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The Search for Robert Johnson

Good Documentary That Misses the Mark
I'm a big fan of Robert Johnson's music, & have all of his recordings on CD & digitally. Although this is a good documentary for 1992, it misses the mark in two important areas:

1) where is Robert Junior Lockwood in all of this? He was Robert Johnson's "stepson" (only about 4 years younger than Johnson), & an accomplished Blues singer/guitar player, who is reportedly the only person known to have learned to play from Robert Johnson himself, as well as being a person who played with him on occasion. A major omission for any bio of Robert Johnson. 2) I'm also a fan of John Hammond Jr.'s music, & have a dozen or so of my favorite songs of his. But for this bio, I much rather would have heard complete songs (rather than snippets) of Robert Johnson's own performances, than hear what was presented (JHJ playing & singing his versions of Johnson's music). JHJ did a good job on most of the songs, but for what purpose?

This film is a bio of Robert Johnson, & his music should have been presented on the soundtrack to a much greater degree, perhaps along with photos of the areas Johnson frequented, as they appeared then (if available) & now.

Girl Without a Room

Contains Too Short Dance Sequence...
I collect Pre-Code films & have 150+ of them. "Girl Without a Room" is not one of my favorites. It is talky, very silly, & much too "busy". The "comedy" is rarely amusing. I agree with other reviewers here about the poor quality of the "singing". On the positive side, this was Mrs. Hopalong Cassidy's (Grace Bradley, AKA Mrs. Boyd) best film performance. And then there's the dance sequence, described below.

The film is noteworthy for it's nightclub female dancer sequence, which lasts only about 5-10 seconds, & that's a shame. The dancer is the uncredited Joyzelle Joyner, & she dances without clothes! It's impossible to tell this from the film video, because she's shown for such a short period of time, & from the waist up, & more so, because of the outstanding body paint that was applied to her in a snake motif (shoulders to ankles).

I have seen three still photos of Joyzelle in character, in her painted "outfit", which show: 1) her full-body make-up being applied backstage by Makeup Artist David S. Garber, with "supervision" from a female assistant (actually, more of a "chaperone"); this photo is dated November 29 1933 (the date the photo was received by a photo service in New York City, not the date the photo was taken). 2) Joyzelle on the film set of "Girl Without a Room" at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, with the backdrop being the back wall of the nightclub scene set in the film. 3) a colorized photo of #2 above, with the backdrop edited out; this photo best shows the magnificence of the body paint; it appears on the front cover of "PIC" Magazine, May 2 1939.

Joyzelle's body make-up is possibly the most outstanding example of its kind in Hollywood history.

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

Behind Its Time & Ahead of Its Time
Film is laughably behind the times, using "gangster" dialog from early 1930s films, even though it's set in 1941 (based on a license plate on a car). "Miss Blandish" could qualify as a satire of films from 15 years earlier, if it didn't take itself so seriously. Every 1930s gangster cliché can be seen here. "See?", "Yeah", "See?", "Yeah" said with Edward G. Robinson-styled sneers is used constantly. In-between the horrid dialog & clichés, there's a seriously evil Bad Guy expertly played by Jack La Rue, who exceeded even Pre-Code standards of Badness (except for his own turn in "The Story of Temple Blake"), & the film is worth seeing for his role alone. Lilly Molnar has an especially non-intentionally funny role in the over-clichéd part of Gangster "Ma". Jack Durant is actually funny (intentionally) as a comic imitating dialog between Peter Lorre & Sydney Greenstreet. Michael Balfour & MacDonald Parke are good in their roles. On the plus side, "Miss Blandish" was indeed far ahead of its time in terms of violence, & unrepentant crime, & it's hard to imagine how it got past the censors of the day in its 104 minute form. All in all, I got many laughs while watching this, but they were mostly laughs at the film, not with the film. This film set the record for the most Hollywood clichés I've ever seen in a film (aside from true satires), quite an accomplishment for a British movie.

Dance Madness

Joyzelle Joyner & Clara Bow
In an interview that appeared in the January 1929 issue of the magazine, "American Dancer", actress/dancer Joyzelle Joyner stated that both she & Clara Bow had parts in this film. A photo of Joyzelle in costume in this film has surfaced, but Bow's participation remains otherwise unsubstantiated.

Lucifer and the Magus

Perhaps a College Production?
I read the earlier reviews here & I thought I'd be watching a professionally made short film. I don't know if this is a college production, & I hate to burst the bubbles of earlier reviewers, but this short is amateurish in every way: acting, direction, special effects, plot, "action sequences" (a misuse of that phrase; the actors do their own stunts, & without much success), etc.

The dialog is delivered in a stilted fashion, the script is hackneyed, & there is nothing here that hasn't been done dozens of times before with greater success. The photography is well-done, the locale is attractive, & there are some decent, basic special effects.

I would be kinder if I knew this was a high school or college production, but I don't know know that. If you're looking for an earnest attempt at film-making by a group of amateurs, you've come to the right place. If you're looking for a production with any of the standard Hollywood values, this is not the place to look.

I'm sorry that I believed the earlier reviewers here, & wasted my money on this.

EZ Streets

Excellent Show, on DVD
I loved this show when it was on TV 1996-97. Great photography, scripts, acting, music. The series had a movie quality & feel to it, that was rare for TV series of that time period. In summary, it had all that was needed for it to be canceled after a pilot and 9 regular shows. IMDb has listed some info on this program that is incorrect. For example, the pilot ran for two hours. All the other episodes were sixty minutes, except, for some reason, Episode #4 (called "St. Jude Took a Bullet"), which ran for ninety minutes (all including commercials). Please see my comment on the forum for this show, for more info about viewing the episodes, & hearing some of the songs.

Have Gun - Will Travel: The Night the Town Died
Episode 21, Season 3

Not a Good One
I love the "Have Gun, Will Travel" series, which is one of the best of all the TV western series. Unfortunately, this episode is not among my favorites. Simply put, it's too talky, too staged, & too preachy. The moral issues at hand are important, but the small, one-set staged performances are just not my cup of tea. The actors seem capable enough, but their delivery seems more forced than sincere. Each seems to wait patiently for their turn in a round-table type of debate, & during each actor's turn, they over-emote by yelling at each other. This series includes many other episodes that handle issues just as significant as this show's, but do so in a more dynamic fashion without seeming to be a stage play.

Cheyenne: Indian Gold
Episode 6, Season 7

Excellent, But a Very Violent Episode
Although I don't like some of the things that happened in the plot (for example, an Indian was murdered by whites, & his wife was shot in the back & killed), this show had an excellent plot with several surprising twists. The plot involves a Dakota Sioux Indian who comes to a small encampment in search of medicine for his sick wife. When the Indian is later captured & (falsely) accused of killing a man & stealing his gold, the Sheriff calls the Indian's chief into town, to determine his guilt & possible punishment; this was done to avoid upsetting a recent treaty. After hearing a few details, the chief says "Hang him," & rides off. A fairly shocking development, to say the least, & certainly not what you would normally expect a chief to say about a member of his tribe. Why would he do that? Watch this excellent episode to find out!

Cheyenne: The Angry Sky
Episode 20, Season 3

One of the Best Cheyenne Episodes
This four person drama set during the Christmas season is one of the best episodes of the Cheyenne series. Excellent acting all-around, & excellent script, well-written by the episode's director, Montgomery Pittman (who also wrote 14 episodes of "77 Sunset Strip"). Andrew Duggan plays a Judge who has a penchant for hanging people, more so for being "stupid" than for having committed crimes. The lovely Adele Mara (playing the Judge's wife) has some of the best dialog: "I'm not really ignorant, I've always pretended to be because that's the way you liked it," & later, "Will you ever learn that the world isn't as stupid as you'd like it to be?" The Judge is both fascinated by Cheyenne's morals & threatened by his intelligence. Mesmerizing cat & mouse game between the Judge & Cheyenne keeps the viewer's interest throughout.

Zoo in Budapest

Raymond is Miscast
Raymond's heavy New York City accent just doesn't work in this story that has him playing a naive young man who has never left the confines of the Budapest Zoo! Quite a job of miscasting there. Young is lovely & well-suited for her role, & holds up in the acting department a bit better than Raymond does. The film doesn't work very well as an allegory. If the tiger is to represent Raymond (or Young, for that matter), why would it attack an elephant upon its release? Is the elephant to be a symbol of the tiger's oppressor? I don't think so, the elephant was locked up just the way that the tiger was. Good film with great animal zoo scenes & enjoyable to watch, but not quite the fantastic fairy tale that other reviewers have raved about.

Inadmissible Evidence

Unusual Film About Taboo Subjects
About an attorney (who seems to be either a senior partner or office manager) with a sexual pre-occupation for young female employees in his office, & sexual harassment in the workplace. The film also explores the taboo subjects of pedophilia, infidelity, & other unpleasant topics. Although the film is very well done, it's hard to follow at times due to the frequent use of confusing flashbacks, unusual lighting, camera angles & sounds, that combine to result in a distortion that becomes dream-like at times. The key to this very unusual movie is contained in a statement made by Williamson's character ("If the people who matter to you, don't care about you anymore, then you cease to exist"). Williamson has little joy in life. He is bored with his bland & sexless wife. He is bored with the social events that his wife plans for them. He is bored with his job, which he finds dull & meaningless. He looks for things to arouse some emotion in his emotionless character, & he finds that hurting other people makes him feel good or at least feel something. Engaging in illicit activities also makes him feel good, partially because he hurts other people while he engages in these activities. He thrives on watching the reactions & emotions (albeit negative) of the persons he hurts. His mistress understands him quite well & loves him, but due to her intelligence & insight, is aware that he will (again) end up hurting her, so she breaks off their relationship. Williamson loves his daughter, but she cares little. He proceeds to alienate his wife, daughter, & mistress, all of the people who care about him the most, to the point where no one is willing to put up with his obsessive sexual thoughts & compulsive sexual behaviors. Then, inside a police van on the way to the police station/jail (a scene which both starts & ends the film), the screen goes blank in the area where Williamson is supposed to be. He has ceased to exist. Difficult to watch due to subject matter that makes the viewer feel uncomfortable; difficult to comprehend due to the use of confusing flashbacks. But ultimately worthwhile due to outstanding acting/directing & social significance of the subject matter, & a masterpiece of Existentialism. Needless to say, this is not a film for casual viewing, nor is it a "happy" film.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

The Most Realistic Portrayal of Developmental Disabilities on Film
Annabella Sciorra, Matt McCoy, & a pre-star Julianne Moore are good, but Rebecca De Mornay & Ernie Hudson steal the show. Hudson gives the best on-screen performance I've ever seen of a Mentally Retarded man, & I avoid all films with MR/Developmental Disabilities in them (because I've worked in that field for 35 years & I know that Hollywood portrayals are terribly unrealistic). It's maddening to see online reviewers (& some critics) downgrade this film because they don't like Hudson's performance (they say it's "unrealistic"!). These viewers are apparently used to seeing the Hollywood version of Mental Retardation & believe that's accurate. Then when they see a highly realistic portrayal, they think it's fake! Incredible! I've also seen where reviewers downgrade the film because they say "Why didn't Sciorra do so & so...?" Well, she has a bad case of asthma. And when you can't breathe, there is nothing else in the world you are thinking about except being able to take one more breath; that's all the explanation that's needed to understand her actions. Again, viewers are so Hollywoodized that they think a person who literally can't breathe (& therefore has 2-3 minutes of life left in them) can "just do a couple of things first..."! Even if you don't like this film, there are some very authentic parts, like Hudson & Sciorra's portrayals. I like De Mornay & this is her best role. In my opinion, she's an underrated actress, who suffers from the typical viewer reaction of "she's too pretty to be a good actress" syndrome.  "Hand That Rocks..." is a suspenseful film is several ways, not the least of which is the viewer's concern for the safety of children. Sciorra's portrayal is one of a not particularly good parent (realistic, like it or not). McCoy is a brainy guy (a "Genetic Engineer"), & although he loves his wife & kids, he's not particularly adept at communicating with his wife (& vice versa). De Mornay plays a devious character who gets away with a lot because her motivation is unknown to the central characters, & she's able to take advantage of a series of "open- pocketbook" situations which allows her to play one unsuspecting character against another. It's all been done before (except the outstanding Hudson portrayal), but it's a lot of fun nonetheless, & worth a watch.

Noose for a Gunman

Intelligent B Western
Here's an above-average B Western with good acting, intelligent plot & characters. Nothing special plot-wise, just a solid B western that's not stupid. Ted de Corsia does the best acting in this film, in the midst of a solid cast. Walter Sande plays an almost unique character for a B Western, the town sheriff who is not the main Good Guy, yet acts sensibly & has intelligence, how odd! Barton MacLane, Lyn Thomas, Leo Gordon, & Harry Carey Jr. are all good in supporting roles. Jim Davis, the star of the film, puts in a fine, understated performance here, that reminds me in some ways of Wild Bill Elliot, which places Davis in the upper echelon of B Western actors, along with Elliot, although neither is a match for William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy). For some reason, this film is not listed in either Maltin book (his main movie book or the B&W films review book). The rest of the cast is fine, too. Certainly worth a watch.

Rockin' the Blues

The Miller Sisters Only Film Appearance
Now (2007) released on DVD by UGHA with improved video & audio quality, & also contains the film plus just the performance excerpts, 114 minutes total. The film as presented here is only fair quality, the soundtrack is not in synch with the video, & it's choppy, but that's all that can be expected of this very rare 1956 film (from a 16mm print) featuring some great R&B acts, including the best Girl Group of all-time, The Miller Sisters. The Millers were the daughters of Long Island A&R man, songwriter, & arranger William Milller (Hull, Onyx, Acme, Miller High Fi, Concha, Ember, Tri-Boro, Q, Rayna, Yorktown labels, etc.), & he taught his daughters well. Here they are featured doing two uptempo dance numbers: "Do You Wanna Go" (a re-titling of their own "Roll Back the Rug") & "Everybody's Havin' a Ball", both of which are far from their best material, & lip-synched here, but it's great just to see them in their only video appearance. It's also great to see Teacho Wiltshire's Band here.

The Electric Horseman

A Little Internal Consistency Would Help
I liked this movie for the chemistry of the stars & the message (that not everything should be subjected to the Almighty Dollar). As others have pointed out, the story is a bit too simple, but that's OK too. What caused me to lower my rating from 6-7 to a rating of 5, is the lack of internal consistency. Redford's character is tremendously concerned over the welfare of this beautiful thoroughbred horse, & I'm concerned, too. The main premise of the film is that the horse's welfare is more important than the money to be made off this animal. The horse has ligament damage in a front leg ("it's full of water," per Redford), so Redford saves the horse from exploitation (being part of a stage show & being photographed) by stealing it. Later, to try to escape the police, Redford rides this injured horse for about 10 miles (it seems), at high speed (perhaps 20-25 mph?) over hill, dale, gullies, a bridge, through water, rock strewn ravines, etc. Never mind the lack of reality here (that an injured horse would never be able to accomplish this). But how about Redford's feeling for the animal? He's supposed to be so concerned for the horse's welfare, but it is he who subjects the horse to the most grueling damage possible! The lack of internal consistency in this film is that the man who supposedly cares the most about the horse, is the one who inflicts the most injury to it. And this makes no sense within the context of the film.

Stagecoach War

Odd Hoppy Musical Film
There are several odd things about this film: 1) it contained three songs (a lot for a Hoppy movie), that really slowed things down quite a bit; 2) the songs were all sung by the baddies, a highly unusual feature which made it appear that they were the good guys; 3) Hoppy, as prophet, predicted that some day men will fly (since he predicted this in the "1870s," perhaps he was in the wrong field as a horse rancher!); 4) William Boyd actually did some of his own stunt work; & 5) the plot was unusually complicated for a Hoppy film. On the positive side were seeing Boyd looking to be in his prime, dressed in the all-black outfit, an impassioned speech by Hoppy on the virtues of the Mustang, veteran character actor Frank Lackteen effective as a baddie, & an interesting story. On the negative side were the songs, the slow moving plot, & the inferior humor provided by Gabby Hayes substitute Britt Wood (as "Speedy," a one-joke wonder). I found a lot to like about this film, but in the end I felt that something was missing. Only a 6/10.

Doomed Caravan

One of the Slower Moving Hoppy Films
This film, although not bad, moves along at quite a leisurely pace. There are a couple of interesting plot elements, but there's also a greater amount of riding back & forth from place to place, with no action, than usual. "Doomed Caravan" struck me as almost a "filler" in the series, which lacked some of the gusto of other Hoppy films. Thankfully, there are no songs. The humor is standard California fare, not nearly as funny as other California skits. There are only three gunfights that Hoppy's involved in, & he only nicks one baddie, although there are a couple of good fight scenes. Interesting note: Andy Clyde is listed as "California Jack" in the credits, as he was in his first appearance in a Hoppy film. Blooper?: in one scene, Minna Gombell ("Jane") is seen holding a small automatic pistol. Just when was this film supposed to have been set? In a following scene, she is shown with a revolver, as she had used earlier in the movie. This seems to be too obvious to be a blooper, so what was the point? Was the property master working on a gangster film at the same time as this one? For those of you who are keeping score, Hoppy wears the black hat, but has a tan shirt & lighter colored pants, only one good sign out of three, & one which accurately predicted the quality of this film! (see my other Hoppy reviews for an explanation). I rate this only 5/10.

Pirates on Horseback

Too Much Comedy & No Pirates
The silly title is a put off, but of course there are no real "pirates" in this film, which at 69 minutes, is one of the longest in the Hopalong Cassidy series. It starts off very well, with lots of action & a goldmine plot. Based on the way it started, I thought this would be one of the best Hoppy films; it was realistic, conveyed a good old-fashioned western feeling, & the gunfight between a prospector & the baddies was brutal. Hoppy first appears 10 minutes into the film, wearing a black hat, tan shirt, & light-colored pants. If you've read my other Hoppy reviews, you'll know that the lighter the colors he wears, the worse the film is. I thought this film would be an exception to that rule, but sadly, I was wrong. The comedy starts soon after Hoppy appears, which is to be expected anytime Andy Clyde is on screen, & that's OK, but in this film, the comedy went on & on & on, & eventually caused the film to lose all the momentum it had gained before Hoppy had even appeared. There were some good comedy segments to be sure; one that stands out is California's assumption that he's speaking to a dumb Indian & therefore resorts to pantomime, only to find out that the Indian speaks English in a more educated manner than any of the cowboys! Another humorous segment involved jokes about Lucky's propensity for immediately falling in love with any young lady he meets. But five to ten minutes of the film is wasted on a long, drawn out gold nugget joke situation. Amazingly, Hoppy is not involved in even a single gunfight, & fires his gun only once during the film (but at the ground). The first 10 minutes of the film were certainly the best part of this film, & it could have been so much better than it was, a disappointing effort overall.

King Kong

One of the funniest jungle movies of all-time
I read several media reviews, saw the commercials (which did worry me a bit), saw the IMDb ratings, & then fully expected to see a great blockbuster of a movie. Wrong! It was completely idiotic, poorly filmed (unless you like the "choppy is art" look), poorly edited, poorly computerized. The Fay Wray substitute (Naomi Watts) is homely & can't act. The Bruce Cabot substitute is completely miscast (Adrien Brody, an excellent actor, in an amazing casting coupe, probably accepted the role because it will be the only time in his career that he gets to play an action-hero!); Brody plays the part of a screen-writer (not a seaman, as Cabot did), & has the build of Ichabod Crane, but is capable of scaling a 300 foot rock cliff, etc. The Robert Armstrong substitute (as the film-maker) was one of the better aspects of this 2005 film. Even the special effects were not too good for the most part (the gorilla kept changing size & overall the film was much too cartoonish looking), although Kong was very well-done at times. Fully comparable to the 1976 version in most ways. Here's one of the funniest parts: Kong holds Watts in his hand, then proceeds to fight not one, not two, but three T- Rexes, with one hand!! He's impervious to their bites, doesn't bleed, & of course, handily wins the battle without once putting Watts down! Excessive? Yes! Appealing to the Video Game Generation? Of course! In another great comedy scene, a guy who has never used a machine gun before uses it to kill giant bugs who are attacking & attached to humans, without so much as nicking a human! And that's not even the unbelievable part; the unbelievable part is that he does it with his eyes closed! And this is described in certain circles as "more realistic" than the original! It closely copies scenes & plot devices from Jurassic Park, Spider Man, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, & several other films, but fails to meet the high standards of the films it copies. At the risk of seeming derivative, however, the one film it's hesitant to copy is the 1933 version of King Kong. 

The overall drudgery of 187 minutes of highly repetitious material makes this a borderline intolerable experience. If Clockwork Orange were to be re-made, this would be the film they use to make the Malcolm McDowell character vomit on viewing it. I'm a big jungle movie fan, & I can safely say that King Kong 2005 ranks right up there with "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death"  & any Jungle Jim film, as one of the funniest jungle movies I've ever seen, but unfortunately, King Kong not played for laughs. In the days of Jungle Jim, we were supposed to believe that the guy in the gorilla suit was a real gorilla, no matter how little sense it made. Likewise, Director Jackson expects us to believe the most unbelievable & absurd scenarios. They could have saved a lot of money if they had just gotten the old gorilla suit out of mothballs.

In summary, for when it comes out on DVD, I recommend King Kong 2005 if you need to play a film in your DVD player while vacuuming the whole house & then painting three rooms with 12+ foot ceilings (without a ladder or paintbrush extension), or mowing your lawn with a hand clipper (you'll get back inside in time to see the ending), or even while preparing & eating dinner in a different room (preferably at a friend's house out-of-state). Other than that, a big waste of your money & a bigger waste of your time.

Down Mexico Way

One of the best Autrey's, & still quite silly
I usually limit my B westerns comments to Hopalong Cassidy films, but I watched this one right after I watched "Wide Open Town" (which was not a great Hoppy film, but still far superior to this film). None of the B westerns are known for a high degree of realism, but a certain degree of realism could have been easily achieved in this film (as well as other Autrey films, Roy Rogers films, etc.) without hurting the plot or the enjoyment of the movie. In one scene, Gene asks the Mexican police (who are riding motorcycles) how he could catch up with the baddies, who have a head-start in a car. The police tell him about a shortcut through the hills. Gene then takes off aboard Champion, leading the police in the chase! He doesn't even know exactly where the shortcut is, yet he (on a horse no less), outdistances police who are familiar with the shortcut & are riding motorcycles, amazing! He ends up jumping from a 20 foot high boulder into a car speeding along a road at 40 miles per hour, & of course lands right in the back seat without so much as a bump or a scratch. Superman has no advantages over this cowboy! When I was a kid, I just knew I liked Hoppy better than Gene or Roy, but couldn't explain why. Ironically, despite the lack of realism, this is probably the best Gene Autrey film I've seen, so if Gene's a favorite of yours, this is a relatively good one. I rate it 5/10.

Wide Open Town

Not as good as Hopalong Cassidy Returns
Many Hoppy fans feel that this is the best or one of the best Hopalong Cassidy movies ever made. As another reviewer notes, "Wide Open Town" is a remake of "Hopalong Cassidy Returns." Disappointing to me, it's not nearly as good as "HC Returns", because it's not as violent, not as well-played, & several key elements are weaker here. Despite the relatively high number of gunfights (5), it's one of the only HC films in which he neither kills nor even wounds a bad guy! California & Lucky each actually kill/wound three baddies. Evelyn Brent, playing the same role she did in "HC Returns", suffers consequences not as dire as in the previous version. In "HC Returns", Brent was one of the very few women who was of romantic interest to Hoppy, but here Hoppy is too much of a "goodie two shoes" to even become interested in Brent at all. A foretelling of what is to come, Hoppy's only black clothing is his hat; his shirt & pants are a lighter color, & sure enough, this episode is milder than many others. Leisurely paced, but some good action scenes. Hoppy is wounded in the shoulder by a baddie, but doesn't even shoot back, & rather decides to fight with his one good arm! Involved plot, well-thought-out, but strangely uninspiring & mild compared with "HC Returns", which may be my pick for the best of all Hoppy films. I still rate "Wide Open Town" 8/10 because it's far superior to most other B westerns of the time.

Wild People

Worth Watching for The Panther Lady
The comedy is routine, the acting is pretty bad, the plot can be summarized in six words or less, but it's worth watching anyway, for a rare glimpse of the best Hollywood dancer of the late 1920s & early 1930s, Joyzelle Joyner. Joyzelle is not exactly a household name today, & neither was she well-known even in her heyday. But if you like interpretive dancing, she's well worth the effort in trying to find any of her (rare) appearances. She was featured in DeMille's "Sign of the Cross," a much easier to find film. In that one, she played a lesbian dancer (Hollywood's first lesbian portrayal?). On some film stills, she's portrayed as an "Oriental dancer," but she's only "Oriental" if that's a word used to describe persons of American heritage born in Alabama! I rate this 7/10, & six of those points are for Joyzelle's all too brief appearance.


A Great, Often Misunderstood Western
There are many fine performances in this film. Robert Ryan is the former hero who now admits he "eats dirt" for a living. Sheree North is at her finest as a lady with a past whose love for her man is unappreciated. Robert Duvall plays an interesting character who pleads not to have his life ruined (but watch the opening scenes closely to see just what he does to someone else's livelihood). Lee J. Cobb gives his usual strong performance as a guy who leads a wild bunch but gave up being wild long ago. I've read many of the reviews on imdb concerning this western, & I have to conclude that only a few writers have understood it well. It's about good & evil, yes, but who is good & who is evil? Does "good" have to be 100% good & does "evil" have to be 100% evil? Obviously not, & that's what this film is about. And towards the very end of the film, just when we think we've figured out who is "mostly good" & who is "mostly evil" we find that even then we may be mistaken. Throughout the film, it seems easy to understand Burt Lancaster's character, because he's so "black & white" & so one dimensional. That's what makes the ending so shocking & so thought provoking: we find out we didn't know Sheriff Maddox (Lancaster) at all, we just thought we did. And aren't appearances deceiving? When I watched it on DVD, "Lawman" caused quite an extended discussion amongst viewers following the film's conclusion, mostly about "Just what happened there?!" That's the sign of an outstanding film, so I rate it 9/10.

Stick to Your Guns

Just Before Hoppy Fell Off the Cliff
My summary title doesn't refer to the plot of any movie, it refers to the quality of the two Hoppy movies that followed this one: "Twilight on the Trail" & "Outlaws of the Desert," which are the two worst Hoppy movies of the 66 in the series. So somewhat surprisingly, this movie that preceded them is really a good movie. There are four songs, & although I frown on songs in my Hoppy movies (I leave that to Gene Autry & Roy Rogers), these songs are actually of good quality. This is a good, old fashioned western with lots of action, & not all of it involving Hoppy. There's plenty of gunfights, & unlike most later Hoppy movies, some of them are one on one gunfights (in later movies, the gunfights became one gang vs. another gang gun battles). This is a pretty tough western with plenty of excitement, & other characters have the stage quite a bit. Oddly, the Buck Peters character (owner of the Bar 20 Ranch that Hoppy works for) appears & has a few lines, but is not listed in the credits. Blooper: in one scene, California warns Hoppy of danger by yelling "Look out, Hoppy!" The problem is that Hoppy was supposed to be a character named "Tex Riley" at the time! No one in the baddies gang seemed to notice this, & apparently the film editor missed it also (or the director decided it would cost too much to re-shoot the scene). If you're watching the Hoppy series in chronological order, enjoy this one while you can, because as I said earlier, the quality of the next two Hoppy films "falls off the cliff!" I rate it 8/10.

Twilight on the Trail

Right Up There with the Silliest of All Hoppy Movies
Aside from Andy Clyde (as California) & Brad King (as Johnny), none of the

usual supporting crew often found in the Hoppy series is here. Perhaps they

read the script & refused to be involved with the film. Hoppy, California, &

Johnny pretend to be private detectives. Are those English accents we hear?

Can't really tell, because they keep switching back & forth anyway (except for Andy Clyde, who does a better job with the accent). I guess the actors wanted a breather from their regular Hoppy roles; they got to dress outside the usual

Hoppy gear, which is often a sign of a lesser Hoppy effort, & that statement

couldn't be truer than here. All three use the most atrocious comedic voices, & California wears a deerstalker hat, smokes a curved pipe, & carries a

magnifying glass, apparently as part of a Sherlock Holmes spoof. This silliness goes on for far too long (the first 36 minutes of the film, to be exact), & it's too poorly done to be effective as comedy, & it certainly is even less effective as a Hoppy western. There are three songs, two of which Johnny sings in a tenor

voice. This film has very little to recommend it, & I rank it as one of the two worst Hoppy movies, along with "Outlaws of the Desert." The best part of the film is when Hoppy announces "Let's get out of these monkey suits," & things do

improve a bit in the last 20 minutes, but not enough to make it a decent film. It would have been a better film if he had made that announcement 19 minutes

earlier. I rate it 4/10.

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