What was the last movie you saw?

Shattered Glass - I am a sucker for intrepid investigative newspaper stories. I like the myth of the honest reporter unearthing hidden secrets and fighting against all odds to bring the truth to the people. It's about as true as the myth of the heroic cowboy in the white hat cleaning up the town single handed, but I like it.
I especially like intrepid investigative newspaper tales when they are based (even if only loosely) on real events. Shattered Glass is based on the real life story of journalist Steven Glass who worked for the prestigious The New Republic for three years back in the late 1990s... and made up most of the stories that appeared under his by-line. The great scandal here to be uncovered is the dishonesty of the central character.
The film feels a little unfocused, the film never seems quite sure if it was a character study of the fabulist writer or the systematic unravelling of his fantasies. It's a bit messy in the way characters appear, contribute their part of the unmasking before sliding out of the story to let someone else pick up the thread. It's messy like that, I suspect, because I suspect the real events were messy like that.
I found it difficult to really identify with any of the characters - in a nutshell, I couldn't work out who I supposed to be rooting for.
 
A WALK IN THE SUN (1945) A very different WWII film. Literally nothing happens for the first 20 minutes or so. There is tension, fear, etc. as the soldiers in the landing craft anticipate storming the beach. Oops, Something did happen to the lieutenant, as he was peering over the edge of the LC through binoculars, but that was the only thing. So, they storm the beach, find no resistance and just sit around for 20 minutes, talking.

Once they begin to move inland, things happen. Yet, most is tension, waiting for the inevitable.

Looking back at those old 1930s comedies, the main 10 or so characters and their actors are introduced by the Penguin, who narrates. Staff Sgt. Bill Tyne (Dana Andrews) gets top billing.

So, their objective is to destroy a certain bridge, but they must get past a farmhouse containing Germans armed with belt-fed machine guns.

tense! TCM's First offering for the Memorial Day weekend of war firms.
 
The Return (1980)

Not very exciting science fiction thriller. Two little kids and a man, in separate incidents, witness bright lights in the sky, somewhere in New Mexico. Twenty-five years later, the girl is Cybill Shepherd and the boy is Jan-Michael Vincent. She works for a "publicly funded private company" (?) that sends up satellites, I'm not sure how great a scientist she is, because the boss of the company is her father (Raymond Burr.) It seems that their satellites show a blurring at a spot in (you guessed it) New Mexico. She goes there to investigate.

Jan-Michael Vincent is a deputy marshal in (guess what) New Mexico, who drinks beer from a bottle while engaged in a high-speed chase. Future Oscar winner Martin Landau is the marshal. After a lot of scenes of people walking, talking, and driving around, we find out there have been cattle mutilations in the area. Putting two and two together and getting the square root of infinity, the local cattle guy (Neville Brand) figures that Shepherd's science gizmos are killing his cows. His hot-headed son attacks her, Vincent saves her, romance blooms.

What's really going on is that the man who saw the bright lights is using a low-budget light saber (no handles, and you hold it from the middle; let's face it, it's just a glow stick) to mutilate the cattle. Later he uses it on people. His motive seems to be to scare away Shepherd and Vincent, so the never-seen aliens will take him and not them. Something like that; the plot isn't very coherent. A light show follows. The end.

They throw in some car chases, gun fights with federal agents, attacks by a big angry dog, and such, in an attempt to liven things up, but it's a pretty dreary affair.
 
Crime Doctor (1943)

B crime film, first in a series of ten, based on a radio show of the same name. Guy gets thrown out of a car. We've seen a billboard asking voters to re-elect Herbert Hoover, so we know we're a dozen years or so in the past. A bunch of stereotyped college students in their jalopy, again establishing the time, find him and take him to the hospital. He's got amnesia. He spends a decade or so getting a medical degree, eventually becoming a psychiatrist, often working with convicts and the parole board.

Guess what? He was really a crook himself, who planned a big payroll robbery and got away with a ton of money, so it was his accomplices who pushed him out of that car. Now, of course, they want the money.

The premise is interesting, if implausible. It's a professional made low budget quickie of the time, a way to kill an hour or so.
 
Sleep Dealer is not the exact last film I saw, but so great that I went and found a DVD of it. This is wonderful science fiction. Set in some near future, the story hits the nail on the head. Not really much by way of action -- unless drones destroying things missiles counts -- There is no existential threat. It is the story of the young adult son of a Mexican farmer going to Tijuana to find work in a factory to help support the family. That's the plot - really. But the world created by Alex Rivera is the fantasy future described in public statements by Nestle COE Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and other major corporate CEOs. This is the future real financial powers is pushing for.

There are so many great scenes. But I'll describe one that illustrates the world without revealing too much
Sleep Dealer is a film i really want to see but i can't find one with English subtitles.
 
The Three Avengers (Gli invincibili tre, 1964)

Rollicking sword-and-sandal epic. Our old friend muscleman Ursus is hanging around, for some reason, with two acrobatic thieves. Because Ursus is so pure of heart, he keeps making them give back their loot. One of them spends the whole film making grunting noises, supposedly mute or with a very bad stammer. At the end of the film, he suddenly reveals that he can speak perfectly well.

That's a hint that there's a fair amount of comedy in this flick. A lot of the fight scenes involving these two guys look like slapstick comedy. One bad guy literally goes flying out of his boots when he gets punched.

Anyway, these three get mixed up with a false Ursus (!) who is the real power behind the throne of a rather ineffectual king. (I should point out that the two Ursuses -- Ursi? -- are not twins, just two muscleman using the same name.) He and his slimy assistant are plotting to take over a neighboring realm. The king's adult son (from an earlier marriage; he's now married to the typical beautiful servant girl-turned-queen who shows up in these things) is actually our film's hero, eventually getting blamed for the death of his father when the false Ursus kills him. Then we have the beautiful sister of the leader of the folks the false Ursus is trying to conquer, to be lusted after by him, and to fall in love with the king's son.

Notable for the real Ursus being blinded by a poisoned helmet he wears in battle against the false Ursus, causing him to be imprisoned and leading to the real Ursus fighting blind when he escapes.

(There's an odd bit in which a blonde woman gives the real Ursus some water early in the film, with mystical music playing. She later shows up to supply a cure for his blindness, again with the ethereal music. Whether she's supposed to be a goddess or something is unclear.)

Entertaining for fans of the genre.
 
Crime Doctor (1943)

B crime film, first in a series of ten, based on a radio show of the same name. Guy gets thrown out of a car. We've seen a billboard asking voters to re-elect Herbert Hoover, so we know we're a dozen years or so in the past. A bunch of stereotyped college students in their jalopy, again establishing the time, find him and take him to the hospital. He's got amnesia. He spends a decade or so getting a medical degree, eventually becoming a psychiatrist, often working with convicts and the parole board.

Guess what? He was really a crook himself, who planned a big payroll robbery and got away with a ton of money, so it was his accomplices who pushed him out of that car. Now, of course, they want the money.

The premise is interesting, if implausible. It's a professional made low budget quickie of the time, a way to kill an hour or so.
I recall having seen that. I liked it. Forgot who was in it.
 
Victoria & Abdul

Brilliant movie. Feels like it was written as a sequel to the equally brilliant Mrs. Brown. Judi Dench was born to play Queen Victoria, and she does it here quite superbly.

If there's one thing we Brits succeed at then it's creating brilliant period dramas; and this is no exception.
 
I recall having seen that. I liked it. Forgot who was in it.

Warner Baxter. Matinee idol of the silent days, and actually won an Academy Award as Best Actor as the Cisco Kid in the early talkie In Old Arizona (1928.) By the time he starred in the Crime Doctor series, his star had faded, and he was not in the best of health; he died not long after the last film in the series. It's a little embarrassing to have all the young women in Crime Doctor act as if he's irresistible, when he's already in his mid-fifties and looks it. (That actually makes some sense for the character, given the time he needs to earn a medical degree after suffering from amnesia.)
 
Sing Sing Nights (1934)

Poverty Row mystery "suggested" by the novel of the same name by eccentric writer Harry Stephen Keeler, whose books were infamously lengthy, outrageously convoluted, and bizarre. By all reports, the film takes only the basic premise of the book, which is nutty enough.

Three guys all confess to having shot a fellow to death, in separate but simultaneous incidents. Only the first bullet killed him, it seems, but the authorities can't figure out which one that was. In an unlikely outcome, all three are found guilty and condemned to death.

At the very last minute, the governor has a wacky scientist (who literally cuts out paper dolls) use his perfect lie detection gizmo (a goofy looking machine with a big glass box, whirling gears, and so forth) to record the stories of all three men. We get flashbacks of why each guy had reason to kill the victim. The scientist gets to play Ellery Queen and tell us what really happened.

Keeler's flashbacks are said to be much weirder (including a man's brain transplanted into the body of an ape) but the main gimmick is kooky enough. The explanation for why two of the men shot a man who was already dead, but they didn't know it, is fairly clever. Cheap and talky, but odd enough to be worth a look. Less than an hour long.
 
92 in the Shade (1975)

Quirky, lowkey comedy-drama disguised as a thriller. Stars a laundry list of actors of the 1970's who could play oddballs. Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Margot Kidder, Burgess Meredith, Harry Dean Stanton, Elizabeth Ashley, Sylvia Miles, William Hickey. Set in the Florida Keys.

The basic plot makes it sound like a John D. McDonald or Elmore Leonard suspense novel. In brief, rivalry between new fishing guide Fonda and old veteran Oates escalates from stealing a wealthy client to blowing up a boat to the threat of murder.

Besides that, there are lots and lots of scenes of these eccentric folks doing odd things that make it seem like a farce. (Example: Guide is teaching a client to identify fish by placing them on a pool table. Wife of another guide comes in dressed in her high school baton twirling outfit. Husband shows up and gets mad, client thinks he's mad at him and picks up a gar to defend himself as if it were a sword.) The weird thing is that all this stuff is played as straight as the scenes of impending violence.

Lots of offbeat dialogue, too. Guide telling someone how broke he is: "If it cost a cent to rent a tuxedo for an elephant, I couldn't rent a t-shirt for a flea."

Not for all tastes. If you demand lots of plot, this is not the movie for you. I liked it.
 
Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary (1965)

Agent 077: From the Orient with Fury (1965)

Some time ago I watched and pretty much enjoyed the Eurospy flick Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966), notable for its title character. I just now realized it was the third in a trilogy, following the two listed above, all featuring the same Bond-like secret agent.

The first one's plot was obviously "inspired" by Thunderball. A super-bomb is stolen. Fistfights, gunfights, chases, captures and escapes, globe-hopping, etc. Notable for a message for the hero placed inside the strap of a stripper's brassiere, and for the hero having to inspect a woman's breast for birthmarks, to see if she's an imposter.

The second involves a scientist who has invented a way to make a disintegration ray getting kidnapped, along with his daughter. The bad guys force them to build the gizmo, while the hero chases after documents involved with the thing. Notable for actually showing the disintegration ray in use, just like a space opera ray gun, adding to a body count that is already pretty darn high during the climax.
 
I watched the recently-released film The Missing a few nights ago; unfortunately, I was half-asleep so I didn't recall much and had to read the synopsis to piece it together. I've yet to watch the maker's previous film, Searching.
 
My Man Godfrey (1936) dir. Gregory La Cava; starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady

Silly debutante on a scavenger hunt finds herself a hobo and ends up adopting him as a butler. Lombard is wonderful, Powell scarcely less so, and the range of character actors who make up the cast seem to be having a grand time. One of the great screwball comedies.


The Kennel Murder Case (1933) dr. Michael Curtiz; starring William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette

Philo Vance solves the murder of someone everyone had reason to knock off, from other dog owners at the kennel club to the caretaker of his Chinese porcelain collection to his step-daughter and her fiance. It's a locked room mystery and the way the room is locked is old hat now, but probably not in the '30s. While a hit movie at the time, if this is what the Philo Vance novels are like, I will probably continue not reading them. Powell makes this one watchable. Seems like Turner Cable Movies has revived interest in Powell who was, at one time, about as bankable as Gable, Grant or Cooper, and that's a good thing.

Also noted an early appearance of George Chandler, a character actor that I recall from '60-'70s tv shows.


And now for something completely similar,

Clue (1985) dir. Jonathan Lynn; starring Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Leslie Anne Warren

Based on the board game, six people are invited to dinner. They are to appear under false names. All are being blackmailed. Naturally, as happens under such circumstances, someone is murdered and they need to find who-dun-it before the police arrive.

In some ways similar to Murder by Death, this ups the ante by actually being funny, the script taking into account the game and it's weapons and incorporating them in a -- well, not exactly plausible way, but one that fits the movie. Early on it seemed to me all the humor was channeled through Leslie Anne Warren -- probably one of the most underappreciated actresses of the '70 and '80s -- but then it spreads out. Christopher Lloyd is a bit underused, but the others, including Martin Mull and Michael McKean, are very good. Curry takes over the end of the movie, though, as the butler who is more than he seems.
 
When the Girls Take Over (1962)

Abysmal attempt at comedy. A Castro-like revolutionary on the fictional Caribbean island nation of Hondo Rica who calls himself Maximo Toro sends the French-accented government leader a note saying he's got his daughter, and he'll trade her for guns. She's actually the revolutionary's girlfriend, although they fight a lot. An attempt to rescue her fails, and the guns wind up in the sea. Two American pilots get involved with the attempt to get them out of the water.

Sound funny? No, and it's not. Despite plenty of "comedy" music on the soundtrack, there's nothing resembling a joke going on. The setting and the extreme cheapness make it seem like Red Zone Cuba with a laugh track. The title refers to a scene near the end when a bunch of women distract the revolutionaries and shave off the leader's beard.

Avoid.
 
Magdalena, Possessed by the Devil (Magdalena, vom Teufel besessen , 1974) AKA The Devil's Female and other titles

Sleazy German ripoff of The Exorcist begins with a woman wearing an outfit that screams "I'm a prostitute" finding a man crucified to the wall of the building where she lives. His granddaughter is a student at a boarding school. Not-yet-eighteen Magdalena (played by an actress who was pretty close to forty years of age, according to IMDB) has a foaming-at-the-mouth fit at a party at the school at the same time her grandfather's corpse sits up and we hear buzzing flies on the soundtrack. When she's not a sweet schoolgirl, she's a violent, foul-mouthed nymphomaniac with super-strength, able to smash down doors and such. (Lots of nudity on the part of the actress.)

Stuff up in the attic of the boarding school moves around all by itself, a black cat appears and disappears, etc. Medical guy figures it's all a psychiatric problem, so has her move in with him and his young assistant, who has a romance with her. Meanwhile, she escapes a couple of times, severely injuring a guy who picked her up hitchhiking and using her feminine wiles (i.e. getting naked) to cause one brother to stab another. (She vanishes before our eyes after this little trick.) Under hypnosis, it turns out that she is possessed by both her grandfather and her grandmother, who both have a history of murder. Builds to a pretty weak ending.

It's definitely trashy, with the nudity just this side of being worth an X rating.
 
Dinah East (1970)

The title character is a movie star. She dies suddenly in the back of her limousine, causing her hulking chauffeur to freak out even more than you'd expect. When the coroner's assistant (or something) reveals his necrophilic tendencies by undressing her corpse, he (and we) discover that she's male, in the second scene of full male nudity we've seen in the first few minutes of the movie (after seeing her adult adopted son in the buff.) Don't worry, there will be plenty more, and some full female nudity to come.

The rest of the movie alternates flashbacks to Dinah East's life from a newcomer to Hollywood to a superstar. It all started when she (you'll forgive my use of the pronoun, I hope, as it seems most appropriate for the character) was told there were no openings for male actors at the studio, so she came back in full drag and got the job, launching her career. (There's a reference to "that new girl, Marilyn Monroe," that sets the initial time period, although otherwise you couldn't tell.)

Along the way, we meet a closeted lesbian costume designer (Andy Warhol "superstar" Ultra Violet) who knows her secret, and keeps it as long as Dinah keeps hers; a gay male actor who has a studio-promoted romance with her, never knowing her secret; a deeply conflicted lawyer who first sexually assaults Dinah then, in an attempt to prove he's a "real man," rapes a woman, getting her pregnant and marrying her, so that she later kills herself and his grown son finds out the truth about his father; the adopted son mentioned above, whose is forced away from the woman he loves by her family; and the man that Dinah truly loves, and who loves her, saying "I don't care if you're a man or a woman," and who was the chauffeur mentioned above.

Wow. Material for a deadpan spoof of Hollywood melodramas, but it's played completely (you should pardon the word) straight. Romantic montage with a sappy love song on the soundtrack? Check. Character committing suicide by walking into the sea? Check. Characters revealing their emotional scars in overheated scenes? Check.

A cheap-looking and, in general, badly acted gender-bending gay-themed soap opera, and thus a classic of sincere, unintentional camp.
 
A Bizarre Love Triangle (original title: Cheoleobtneun anaewa paramanjanhan nampyeon geurigo taekwon sonyeo - it's Korean). Co-Written by Park Chan-wook. Fackless Eun-hee has a child who needs a life saving operation, the child dies and she marries the celebrity (the world's unfunniest comedian) who raised the money to try and save him. Then she meets up again with a schoolgirl friend, Keum-sook, who has been in love with her for years. They start an affair. The comic finds out about it and blackmails Keum-sook into sleeping with him. Once. She gets pregnant. They all live happily ever after. A very long 93 minutes which was billed as a comedy but the only genuinely funny moment is the one where the comic tells a joke to the wrong audience and no one laughs. For me the film suffered from an overly-complicated narrative structure which kept going back over itself (and not adding anything much each time it did), and arsty tricksy freezeframing and speed ramping (while at other times clumsily buggering up perfectly simple line of action stuff) all housed in a "30 years in the future" framing device which kept popping in to interrupt the flow.

The subtitles had annoyingly obvious spelling mistakes and typos.

But hey, the lesbian couple get to live happily till the end of the picture - so that's something.
 
FBI Girl (1951)

Governor of an apparently fictional state (the capitol city is named Capitol City) lived under another name many years ago. His fingerprints (under the old name) are on file with the FBI Now that he's set to run for Senator, and the Senate is investigating crime in good old Capitol City, the Governor's power-behind-the throne (Raymond Burr, villainous as only he could be) arranged to have the jittery brother of a file clerk working for the FBI convince her to steal the fingerprints. Then he arranges to have both siblings killed as witnesses.

The hulking hit man somehow left his fingerprints on the woman's purse, so the FBI tracks him down. They trap him by pretending the brother is still alive and in the hospital. Hit man disguises himself as a priest to finish the job, but the guy in the hospital bed is an FBI guy. This leads to an oddly ironic scene in which a real priest tries to convince the fake priest, now standing on the ledge of the building in order to get away from the FBI, not to jump.

Despite all this, Burr still hasn't managed to get the incriminating fingerprints. Next he has the Governor send in his fingerprints as those of an anonymous dead derelict, so the FBI will think the guy the Governor used to be (are you following this?) is dead.

That still doesn't work, so Burr has a guy ask his girlfriend, another FBI file clerk, to get the fingerprints. The FBI plants a wire on her, leading to our exciting conclusion.

Not a bad little B crime film. There's a weird scene in which the main hero (FBI man Cesar Romero) is watching a comedy act on television with two comedy relief roommates of the FBI Girl. Tommy Noonan and Peter Marshall do a goofy routine in which they are only able to hear each other when they have cotton in their ears (the opposite of what you'd think) so they have to keep trading the cotton back and forth. Also odd is the wild coincidence that Burr and Romero happen to be sitting next to each other on a plane, having a friendly conversation, before either one knows who the other is.
 
A Bizarre Love Triangle (original title: Cheoleobtneun anaewa paramanjanhan nampyeon geurigo taekwon sonyeo - it's Korean). Co-Written by Park Chan-wook. Fackless Eun-hee has a child who needs a life saving operation, the child dies and she marries the celebrity (the world's unfunniest comedian) who raised the money to try and save him. Then she meets up again with a schoolgirl friend, Keum-sook, who has been in love with her for years. They start an affair. The comic finds out about it and blackmails Keum-sook into sleeping with him. Once. She gets pregnant. They all live happily ever after. A very long 93 minutes which was billed as a comedy but the only genuinely funny moment is the one where the comic tells a joke to the wrong audience and no one laughs. For me the film suffered from an overly-complicated narrative structure which kept going back over itself (and not adding anything much each time it did), and arsty tricksy freezeframing and speed ramping (while at other times clumsily buggering up perfectly simple line of action stuff) all housed in a "30 years in the future" framing device which kept popping in to interrupt the flow.

The subtitles had annoyingly obvious spelling mistakes and typos.

But hey, the lesbian couple get to live happily till the end of the picture - so that's something.
I didn't know about this one. It seems to be a mixture between The Handmaiden (2016) and I'm a Cyborg but that's OK (2006). Sparked my interest a little.
 

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