysterical girl, and a quietly insane dreamer. I was especially impressed since I know her from the sitcom Mind Your Language, where she is a completely different character. Hugues Quester is effective as the more levelheaded, yet simultaneously louder and angrier lead. His performance is also distinctive due to his very piercing eyes. The remainder of the cast is rounded up by Rollin regulars Natalie Perrey, Mireille Dargent, and Michel Delesalle, and the director himself, in a notable cameo.

The soundtrack here is often minimal, but extremely effective, and when it does ramp up you really feel it. It's something special. It has a very surreal and eerie tone to it, especially the weird choir bits.

The Iron Rose is perhaps one of Jean Rollin's best films! Not my favourite, but certainly up there, and if you're looking for a great place to start with his filmography and feel like going in at random, this is a great place to start. It contains everything you can expect from the director...

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Girl From Monterrey (1943)

Back in the day, when America at least made a pretense of getting along with their neighbours south of the border, we got a lot of Mexican-flavoured films. Most notable was the Mexican Spitfire series, but there was plenty more too, with either Lupe Velez knockoffs, Latin lovers, and more. Armida was one of the 'poverty row' chiquitas, and she was a spunky gal! One of her most notable roles was in 1943's The Girl from Monterrey...

Lita Valdez is a feisty Mexican mamacita whose younger brother Baby has just dropped out of school to become a boxer. While angry at his decision at first, Lita is fiercely protective of her brother and helps him with his career, finding him an effective (if grumpy) manager. Along the way Lita meets the charming prizefighter Jerry, not realising her brother and her newfound beau may have to fight each-other someday soon...

The Girl from Monterrey is a fun comedy all-round. There's a bit of sport, a bit of romance, and some music to boot. It's never short of entertainment value, and its hour long runtime chugs along nicely, never dragging or getting tedious.

The main conflict in the movie comes when heroine Lita's brother and boyfriend are matched off in the ring together. Since the writers probably felt the movie needed a little something extra, there's some added intrigue. It probably wasn't necessary, since that conflict alone is already strong enough, but I certainly didn't mind a dash/spot of skulduggery. The shifty man with the moustache (because there is always one) has an underhanded scheme going on, while I spent the whole movie wondering if glitzy and glamorous nightclub singer Flossie was going to reveal her true colours and betray Baby and co., or if she was just a nice girl. Regardless of which is true, this culminates in a catfight that Flossie is destined to lose. Nobody stands a chance against an irate Mexican woman!

If I had to pick any issues with the move, it'd be with the last act. It feels a bit rushed and empty-handed. The climactic fight starts with no real fanfare, and if not for how little film there was left I wouldn't have even known it was Baby and Jerry. 5 minutes after I finished watching I'd completely forgot who even won.

The ending itself is a bit disappointing too. Months pass in the span of 5 seconds, and suddenly Lita's brother and Jerry show up again, both having vanished offscreen and enlisted, for no apparent reason. It feels like at the last minute the producers got a memo saying they had to put in some propaganda for the war effort. Come on guys, you'll win the war in two year's time, so shut up and stop messing with our films!

The acting is decent all round. Armida is a sweet and funny performer, who does double duty as a singer. She's never boring! Although it's weird how she keeps kissing her brother on the mouth! [Just the 1940s being weird. Or Americans being weird. Or Mexicans. I guess we're all strange!]
Anthony Caruso is fine as Baby. He makes a slight attempt at an accent, which is appreciated. And he was Italian-American, so that's basically the same thing as Mexican, meaning his accent never sounds inauthentic. And lastly, Edgar Kennedy is a wonderfully funny presence, as his usual pissed-off self.

The musical numbers here are decent, as are the songs themselves. The best is late in the film, when a cute donkey gets involved. He even has his own sombrero, earholes cut out and everything!

The Girl from Monterrey is a fun comedy, and good example of 1940s boxing pictures. Goofy, lighthearted, and not to be taken seriously, it's a nice time despite its lacklustre elements...

I Accuse My Parents (1944)

Something I kinda miss from the golden age of cinema is that movie titles weren't afraid to sound sensationalistic or silly. Nowadays everything tries so desperately to be 'realistic' or serious, unless it's actively taking the piss. We never get movies anymore with titles like Attack of the Teenage Frankensteins, or The Praying Mantis Is Coming!, or anything like today's entry, I Accuse My Parents...

Jimmy Wilson is a bright young lad, who does well in his studies and seems to live a typical suburban life. But he keeps his true home life a secret, ashamed of what people would think if they knew how cold and inattentive his parents really were. He soon meets the lovely nightclub singer Kitty, and brings out a spark in the jaded girl, but earns the ire of her crimelord boss. And it's these troubles will have eventually seen him held in court, facing a grim sentence if things don't go his way...

I Accuse My Parents runs at a super brisk 67 minutes, and the plot ticks all the boxes in rapid succession. Nothing is dwelled on for too long, or glossed over too quickly, and there is always something going on.

The framing story is unobtrusive and as a result not at all preachy. Not only is the message presented in a good way, but we're not beaten over the head with it every 5 minutes.

I like is that the movie is evenhanded. Jimmy does accept responsibility for what happened, and doesn't just blindly say "I turned out bad because my parents were assholes! Tyrants of the highest order!". He acknowledges that they are decent people at heart, but criticises how they generally behaved, and basically lumped their own problems onto Jimmy by extension. The fact that these outbursts and moments of inaffection are coming from parents who are otherwise decent people would perhaps make it harder for a kid growing up in this environment.

Unfortunately this leads into the film's biggest problem. The parents really don't feature enough in the plot! The majority of what befalls Jimmy is the fault of crimelord Blake. Therefore by the end of the film, the sweeping declaration of raising your kids right falls a little flat. It's a great message to be telling, but I feel they should have put more effort into it.

Jimmy is a good lead character. Likeable and clever, but we can see how he falls into this trap. He handles himself very well with most of his decisions, and is brave by the end. He also shares good chemistry with Kitty, and they interact nicely, bringing out the best in each-other. Which makes it a bummer when she's forced to swear him off to his face, but hey, if it wasn't good drama it wouldn't be effective!

Kitty is a nice love interest We can tell she's hardened from her crappy life, but still has a sensitive side, and isn't a complete gloomy gus. This means she sells the tougher aspect of her character without it defining her and making her a chore to watch. Seeing characters like this in their moments of enjoyment and happiness can further highlight the negative moments when they come, and I wish more writers would take this to heart.

The villain of the piece is a scummy piece of work, charming yet ruthless. He makes for an effective baddie.

And last up is the store owner Jimmy befriends when he's on the run in the last act. He is a bit over the top with how trusting and idealistic he is, but really that's the movie's doing for only having 10 minutes left to introduce such a major character. It has to cram a lot into a short time. Thankfully he is a likeable guy, who provides a good moral compass for the hero.

There are a few songs here and there, and they're nicely sung, and entertain. Though it does amuse just how sweet and wholesome the music in this shady criminal nightclub is.

I Accuse my Parents is a pretty enjoyable little curio from old Hollywood. Not a classic, but much better than one would expect it to be and worth checking out...