dougdoepke

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Money Means Nothing
(1934)

Okay Programmer
Okay programmer from budget-conscious Monogram. The first half includes a lot of low-brow humor, while the second half gets more dramatic. Julie (Shea) is a pretty but naive daughter of a wealthy family. However, she's unhappy with their rigid ways and wants to strike out on her own. Trouble is she has a sheltered girl's view of money thinking it's not important at all. So when she falls in love with working class guy Ken (Ford), she doesn't care that he's soon unemployed. After all, money isn't important; love will get them by. But then, he can't get a job (it is Depression era 1934), so she's due to learn one of life's important lessons the hard way.

Actress Shea's a good choice for the spunky air-headed daughter. Pretty, but not glamorous, she adds lower key spark to the often over-the-top humor. Ford's okay as a truck driver, but his manner and appearance made me wonder how Julie could get so attached. Too bad the Green's (Kennedy & Turner) are boisterously over-done in their comedy, but I guess it works at a certain level when they get a comeuppance. What sort of interested me is how the premise could be turned into an intriguing drama of an upper-class girl learning the brute realities of working-class realities. Here that gets an overlay of comedy; nonetheless, the dramatic potential is there.

Anyway, director Cabanne keeps the script moving, so you won't be bored no matter the flaws.

Four Star Playhouse: The Man in the Cellar
(1954)
Episode 1, Season 3

Suspense Falters
Basically I agree with reviewer Hafer- the episode starts off well but fails to follow through in either persuasive or suspenseful manner. However, the script does try to justify Boyer and wife's disbelief of their little girl's claim about a man in the cellar by stating that she's prone to imaginary friends (in a tree, for example). Thus the parents shrug off her claim about a man in the cellar. But if he's real, will he harm them; he may have reason since Boyer had a violent man institutionalized. Too bad this aspect isn't played up more. Anyway, Washburn's terrific as the disturbed little girl, while familiar faces from the time- Doucette, Gerstle, Towne- turn up in supprting roles. And, oh yes, Gerstle no doubt picks up the easiest paycheck of his first-rate career- check him out at the end.

Four Star Playhouse: The Doctor and the Countess
(1954)
Episode 31, Season 2

A Stretch but with Compensations
Too bad the IMDB synopsis gives away the source of suspense since watching the episode without the spoiler does generate some suspense. So why is the Countess (Raymond) coyly cozying up to the skin doctor aboard a trans-Atlantic ocean liner. Is it seduction? Maybe so since she invites him for a stay at her French mansion. But is it seduction or is it a mysterious something else. Suspense mounts. Anyway, darn IMDB for giving the upshot away.

Actress Raymond was a particularly good casting choice with her finely sculpted facial features, while Boyer excels as the crafty doctor. Sure, the narrative is a stretch, but does remain an unusual one. Also it's a talky 30-minutes so don't look for any action. Still, all the early talk about the 'heart' as a solution to inner conflict works to illuminate the episode's climax. Anyway, one way or the other the compensations remain, so take a chance. And, oh yes, check out IMDB's biography of actress Raymond for a slice of grisly real-life irony.

Millie
(1931)

No Favor to Twelvetrees
All in all, the flick's something of a bore, at least for guys. Millie (12trees) gets to whine, plead, and sob for nearly 90-minutes. In fact, it's something of a lachrymose showcase for the actress who's in about every scene. Too bad, she doesn't get to laugh or show much range of emotion.

Plotwise--- Once she divorces her cruel ex-husband and entrusts their baby to her mother's care, the pretty Millie bounces from one high-class boyfriend to the next. Throughout events, however, she remains stubbornly independent. Maybe that's because she's getting even with guys generally for the wrong done her; or maybe she's just too scared of being wronged again since her men friends appear habitual two-timers. Anyway, I wish there were some suspense or something beside the serial encounters to keep me involved. But unfortunately what there is only came during the brief non-cliched climax which did surprise me. Too bad the film as a whole didn't show similar imagination.

One minor note- maybe I missed something, but I couldn't figure out the relationship between Helen and Angie (Tashman & Blondell). At first I thought they were hookers trying to recruit Millie into the trade. But apparently not. Then I thought they might be lovers given their seemingly mutual attachment. Whatever the case, see what you think. After all, this is pre-Code 1931.

In sum, this is one of those instances where the cast clearly exceeds the material. I'm guessing Radio Pictures was trying to promote 12trees, while the screenplay came in second. If so, too bad.

Clancy Street Boys
(1943)

Fast and Funny
Hawk-nose Huntz Hall dressed up as an ugly girl-- I didn't know whether to laugh or barf. It's a good gag-filled East Side Kids fun-fest. Seems Mugs' (Gorcey) mom is in trouble. She's pretended to have a bunch of offspring boys and a girl to impress a rich Texan who thinks they're all in the same family. That means getting Mugs's roughhouse gang to pretend to be her civilized offspring. It also means Glimpy (Hall) gets to play the one girl if, that is, he can keep his skirt down. More complications arise when a con-man tries to kidnap the rich Texan, a sub-plot they could have left out. Anyway, the gags fly fast, as when Mugs mangles his grammar in hoodlum malaprop style. And more chuckles ensue as the Texas cowboy and his cowgirl daughter culture clash with the New York toughies-- after all, why take a taxi through city traffic when a horse will do.

Notable for its time is Black actor Morrison playing Scruno. Though non-white, he fits right in with the loony antics and is not parodied any more than the others. He's simply one of the boys. Then too, see if you can catch the brief instant near the end where Gorcey and Hall appear to glance at the camera, thus breaking character-- perhaps sloppy editing. Also, I'm not sure about the title, Cherry Street Boys, since the rival gang is peripheral to the story itself. Likely, that was for commercial reaons. Nonetheless, the cheapo's a fun filled hour, featuring one of Hollywood's most enduring series, so don't pass it up

Pajama Party
(1964)

Nonsensical Fun
Plug in all the sheer nuttiness and swinging swim-suits and there's enough energy to light up a big city. Sure, a teen flick like this is purely a matter of taste, but even geezers like me can enjoy one more trip down memory lane to the beach. One thing for sure, the screen never drags. Got a dull spot in the script-- no problem, just dump it for another butt swinging marathon. Of course, the kids supply the looks, while the old timers like Keaton, Lanchester, and White supply the chuckles. Heck, there's even a cameo from yesteryear's glamour queen Dorothy Lamour. And is that the loony Don Rickles as a head Martian-- talk about your perfect type casting. And, oh my gosh, is that Frankenstein's Bride as the sweetly affable Auntie. Hard to believe, but Lanchester could be one scary villianess. Got doubts, just ask Boris Karloff. If there's a movie soft spot, it's probably Kirk who seems too bland too fit in as lead. Still who cares-- the plot is just a coat rack to hang the nonsense on. Anyway, here's a geezer's butt-quiver nod to those carefree days before Vietnam darkly eclipsed PP's sunny fun.

The Medicine Man
(1930)

Benny's Low-Key Debut
Benny's recognizable even at this early age, however there's none of his trademark understated humor. Looks like he was intended here as a leading man; if so, he underplays perhaps to a fault. In short, the low-key no doubt worked perfectly for the comedian but not for the actor. Good thing his career converted. Then too, movie-wise, whatever spark there is comes from leading lady Bronson whose sweetness shines even as the abused daughter of brutal father Goltz who leather-straps his kids for most any misbehavior. No, this is not a comedy as the Benny name would imply. Instead he runs a traveling medicine show that comes to Bronson's small town where their mutual attraction soon develops. But what's her tyrannical father going to do since he's already picked out an over-age finance for her. That's the plot crux. Still, there're several points to note.

The character Gus, Vadim Uranoff, is a highly unusual one both in looks and behavior. As a handyman he lurks in the background agonizing over Goltz' cruelty, a strangely craggy figure too timid to interfere. Also, note that despite their suspect reputation, Benny's medicine show is made relatively law-abiding, except for the two con men who operate apart from Benny. That way the hero's shown to be morally upright despite a suspect livelihood, and thus someone qualified to identify with. Note too the surprise climax, a case where law appears to conflict with morality though the shooter is not made clear. Still, it's a surprise and a clear case of pre-Code ambiguity that would soon be disallowed by Code censors. Anyway, for fans of comedian Benny, the flick may be disappointing. Nonetheless, there are unusual compensations.

Four Star Playhouse: Village in the City
(1954)
Episode 30, Season 2

Could Use A Rewrite
Certainly not among the best of the series, but does generate some suspense. Niven does a good job as the troubled Greenwich Village artist, whose long-time model turns up murdered in his studio. Cops suspect him but his prestigious reputation keeps them at bay. Being impressed with his own ability, Niven decides to track down the killer himself. A few suspects turn up but not conclusively. But who's the mysterious woman who suddenly turns up to save him from a savage street beating. Clearly, they're attracted to one another, yet his recurring memory lapses follow the beating, keeping her somewhat confused. So what's going on here and who's the murderer.

The rather loose narrative stretches at times, such as in the placement of the dead girl's ring. Also Camden is a little too bland in her ambivalent role that doesn't help. Nonetheless, Niven carries the 30-minutes in compelling fashion, along with a rather surprise ending. All in all, the episode shows the series' generally high quality even with a lesser entry such as this.

Match Game 73
(1973)

Rayburn's Not A Host, He's A Traffic Director
Organized chaos !! I should say I've only seen episodes from 73, 74 & 75, but I expect the successful formula remained pretty much the same throughout. Contestants try to match fill-in-the-blank answers to those of the celebrity panelists. And it's those often naughty questions from host Rayburn that gave the game audience appeal. Questions like "On his wedding night, Bill couldn't find his_____?" Naturally naughty laughs follow as listeners flirt with the obvious innuendo. Of course, any answer too explicit has to be finessed for TV, and that means players have to be clever to get the needed matches.

The barely controlled joking and byplay on stage often created an air of humorous spontaneity that could at times also become annoying. Host Rayburn did a pretty good job coordinating the byplay with the game while cracking jokes himself. Nonetheless, events often got pretty thick. Though the celebrity panelists, except for Dawson and Somers, would change periodically, the six seating spots on the three-person two- tier arrangement appeared pretty predictable. Seat #1 upper left was the good-looking guy seat, like Convy or Gautier; #2 in the middle was animated Somers; #3 on the upper end was a wise cracker, like Berghoff or Reilly; #4, bottom left, was good-looking girl like Mobley or Pflug; #5, middle, was clever and erudite Dawson; #6, lower end, seemed an untyped exception, like Betty White or Kay Medford. Also, it's not commercially surprising that the good-lookers seats #'s 1 and 4 were also those closest to he camera. Anyway, events never dragged, to say the least.

All in all, I can see why some folks would tune out not only because of the innuendo, but because of the often really busy atmosphere, funny or not. But for those who like spice in their stew, this is a tasty dish for you.

The Devil to Pay!
(1930)

Unusual Romantic Lead
Lively romantic comedy, well cast by up-and-coming producer Sam Goldwyn. Colman's central as the unpredictable Willie, son of a wealthy father who's given up on his wacky offspring. Likely it's because Willie (note the non-upperclass name) seems to have a general disdain for money, which he's prone to frittering away as soon as he gets it. Plus he's always ready with a witty quip on life's oddities that generates chuckles. He's also got a blonde cutie (Loy) as girl friend, but then meets up with dark haired cutie Dorothy (Young). Trouble is she's engaged to an English Lord, even as her new romance takes flight. Too bad Dorothy's grouchy dad doesn't trust Willie's wacky ways and tries to oust him. So how will these tangled relationships among the wealthy class turn out.

I like the way we're introduced to Willie's soft heart when he relents to buy eager mutt George from the pet store. Some such insight is needed since, aside from his antics, Willie's character is yet undefined. Producer Goldwyn had an obvious eye for up and comers like actresses Young and Loy who get the fashionable gowns, along with winning personalities and a shot at acting chops. Also, the production's well-upholstered befitting the background wealth. Then too, this is pre-Depression (1930) so the screenplay needn't worry about class issues that would soon prevail. Should also note the rotund Fred Kerr who plays Dorothy's dad like a really grouchy Winston Churchill-- I thought the physical resemblance striking. Anyway, it's an entertaining little flick that features an unusual character for a leading man, so give it a try since the sub-textual values cut across eras.

Sin Takes a Holiday
(1930)

Needs Better Leading Man and Director
A Cinderella story with Bennett transforming from dull office worker to ritzy glamor girl and a big gain in self-confidence. Never mind that her new found status depends on a marital arrangement with employer that relieves him from an unwanted pursuer (LaRoy). So Bennett's new-found status is never secure even as new opportunities open up. Thus complications ensue.

There're some clever lines to enjoy along with Bennett's poignant innocence, still the flick lacks enlivening snap due mainly to Director Stein's flaccid direction and leading man Mac Kenna's rather bland presence. Too bad the zany Pitts doesn't get more screentime. Also, looks like the producers weren't sure whether they wanted a romantic comedy, drama, or Cummings showcase. Thus, the mixed, wavering results.

And how about those ritzy uptown gowns of the period-- real eye-catchers, along with the fancy flivvers they ride around in. Then too, the decorous parlors and liquor lounges are well-crafted and outfitted. At the same time, it's a challenge to see the unromantic Sherlock Holmes (Rathbone) in a romantic role and even embracing the girl. Nonetheless, that majestic aquiline nose is perfect for the aristocratic Reggie Durant. Anyhow, Bennett would go on to A-grade movies with leading men like Cary Grant, (Topper, 1937). And a good thing too, since she's clearly better than the results here.

Vanity Fair
(1932)

Loy Shows She's A Star
Rather affecting little morality flick adapted from the classic novel of same name. Wow, Becky Sharp is one sharp looking cookie. As Becky, Loy turns every rich guys head into a hormonal surge. Trouble is she's got no moral principles that might guide her into something other than a mercenary direction. As a result, she looks to fleece potential suitors just for her own benefit. Still, she's having trouble sorting through the wealthy pursuers, who are a crowded lot. At the same time, her mis-judgements and maybe cosmic fate keep getting in the way.

Loy's perfect in her first starring role, big eyed, statuesque, and nicely modulated in her coyness. In fact, it cleverly takes a while to figure out she really is a gold-digger and not just an attention-getter. Then too, I love the way she never answers a bedroom door except in her robe-less nightgown. No wonder the guys keep coming. But Loy's real performance triumph is not making Becky dislikable despite her unremitting selfishness. To me, that helps make the movie watchable. But don't look to the storyline for action or real suspense. Rather, the plot hinges on character and what the goldigger's outcome will be. Then too, I found the climax rather surprising, but then it is 1932 while censorship is still two-years away.

Anyway, for fans of Loy, it's a showcase, while for movie fans, the 60-minutes is surprisingly contemporary in its dealings.

Bank Alarm
(1937)

1930's Version Of Program TV
It's a 30's programmer, the last of a four entry series featuring Nagel and Hunt (IMDB) in the roles of detective and girl-friend assistant. The cast is lively even though there's not much suspense, while most action is goofy Barnette trying to tame his spindly camera stand. The good guys are on the trail of bank robbers who've made a series of big money heists. My favorite scene is the robbers in jail where they proceed to steal a big bundle, an imaginative idea that plays well. Adding to the plot is Nagel's sister Kay (Francis) who's unknowingly hooked up with the baddies and in danger of coming between brother and baddies. Too bad that angle is not played up more for suspense value. Then too, Barnette's role as comic relief is bigger than usual and unfortunately rivals the dramatic development. Anyway, the flick's nothing special, just an easy way to pass an hour and glimpse 30's fashions and flivvers, sort of like an installment of 30's TV if there were such a thing.

Shake, Rattle & Rock!
(1956)

More Plot Than Expected
A more accurate title might be Sterling Holloway Showcase. In fact, it's his silly mug and goofy shenanigans that get the most screentime. On the other hand, viewers expecting a Fats Domino showcase may be disappointed in his brief screen time, limited to two of his most popular song hits. The flick's got more plot than expected as various public factions battle over R&R's moral acceptability, a lively issue at the time (1956). Critics allege that the uninhibited sounds lead to immoral conduct, while defenders show how it provides an avenue into constructive activities when dances are organized into do-gooder clubs. This last unfortunately comes across as a stab at respectable contrivance. After all, why is R&R any more disreputable than the equally lively jitterbug of the 40's.

Whatever the entertainment value, the cast is full of familiar faces from the 40's- the gnome-like Percy Helton, Groucho Marx's favorite foil Margaret Dumont, arch-villain Douglas Dumbrille, and a few others. In that sense, the flick's a sort of odd blending of old and new.

Anyway, as someone coming of age during that period, I really enjoyed seeing pretty girls in swishy skirts twirling across the dance floor. And how well I remember R&R exploding on the teen scene, it's hedonistic bent a welcome contrast to years of war and needed conformity (WWII, Korea, and the ongoing Cold War). But as a showcase of hit music from the era the movie's limited at best, despite the title.

The Devil Plays
(1931)

Bland Whodunnit
The flick's a pre-Code detective story. Pretty clearly it's meant as nothing more than a 60-minute programmer, with a no-name cast, an indoor narrative, and a script that generates little suspense. It's a series of murders in a mansion with several high-class couples as suspects. However, the whodunnit never really ignites since the bland uninteresting characters come and go in haphazard fashion. The only spark is the comedy relief cop (Kelly) whose eye-rolling and Karloff-like mug attract some interest. I kept hoping the filming would go outdoors so maybe we could see some of those gas belching tin flivvers from that era. No such luck. But do catch the ladies' many cloche hats so popular during the fashionable 20's. At the same time, there's no real evidence of that uncensored pre-Code period, though the ladies do model some eye-catching apparel. Anyway, I gather the movie was lost for many years, but has since been found. It may not be a big boon for entertainment, but does catch the flavor of its time. So, here's to historical, if not artistic, completeness.

The Princess and the Pirate
(1944)

Hope In Lively Comedic Romp
The gags fly faster than speeding bullets. Hope is near his physical zenith, his relentless mugging and zippy one-liners flowing effortlessly. So can the cowardly hero rescue the lovely princess from the pirates led by the growling McLaglin. One look at that hulking shape is enough to scare an army, and does. And, oh my, from the crowd scenes, it looks like producer Goldwyn hired every ugly guy in Hollywood, while the casting call must have been held in a deep forrest. Good thing for blonde straight lady Mayo and the occasional fetching starlets who relieve that eyeball assault. And catch a grizzled and toothless Walter Brennen who almost steals the show. His machine-gun cackle sent me running for cover and is like no other movie character I've seen.

One thing for sure, producer Goldwyn spared no expense in mounting the nonsense. The sets are lavish and eye-catching with well-stocked crowd scenes. Then too, it's eight writers spicing up the screenplay; no wonder Hope never runs out of gags. I guess my only negative is that the Hope routine loses some impact by going on too long in the same vein. Anyway, the comedian plays to the audience occasionally, while there are Hollywood references like calling one ugly guy "Tyrone"; thus making comedic reference to pretty boy of the time, Tyrone Power. I suspect that way we know the movie-makers are having fun too. All in all, it's an animated Hope in fine form not only for fans but for casual viewers as well. So give it a try if you haven't already.

(In Passing-- can't help wondering when the legendary comedian found time to make a movie given all his USO tours for WWII GI's. But then an escapist romp like this was bound to shake training camp rafters for guys who tomorrow might have to hit enemy beaches.)

Over the Edge
(1979)

A Blasted Mess
In short- the movie's a mess. Based on a true story or not, the results are simply too chaotic to make motivational sense. So why are the kids rebelling. There's no meaningful dialogue among them that might inform us. Apparently it's because their model community is simply too organized to interest them, so they rebel in often violent ways. The upshot really cries out for some depth from them and their actions, depth that we never get. The parents are a little more understandable since they seem more concerned with preserving property values than their kids. But their roles are more like drop-ins amidst the crowded kaleidoscope.

Technically, the production's crafting is pretty good, even though the efforts are more directed toward blowing things up than anything else. And things do blow up real good. I don't know what the writers were paid, but it was way too much. As a result, the 95-minutes lacks a storyline that might otherwise inform events. As things stand the events simply occur in what amounts to a frantic foreground. On the other hand, younger folks might want to catch up to 1955's Rebel Without A Cause to see how the alienation theme should be handled.

Four Star Playhouse: An Operation in Money
(1954)
Episode 25, Season 2

A Battle Of Wits
More twists in this clever script than a high-top corkscrew. So who's going to win the battle of wits- the hardened old coots who run the bank, or the faithfully honest bank teller Fields (Niven) who hasn't had a raise in 12 years despite all his hard work! Now he wants to get married (Lord) but needs a raise to afford it, even though it's pre-inflationary 1902 and pennies will buy you a meal. But, heck, his snooty employers can't even get his name right, let alone, give him a needed raise. Still, those honchos are gonna be sorry because under Fields' amiable exterior is one tricky guy. But then these haughty guys aren't successful bankers for nothing. So who's gonna win the battle of a raise or not a raise. The unpredictable maneuverings are realistic and clever.

Niven's perfect in the part, smiling all the time he plots. Actually, the story's dramatic potential is treated in a lighter style perfect for the charming actor. All in all, it's an unusual storyline that remains unpredictable throughout, and stands as a worthy entry for an outstanding series.

(In passing- note that 1902 precedes the FDIC law passed during the volatile 1930's that federally insured bank deposits in order to prevent a depositor run on failing banks. Here, the possibility of a bank run is used as one of Fields' maneuvers to pressure his bosses.)

Four Star Playhouse: Detective's Holiday
(1954)
Episode 24, Season 2

A Detective's Dilemma
The series excels here by setting up a non-formulaic plot and an unpredictable outcome for the conformist 1950's. Dave's (Powell) a detective on much needed vacation, so he goes to stay with a secluded couple and their kids on a far-away mountain. His friend, the doc (Moody) has sent him there since he knows the couple. Trouble is Dave recognizes wife Doris (Camden) as a possible fugitive from a botched robbery, but remains a friendly guest anyway. (Catch how well Camden and Powell execute that subtle recognition scene along with comparable editing and direction.) Still and all, it's a happy family, while Doris appears a dutiful wife and mother. Plus she faithfully attends Dave while he recovers from a bout of pneumonia. So what will Dave do. On one hand is her apparent criminal background and the demands of the law; on the other is her apparently reformed family life and the morality of mercy.

All in all, the entry's an unusual set-up for its time and one that remains as relevant today as yesterday. It's also one that distinguishes the series and is well worth catching up with.

The Silence of the Lambs
(1991)

A Few Random Comments
Not a movie to see before a big dinner or on a bad day. No need to echo main plot points here; instead I'll offer a few random remarks.

By now I've got Foster's lovely face and pursed lips memorized thanks to director Demme's succession of close-ups. But then the movie is as much about her coming to grips with her childhood through the lens of maniacs as it is with the sheer horror. Anyway, I hope they paid her triple. The flick comes off as A-grade menace, though I do think it could have been tightened, especially Clarice's endless blast through doors at Bill's voodoo house. Unfortunately, the sheer repetition tends to weaken the in-built suspense. On the other hand, was there ever a scarier lunatic than the self-possessed Lecter (Hopkins); his unblinking stare could awaken an iron statue. No wonder Lecter's listed as an all-time horror figure. Then too, (in passing) Buffalo Bill's donning of murder victims' skin reminds me of the infamous Ed Gein of rural Wisconsin. Back in '57 he tried to bring back his dead Ma by donning skins of graveyard cadavers and his murder victims. He's best known now as inspiration for Hitchcock's Psycho (1959) where lunatic Anthony Perkins tries a similar dead-skin trick to bring back his dead mom. Anyway, Silence remains a classic with many memorable scenes and audible shudders despite the decades.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
(1932)

A Brief Hand-Clap
That scene, about two-thirds through, of convicts in a row swinging axes on a distant hillside is like nothing I've seen in many years of movie watching. It's almost like a surreal caterpillar flexing steely legs. No need to echo consensus posts after 400-plus reviews. Suffice to say the filmic result is an absolute triumph of Hollywood craftsmanship and needed social protest. Because of the latter, Warner Bros. achieved a reputation as the most daring of the big studios during that fraught Depression period. Anyway, a big hand-clap for Muni and WB's editing department that never allows a scene to sag nor the movie's downbeat message to compromise, made all the more important because based a true story. All in all, a genuine movie classic.

Four Star Playhouse: The Room
(1953)
Episode 12, Season 2

Interesting, But Disjointed
So who the heck is Antonio Karrell- according to the locals, he's supposedly been dead for centuries, even though he's still spoken of as alive. Nonetheless, it seems he's somehow got a voodoo spell over an intimidated small Cuban town that causes them to pay a money tribute even though he allows no needed changes in the town. So when the professionally-driven Dr. Graham comes from the US to treat the town's many sick, they quake in fear as to what the Karrell's voodoo curse will do.

There's some suspense as to who or what Karrell is that plays out unfortunately in somewhat awkward fashion. It's a rather unusual entry, dealing as it does with the non-Hollywood 3rd World, in addition to the supernatural issues. There's also a moral here about the superiority of Western science to beliefs of the past, which I suppose is well and good. I do wish, however, that we saw more of a pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr, all made up here as a swarthy, big-eyed Cuban cop. In a bigger, more pivotal role, he could have provided much needed jolt for this imaginative if rather disjointed episode.

Four Star Playhouse: A Man of the World
(1953)
Episode 13, Season 2

Needs a Re-write
Love that opening where spunky wife Leila prepares in detail dull husband Andy for his vacation. As she packs for him, we know right away how utterly staid and predictable he is, while she's a lively whirlwind more like an attentive mother than a wife. But once on the vacation train and sitting alone, Andy thinks over his being in a rut; maybe he can break out if he can find the nerve. And then, as if summoned out of the blue, an aggressively sexy Kathi sidles up to him in the club car, and Andy's put to the test.

What the entry does have is some suspense as we wonder if Kathi can possibly be sincere given Andy's blandness. But then if she's not, what's her game. It's a good suspenseful concept that unfortunately plays out in conventionally contrived 1950's fashion. Reviewer Hafer's right: all in all, the parts don't really fit. Plus there's Niven's uncharacteristic eye-rolling as though he's still searching for the character; then too, why all the big words that are dropped in haphazardly, and what about the loose boy on the train that seems to have no point (maybe I missed something). Anyway, the premise is a good one, but the script needs both a re-write and may be a better director.

Barbarella
(1968)

A Psychedelic Mess, Showcasing A Sexy Fonda
What a mess. But then there are ten, ten(!) writers-- something about too many cooks spoiling the stew. Story threads appear then vanish into the mishmash, like the revolutionary movement that simply vanishes. I suspect the mishmash was so that every writer got something on screen. If there's a worthwhile subtext lurking somewhere, I'll leave it up to a midnight study hall to maybe unravel it, though I doubt there is one. Mostly, the screen time's a succession of plastics, psychedelic light shows, and Fonda titillation instead of a coherent narrative. There's certainly a constant string of visual effects, perhaps to direct us away from the absence of a steady storyline. Still 90-minutes of a Fonda skin show can't be all bad. I did like the strip-tease out of the robot suit at movie's beginning. Otherwise, she gets to parade around in skimpy skin-tight outfits for practically the whole runtime. But then an hour and a half of repetitive teasing does not a movie make.

All in all, this could be the worst sci-fi flick I've seen in 70-years of viewership, going back to the milestone Rocketship XM (1950). And that includes the Roger Corman rubber monster lineup that at least was good for laughs. But not this titillating mess. At least, I'm glad Fonda went on to much better things, showing that she had more than just a good body.

Mary Tyler Moore: Mary's Big Party
(1977)
Episode 22, Season 7

There Must Be A Backstory To This Strange Entry
Oddest entry in the series that I've seen. Actually the runtime is mostly taken up with amusing re-runs of Mary's earlier parties that interrupt a blackened screen that's supposedly a power outage in Mary's apartment. And even though Carson's headlined, he makes no appearance. I expect there's an interesting backstory to this clumsy narrative and blackened screen that's nothing like the series norm. Did the writers and production crew have to improvise at last minute due to sudden legal problems with Carson's scheduled appearance. Something like that appears the case to me. Anyway, the whole 30-minutes looks like a last-minute improvisation. Good thing there're still laughs in the re-run clips. Otherwise, it's a genuine oddity.

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