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Polly of the Circus

high flying
Marion Davies and Clark Gable star in Polly of the Circus from 1932.

Davies plays Polly, a star trapeze artist with the circus. When the circus enters a small town, she is infuriated that her costume is covered with a skirt on all of the posters because the place is "conservative."

She visits the local minister, John Harley (Gable) and accuses him of ordering the change, but he says he didn't. And, intrigued, he visits the circus that night to see her perform.

Polly falls from the trapeze and suffers an injury. I'm not sure what it was - I assume it was her back, though I never saw her get any treatment. She was brought to the minister's house because it's nearby. She's told she will have to rest for up to several months. That's fine with her because she's falling for the minister.

In fact, they fall for one another and marry, to the chagrin of Hartley's uncle (C. Aubrey Smith), a higher up in the church who can't accept that John married a circus performer. John leaves his job in that parish, but finds he has been pretty much blacklisted. Polly decides on a course of action so he can be re-enstated.

I just saw "Mank" and I will admit I hated the portrayal of Marion Davies by Amanda Seyfried, though she received raves. She had a very exaggerated New York accent and, to me, projected none of the class Marion Davies did in her performances.

Davies is absolutely lovely here, funny, warm, and likeable. Gable in an early role is very sincere and pleasant.

There is some dazzling trapeze work.

Ray Milland has a walk-on.


Shanghai Chest

Chan re-uses an old plot device
The Shanghai Chest from 1948 is a Charlie Chan movie that relies on a former plot.

Forging fingerprints came up in another Chan film, I believe with Sidney Toler. In this case, a dead man's fingerprints keep showing up at murder scenes.

Charlie this time has no trouble figuring out how the fingerprints got there, since it was a big part of the former investigation.

The cast includes Roland Winters, Mantan Moreland, Victor Sen Yung, and Tim Ryan. Tommy and Birmingham get into all kinds of trouble - they think they see a burglary and climb in a window, only to be arrested. In the end, they save the day - by mistake.

Entertaining as always.

Dark Alibi

Charlie works to save a man from death row
I know this episode, Dark Alibi, drives people crazy, but I love it.

Without the fillers, the movie would run about ten minutes.

Charlie (Sidney Toler) volunteers to help a man, Thomas Harley, going to death row to prove his innocence. The problem? His fingerprints are at a robbery/murder scene, and this man claims he was never there. There's another problem. Fifteen years ago, he was in prison.

Charlie sets out to prove that somehow, the fingerprints are forged. This means a trip to the prison and a study of past robberies where, in fact, the person convicted claimed he was not present.

That's the story. We know today fingerprints can be forged, but it's a lot of work for Charlie and team to get there.

While at the prison, Birmingham (Mantan Moreland) runs into a man he says is his brother Ben (Ben Carter). The two of them do their marvelous routine of cutting the other one off mid-sentence. "I didn't know you were seeing..." "Oh, yes, I've been keeping company with her." "But isn't she..." "No, she's lost a lot of weight." And so on. Meanwhile Tommy Chan (Benson Fong) can't follow a word they're saying.

It's hilarious, and it's a routine they did called Pidgin English, an act they did before getting into films. Sadly, Carter died of diphtheria shortly after filming this. He is so excellent in "Crash Dive," where he plays a member of Tyrone Power's submarine team, as a complete equal with the other men.

When Charlie, Birmingham, and Tommy go to a theater warehouse, Birmingham nearly has a nervous breakdown. Another very funny scene. I suppose this kind of thing is considered un-pc today, but Moreland was a wonderful talent. I love his line deliveries. He and Benson Fong play beautifully off of one another.

When one of the characters dies, Charlie runs out and lifts her wrist - she died seconds earlier and she's already in rigor mortis. Had to chuckle.

Phil Karlson directed this, and he did a great job - there are some interesting angles and shadows, and scenes in what looks like a real prison.

HIghly enjoyable.

Dangerous Money

we never do find out about that turtle
There's a small turtle with a torch on his back in "Dangerous Money," but that's never explained.

Well, we never do find out about that turtle...

"Dangerous Money" takes place on board ship, where a treasury agent investigating the movement of counterfeit money tells Charlie (Sidney Toler) that two attempts have been made on his life.

Finally, one succeeds, thanks to a flying knife, which plays into other parts of the film as well.

Charlie investigates, with the "help" of Jimmy Chan (Victor Sen Yeung) and Chattanooga Brown (Willie Best). This time around, Charlie actually has a couple of real assignments for them. The film also features Gloria Warren as Rona Simmonds.

Jimmy and Chattanooga supply some of the humor and play off of one another well. The best is Chattanooga playing sick so that Jimmy can get the doctor's fingerprints.


The Red Dragon

lackluster but enjoyed the rhumba
"The Red Dragon" from 1945 finds Charlie (Sidney Toler), Tommy (Benson Fong), and Chattanooga Brown (Willie Best) investigating a crime in Mexico City. They have the help of the big cheese there, Inspector Cavero, Fortunio Bonanova.

In an attempt to steal atomic bomb documents, there have been some shootings - strange ones - two shots, one bullet, and no gun found. A perplexing case for Charlie.

Plenty of suspects, including Inspector Carvero's love interest, Margarite (Carol Hughes), a night club singer called the Countess Irena (Marjorie Hoshelle), and several others, all trying to get the documents from Alfred Wayans (Robert E. Keane).

Toler has one cute scene where he does the rhumba in a nightclub.

For comic relief there was Tommy and Chattanooga. Chattanooga was Birmingham's brother. They had some amusing scenes, but I prefer Mantan Moreland in the chauffeur role, and Sen Yung or Keye Luke. Moreland had an animated face, a cheerful demeanor, and great line delivery. Best had made his career playing the black stereotype, which is difficult to watch today, though he was good.

Some trivia - Marjorie Hoshelle, who played Countess Irena, was married to Jeff Chandler. She reminded me a bit of Lauren Bacall. Hoshelle and she and Chandler's two daughters, born in the late '40s, all died from cancer.

I know the whole film is un-pc, but I do like the Charlie Chan movies.

The Sky Dragon

mayhem on a plane
Roland Winters is Charlie Chan in "The Sky Dragon" from 1949.

Chan and his son Lee board a plane to go to San Francisco. Lee is very excited, as he's been taking flying lessons from the pilot. If Lee looks a little older here, it's because he's 45, and his father is the same age.

Coffee is passed around, and Lee spills his coffee on his dad. The coffee was drugged; so fortunately, Lee doesn't get much. He finds the detective hired to guard $250,000 that was on board plane dead, the pilots drugged, and the money gone.

Charlie figures the money was thrown out of the plane via parachute. And there are a lot of suspects - like everyone. The hostesses, played by Noel Neill (of Superman fame) and Elena Verdugo (of Marcus Welby fame) are suspects, as are the pilot (Milburn Stone of Gunsmoke), the copilot (Joel Marston), a burlesque queen (Iris Adrian) and her brother-in-law (Lyle Talbot), and a Mayor (Paul Maxey of The People's Choice). A baby-boomer movie for sure.

This was the last Chan film, with Winters a rather staid, formal Charlie spouting his words of wisdom. "Innocent act without thinking, guilty always make plans." Humor is added by Mantan Moreland as Birmingham, who aids Lee in an investigation, breaking into the burlesque house.

Enjoyable with some interesting camera work - everyone in the plane turning and facing the camera while Charlie is talking.

Though it's seen as un-pc today, this was a fun series.

The Secret of Convict Lake

very good western
From 1951, The Secret of Convict Lake stars Glenn Ford, Gene Tierney, Ethel Barrymore, Zachary Scott, Robert Hylton, Ann Dvorak, Jeanette Nolan, Helen Westcott, and Ruth Donnelly.

This is a departure from your usual western: First of all, it has strong female characters, including Ethel Barrymore, Gene Tierney, and Ann Dvorak.

Six escaped convicts are stopped by a blizzard in the Sierra Mountains. Jim Canfield (Glenn Ford) accompanies them, though he doesn't consider the other convicts buddies.

One is a slimeball, Johnny Greer, played by Zachary Scott, who is after $40,000 that he is sure Canfield stole, which is one reason Canfield was in prison, that and murder. There is also a psycho rapist and murderer, Clyde (Richard Hylton). One escapee died along the way.

The men approach a settlement, occupied by women whose men are away. They are treated decently by the women, but they are told to keep their distance. Canfield seems especially interested in Marcia (Tierney) who is engaged to marry Rudy, the brother of Rachel (Dvorak).

Canfield insists that he did not steal the $40,000 that Greer is after. He has his own reasons for being at the settlement.

As far as keeping their distance, it's difficult due to a love-hungry spinster (Dvorak) and an innocent young girl (Barbara Bates). There's bound to be trouble, and there is.

The ending is very unusual for the times, but to me satisfying.

Very good performances all around, big finale, and an effective snowstorm.

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

very loosely based on "The Musgrave Ritual"
Holmes and Watson investigate murders and an attempted murder on the Musgrave estate, part of which is a convalescent home for soldiers. Watson works there.

In the original story, this is a case that Holmes tells Watson about as it happened before they met. Here, Watson no longer lives with Holmes and is visiting.

Everything hinges on the annual Musgrave Ritual, which must be recited aloud. In the story, it's by one of the male members of the family; here, the female Musgrave (Hillary Brooke) recites it.

The character of the nosy butler Brunton is here, as he is in the book, and he meets the same fate.

One of the best things about this is the atmosphere and camera work. Downright spooky! And very effective. Also, there are no Nazis.

Pretty good story, with a nice monologue by Holmes at the end which seems timely for today.

The Devil Thumbs a Ride

long night's journey
It seems that during the Depression, people gave rides to hitchhikers; during the war and post-war, to servicemen and women. Well, in The Devil Thumbs a Ride from 1947, it's not the Depression and Lawrence Tierney isn't in uniform. At some point, hitchhiking became ill-advised.

It sure is here - Tierney, as Steve Morgan, robs a bank and kills a man, then hitches a ride out of San Diego with nice guy Jim Ferguson (Ted North). When they stop for gas, Jimmy goes to call his wife inside the station, while Steve tells two women, Agnes and Carol (Betty Lawford and Nan Leslie) that they can have a ride, even though it isn't his car.

Steve enters the station and insults a photograph of the gas station attendant's little girl, saying she has large ears. Jimmy tells his wife they are about 3-1/2 hours out of Los Angeles in the middle of the night with no traffic - they must have been traveling by way of Paducah.

Back in the car, Steve is attracted to the demure 21-year-old Carol while he refers to the 35-year-old Agnes as Grandma. My kind of guy. When he spots a cop, he insists that they stop at Jimmy's boss' weekend home so that they can eat and relax. Jimmy is reluctant, but since a drink spilled on him and he smells like a brewery, he realizes it's for the best.

Once there, Steve lets the air out of Jimmy's tires, rips out the phone cord, and gets the caretaker drunk. He also makes a play for Carol, who makes it clear she's not interested.

Meanwhile back at the gas station, the attendant (Glen Vernon) hears a description of Jimmy's car on the radio and calls the police. Steve has not endeared himself to him.

The end of this film was a little abrupt -- and strange, but the movie itself is okay, with Tierney giving a good performance at what he did best - being hateful. This is a must for Tierney fans. I happen not to be one, but I love noir, so I usually end up watching something he's in.

The Thief

Cold War espionage
I knew the gimmick in "The Thief" because the actress "introduced" in the film, the gorgeous Rita Gam, was a friend of mine.

This is an interesting film because it's silent all the way through. Milland plays Dr. Allan Fields, a scientist with the Atomic Energy Commission, who has been selling secrets to the Russians. We see Milland photographing documents and slipping the film to someone who slips it to someone else, etc.

Fields doesn't seem particularly happy to be doing this, so one wonders why he is - and a poster came up with a brilliant thought which I'll get into later. Anyway, Fields' phone rings constantly but he never answers it. Is it a coded message or doesn't he want to talk to these people? We don't know.

One day, one of the messengers with the film is hit by a car. The police retrieve the film, and soon, the FBI is investigating everyone from the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington.

Fields goes to a safe house of sorts, where he receives a passport and clothes, but he must wait for a signal and instructions. In the meantime, he meets one of his neighbors, a leggy brunette (Gam) who, even in silence, makes it very clear that she'd like a good time.

The theory one reviewer had is that the Russians are blackmailing the Milland character because he's gay. The proof for the reviewer is that he doesn't seem to want Gam. No way of knowing - he could have been wary of any involvement as well.

This was a feature film that ran 86 minutes, so I suppose they really couldn't cut it. But it does get a little tiring, with Fields going in and out of his apartment, passing film around, etc.

Martin Gabel plays one of the messengers. Rita Gam is positively stunning, very similar to Ava Gardner - I believe she was hired by MGM as a threat to Gardner. Hollywood really wasn't for her. She eventually returned to her theater roots, and later became a producer and an author of several books.

Certainly worth checking out. A very good performance by Milland, who seems as beaten down as he did in The Lost Weekend, and walking the same New York streets. The locations for those of us from New York City are fun to see.

Kill or Be Killed

noir in Brazil
I am not a fan of Lawrence Tierney's but because he did noirs, my favorite genre, I watch him.

Tierney plays Robert Warren, an engineer working in Brazil. In an attempt to collect money, he walks into a bar owner's office just as the man has been killed. The killer escapes. Thinking Warren did it, the police chase him.

He manages to board a ship going to the Amazon. A concert pianist on board Maria (Marissa O'Brien) helps him hide. Once off the ship, he gets a job at a plantation where the workers are being exploited. Their boss is Maria's husband, Gregory (Rudolph Anders).

Gregory has an associate, Victor (George Coulouris) who does all his dirty work. Victor recognizes Robert from the bar. Realizing he was at the scene of the murder, Robert becomes his assignment. In the meantime, Robert and Maria have fallen in love. So Victor and Gregory really aren't happy with him.

This is an okay film. Boy have times changed. Tierney states in this film that he's 32. He was, though you'd believe looking at him by today's standards that he's 55. In this film he plays a hero, which was unusual for him.

Some scenes shot in Lisbon.

People are always saying if Tierney hadn't been such a bad boy off the screen, he could have done this and that in films. Frankly I've never seen the attraction, though occasionally he says a line in something besides a monotone.

Sherlock Holmes in Washington

Sherlock and Watson come to America
This Universal Holmes-Watson propaganda film has Holmes and Watson traveling to Washington D. C. to find an important document. The messenger, using the name John Gregson, who was carrying the document has been killed, and it is imperative that this document not fall into enemy hands. Holmes guesses the enemy doesn't yet have it, as they sent Gregson's body in a trunk to warn off Holmes.

In the man's quarters, Holmes finds evidence that the document, a two page thing, may have been turned into microfilm.

Sherlock and Watson retrace the man's travel by train to find out which passengers he spoke to and may have slipped the document to. With the help of a train employee, Sherlock finally hones in on a young woman (Marjorie Lord) who had her cigarette lit by the messenger.

Decent story, with Holmes and Watson tracking down antique stores and enemies of the state.

One bit of trivia: Marjorie Lord appeared on television in "Make Room for Daddy" with Danny Thomas, but has one other claim to fame. She is the mother of Fatal Attraction star Anne Archer. You can really see the family resemblance in this film. She appears in this film with her husband, Anne's father, John Archer, who plays Lt. Pete Merriman.

Pitch Perfect 3

love the music
The Bellas have reunited for a USO tour in "Pitch Perfect 3" from 2017.

They find out they are competing with other groups for the opportunity to tour with DJ Khaled.

Not much to this, and it's not as good as Pitch Perfect 1 and Pitch Perfect 2, but it's still fun music, and it still has Anna Kendrick, of whom I am a big fan.

John Lithgow plays Fat Amy's criminal father, who shows up.

Enjoy the music.

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror

The Nazis broadcast British disasters
The Voice of Terror was apparently the first "modern" Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Holmes and Watson entry.

A German voice comes over the radio mocking the Brits and describing horrors perpetrated by the Nazis, bombs, derailing trains, etc. Sherlock is called in to help uncover the "voice," which is bad for morale. Worse yet, as Sherlock realizes, the Nazis seem to know about these disasters before the War Office. There's obviously a leak.

I guess people disliked Holmes in modern times. The fact is, Universal used these films as wartime propaganda. And we know Sherlock fits beautifully into modern times, thanks to the Masterpiece Theatre Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

This film a decent cast and denoument, as well as some good performances from Evelyn Ankers, Thomas Gomez, Reginald Denny, and Henry Daniell.

It's not my favorite, it's not the best, but I like Basil Rathbone in the role and love watching him.

Pursuit to Algiers

Sleight of hand
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson begin a "Pursuit to Algiers" in this 1945 film.

After an assassination, Sherlock is asked to escort the new king, living incognito, back to his native country. He has been living anonymously in England since he was a child.

The plan is to go by plane while Watson, since there's no room in the plane, boards a ship to go fishing. He is alarmed to realize that the plane crashed. Then Holmes and the young man appear in his stateroom.

Finding the culprits who want to kill the king is difficult - there are several suspects, but finally, Sherlock hones in on them. After a few attempts to murder the king, Holmes and Watson wonder how they can ever get him to Algiers safely.

I enjoyed this, as well as the singing of NIgel Bruce and Marjorie Riordan, which was very entertaining.

As someone pointed out, a major problem with the series is that Watson is often portrayed as an idiot. Here he's a little thick, but Holmes is not condescending to him. The important thing about Bruce is, in spite of his portrayal, he gave the character of Watson more prominence than he had been in the past.


The Pearl of Death

The Creeper
The Pearl of Death is a Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes from Universal. The pearl has a curse on it, and when it arrives at a museum, the curator proudly demonstrates the security system to Holmes.

Holmes, however, thinks it's easily hacked and dismantles it - just as the pearl is being stolen by one Conover (Miles Mander), a brilliant thief. Blame falls on Sherlock who is highly embarrassed.

The pearl, it seems, has been hidden in a Napoleon statue. Conover sends his back-breaking associate, The Creeper (Rondo Hatton), to the people who purchased the statues to find the pearl. Thus, every murder scene has broken pieces of what looks like china.

Excellent Holmes, with Watson acting as his defender throughout.

Rondo Hatton was a most fascinating man who suffered from acromegaly. After working as a journalist, he cashed in on his looks and is today a cult figure.

There is a remarkable moment in "In Old Chicago" (1937) where he stands near Tyrone Power, and we see male beauty and the deformed features of Rondo at the same time. I'm not sure if it was deliberate, but it is quite striking.

However, it truly was impossible to see Hatton as ugly. He made the most of the life he had.

The Circus Queen Murder

No balm in Gilead, but plenty of other stuff
DA Thatcher Colt (Adolphe Menjou), who hasn't had a day off in years, is finally going on vacation. He has chosen a town in upstate New York called Gilead. He brings along his secretary, Miss Kelly (Ruthelma Stevens).

It's not particularly calm, as the circus is in town, replete with cannibals and intrigue. Wouldn't you know that the circus press agent (Harry Holman) recognizes his old buddy Colt and gives him and Ms. Kelly free passes.

That evening, the owner of the circus, Rainey (George Rosener) tells Colt that someone is out to ruin his show. One incident involved the half-owner (La Tour) caught on a runaway horse. Miss Kelly, a lip reader, saw what Flandrin (Dwight Frye), La Tour's husband, said just before he popped a balloon to scare the horse: "The double-crossing cheat. I'll kill the both of you."

La Tour is having an affair with The Great Sebastian (Donald Cook) and wants a divorce. Flandrin has disappeared, but Colt knows he's still around and planning something deadly.

Nice high-wire acts and good performances, particularly by Dwight Frye as the clearly insane Flandrin. Menjou is very charming and smooth.

This is a dated film, with black cannibals and a black tap-dancing toy atop Menjou's desk.


Ray Milland between two women in Lisbon
Ray Milland produced, directed, acted, and made out with two beautiful women in "Lisbon" from 1956.

This is a gorgeous color film shot on location in Portugal. A smuggler, Evans (Milland) is hired by a local Greek smuggler, criminal, and jewel thief, Aristides Mavros (Claude Rains) to sneak an imprisoned American out of communist-controlled territory.

The man's wife, Sylvia Merrill (Maureen O'Hara) is paying for the release, and she is not sure whom she can trust. She comes to trust Milland, and also seemingly fall in love with him.

She's not alone - a young woman (Yvonne Furneaux) who lives in Mavros' mansion, is also attracted to him. This is upsetting to Seraphim (Frances Lederer), Mavros' major domo who would like to see Milland dead.

We eventually find out Sylvia's agenda - she'd kind of like it if her husband didn't come back in the best of health - i.e., dead. He's old and she's tired of him.

Claude Rains is terrific as the evil Mavros. He always brings class to any production. What will happen when Evans picks up Merrill? Can he even trust Mavros to pay him? Or does he have an agenda as well?

This was done in Republic's Naturama process, and it's very well done. Not the most scintillating story, but great locations.

Counsellor at Law

Faster than the speed of light
I recently suggested a film to a high school teacher -the movie was from the 1930s. She came back and told me the people in the film talked too fast and no one - including her - could follow what they were saying.

Good thing I didn't recommend "Counsellor at Law" from 1933, starring John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Daisy Kenyon, Isabel Jewel, Thelma Todd, and Melvyn Douglas. Fast isn't the word.

Counsellor at Law is based on an Elmer Rice play that starred Paul Muni as George Simon, a Jewish attorney. Here he is played by John Barrymore, who doesn't miss a beat. The character is possibly based on attorney Samuel Liebowitz, who was involved in some high profile criminal cases in the 1930s.

Simon is a man who never forgot his roots and how hard he had to work; therefore, despite great success, takes cases from the lower east side neighborhood where he grew up.

He is a man who does a million things at once, can keep all kinds of facts in his head about his cases, and seems to be all about his work. He is devoted to his shiksa wife (Kenyon) who has two spoiled brat children from another marriage who don't like him. Meanwhile, his secretary (Daniels) is madly in love with him, but it's unrequited.

Then it all goes downhill, when he finds out that an alibi that kept a repeat offender out of prison has been uncovered as false. He fears he might be disbarred.

Simon and his wife had planned a European trip; due to his current problem, he explains to her the trip will have to be delayed. She tells him she is going anyway. Part of it is that a family friend (Douglas) who is interested in her is also sailing.

Excellent film that never lets up, with some of the most magnificent art deco sets ever! The play is not opened up and in fact takes place in George's offices and in the hallway. However, you don't notice it.

Isabel Jewell for my money nearly steals the film with her high-pitched sing-song voice answering the phone "Simon and Tedesco." She is a riot.

Barrymore is fantastic - his scene with a man, McFadden (Charles Hammond Dailey) he sent out to do some spy work on another attorney is hilarious - McFadden continues to embellish the story as Barrymore becomes more and more frustrated. His timing is perfect.

Highly recommended.

Everything Is Thunder

A Canadian POW escapes to Berlin
In World War I, a Canadian POW escapes and is hidden by a Berlin streetwalker in "Everything is Thunder" from 1936. The stars are Constance Bennett, Douglass Montgomery, and Oscar Homolka.

Hugh (Montgomery) is able to bribe a prison camp guard, but the guard turns on him and in the ensuing fight, the guard dies when he falls on his knife. Hugh escapes, but the guard's death starts a national search.

Hugh pretends to be a discharged German soldier who has a wooden leg. It's pieces of wood held together that he can remove at will. He makes it to Berlin, where he meets the beautiful Anna (Bennett), a prostitute.

When Anna, a true German, realizes who he is, she is ready to turn him in, but the two are falling in love. They decide to both escape to neutral territory.

The last half hour or so of this film is very fast-moving and exciting. The last shot is absolutely beautiful. It's not a great film, but it has good performances and a decent story.

Behind Her Eyes

intriguing but disappointing
Behind Her Eyes is a decent story - up to a point - and well acted by Simona Brown, Eve Hewson, and Tom Bateman.

I won't rehash the plot. I will say it keeps you guessing, and there are a few twists.

However, at the very end, there is one twist too many.

Also, I think people were misled and upended by what it was they were watching. They were expecting one genre, and it started that way - then it turned into another genre, and the people watching weren't necessarily fans of the second genre.

Behind Her Eyes has very nice production values and good-looking people. The story could have been much stronger, and as far as the "twists," they should have quit while they were ahead.


hanging plots
Anna Friel is terrific as Marcella in this tv series which began in 2016. And what a concept. She plays a police detective with DID (dissociative identity disorder) whose personal life is somewhat of a mess and has been since the loss of her baby daughter some years earlier. She is now divorced with two children.

I'll just say that there are some great scenes and some interesting storylines throughout Marcella, but there are a couple of big problems. First of all, if one isn't familiar with a group of actors (and I only knew Jamie Bamber) - well, the actors sort of look alike.

Too many beards, too many redheads, too many blondes - I was confused in the way people have been when I'm watching a soap opera and they ask, was that the same woman who was with the tall guy? Casting directors make this mistake all the time as they prefer certain types and keep casting them in the same show. Sloppy. You can do that with a group of stars that people recognize, not with actors no one knows.

The biggest problem is the show's failure to resolve a lot of the subplots. I kept asking a friend who'd seen it what happened with so and so, and all I got was "keep watching." Well, I kept watching and guess what - I still don't know what happened with so and so, and in fact, more than a few so and sos.

Case in point - though this has to do more with weak writing. The main character finds out that someone in the police department is filming her at home (which turns out to be a lucky thing). She returns to the office, slaps him, and yells at him for filming her. End of scene. We don't know why he was, we don't know if they had some prior relationship, we don't know if he was obsessed with her - we don't know anything.

However, because of the performance of Anna Friel, I recommend this. Just don't expect answers to everything.

The Unholy Wife

How could Diana Dors be anything but an unholy wife?
Diana Dors, Britain's answer to Marilyn Monroe, stars with Rod Steiger, Tom Tryon, Arthur Franz, and Beulah Bondi in "The Unholy Wife" from 1957.

Dors as her character, Phyllis, serves as the narrator, telling her own story. When we first see her, she's deglamorized and no longer a blond, but somehow, still beautiful with this natural look.

She tells the story of meeting a vineyard owner Paul Hochen (Steiger) in a bar, where she picks up guys with her friend (Marie Windsor). Here she is dazzling in a form-fitting silver gown and that signature platinum blond hair. Phyllis has a young son from a past relationship, and soon, she is married to Paul, living with him, her son, and his mother (Bondi) in a mausoleum of a house.

Everything with Paul is family tradition and the making of wine. She's bored, so she enters into a liaison with a cowboy (Tryon). Then she decides enough is enough and begins to plot her way out of her situation with murder. Her plan doesn't work the way she wanted, so she has to improvise.

This is a slow, dark film, and the actors underplay - even Steiger, who is so off the wall in The Big Knife. I mean, the man can go big. Here he's a simple, proud man who takes care of his mother, is devoted to Phyllis' son, and has a priest for a brother. Obviously he and Father Stephen were raised with a different set of values from Phyllis.

The film comes off as average. Comparing Dors to Monroe is a mistake. Dors was sultry and sensusal, but she didn't have Monroe's charisma, presence, or likeability. However, had she played down the bombshell routine, she probably would have been considered a good actress.

Routine, but the stars made it interesting.

Outcast Lady

So totally overdone
This movie is totally dated.

Outcast Lady stars Constance Bennett, one of my favorite actresses, along with Herbert Marshall, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Hugh Williams, Elizabeth Allen, Henry Stephenson, Ralph Forbes, and Leo G. Carroll.

This film is a remake of a 1929 film of Garbo's - I'm sure it was better.

Constance is Iris March Fenwick, a woman from a less than successful family who nevertheless had childhood playmates from prestigious families: Napier (Marshall) and Boy (Forbes), both of whom are in love with her.

Napier wants to marry her, but his father (Stephenson) feels it will be detrimental to his career - Iris has no money and no status. He decides to take a job out of the country, make good, and then come back for her.

It doesn't work out that way, and Iris several years later marries Boy. On their wedding night, she discovers a note that someone slipped her, stating that Boy had been in prison under another name. We're not told the crime, but it must have been heinous, because when she shows Boy the note, he jumps out a window.

Iris is blamed, for reasons that aren't terribly clear. Well, first off, people think she pushed him. That aside, people believe that Boy discovered he had made a horrible mistake in marrying Iris and jumped to his death in horror. I guess I don't have the imagination for this - I can't imagine, after knowing her for years, what he discovered. I guess the implication is she had too much sexual know-how.

Iris bravely refuses to tell anyone the real reason for Boy's suicide. Everyone hates her. She then travels and has dalliances. Her brother, Gerald (Marsh) is a down and out alcoholic. He won't speak to her since he blames her for Boy's death. I mean, he sounds like he was in love with him.

Iris wants to help Gerald but since he won't have anything to do with her. Will she finally decide to tell him the truth about Boy?

This thing was totally over the top, so melodramatic, I wanted to scream. The end didn't surprise me at all.

Constance, of course, was gorgeous and in beautiful Adrian gowns. She's very appealing. It's highly doubtful that Herbert Marshall, fourteen years older than both Bennett and Forbes, was a childhood playmate. Still, he's noble and earnest.

Marsh as Gerald comes off as a crazy man. Some of that can be attributed to the acting style back then, and the rest can be attributed to the script.

These actors have all been in better films.


I aim for the stars, but sometimes I hit London
Warren William is the Lone Wolf, Michael Lanyard, in "Counter Espionage" from 1942.

Michael has the difficult assignment of stopping German spies from stealing valuable information from the British government. That's the Mcguffin, of course.

The police suspect Lanyard of actually working with the Nazis.

Eric Blore provides the comic relief, and Hillary Brooke is the suspicious daughter of a murdered man who had these important plans in his safe.

I love Warren William, so it's always great to see him. Look for Lloyd Bridges in an uncredited role as a waiter, and Forrest Tucker has a small role.

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