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Friday the 13th

Sex, Blood, and Got-cha's
A 10 on the Horror Movie Scale.

A sex, blood, and got-cha classic, no doubt about it. So who's splattering the new camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake and why. It's this mystery that carries the storyline leaving little time for character development except for Alice, who evolves from defenseless teen to aggressive survivor. Otherwise, it's attractive hormonal kids parading around in their underwear or playing 'strip Monopoly' a nifty variation on the board game usual. Too bad the kids keep disappearing. Wisely, the horror movie's gore is not overdone to a sickening degree as in many horror movies. Instead there's just enough to give us a sudden jolt. Then too, the ending's thoughtful enough to leave us wondering whether there is a real curse after all, and whether Alice will be next.

No need to go on after so many reviews. All in all, I can see why the cheap flick struck a popular chord and a gold mine-- the photography is unerring and underrated. Also, a special tip of my geezer cap to the enchanting Robbi Morgan, whose Annie makes me doubly yearn for those innocent teen years. Meantime, don't watch this alone, but especially not if you hear rain hitting from somewhere you can't be sure.

Lady by Choice

Catch The Grabber First Part
That slam-bang opening creates a problem for all that follows. Too bad the remainder settles into rather listless soap opera. In that opening grabber, Robson's old street lady is an untamed alcoholic firebrand who shreds judge Daly's courtroom like a ragged tornado. She cares nothing about the court's staid dignity or the assembled onlookers. It's a heckuva act like nothing I've seen. But where do you go from there with 70-more minutes to fill. Well, the old lady gets adopted by court order by fan dancer Lombard who aims to tame and bring out the motherly good in her. Then too, Lombard herself wants a new career while being pursued by wealthy suitor Pryor. Maybe now an adopted mother can help her. So, will the changes each needs really take hold.

Too bad the follow up fails to rise above the strictly conventional, not helped by Pryor's lack of charisma. Lombard, however, shows her talent with a nicely under-stated performance conveying both sensitivity and depth. All in all, the two lead actresses prove better than the conventional material. But who can forget Robson's early tour-de-force that leaves the stereotype of nice old lady in cinematic shreds, which is about the only reason to catch up with this antique.

Attack of the Giant Leeches

Not A Bad Corman Flick
Plot-- people go disappearing mysteriously in a backwoods swamp leading the authorities to a guessing game while the missing continue to pile up.

So how did I miss this drive-in special back in '59; maybe I had a back-seat 12-pack that made me forget. Anyhow, I'm glad to catch up with this Corman special. Okay, I'm in a minority, but the flick's on the whole competently made. The monster is the only really cheesy part (surprise, surprise). Still, it's wisely kept in shadow so we never get a really good look. Otherwise, the script, acting, and staging are all credibly done. For a cheap budget, the Cormans got their money's worth, especially with the LA Arboretum. Then too, was there ever a better screen vixen than the great Yvette Vickers. Here she grabs us guys in the first part with her seductive specialty and a lot of leg. No wonder the leeches were saving her for their vampire dinners. And catch the hillbillies. Their backwoods lingo and grimy looks are really colorful and well acted.

Anyway, I can't say the cheapo's a campy laugher like most Corman monster flicks. On the whole, however, it is a quality cut above and held my interest all the way through, Vickers or no.

Taxi Driver

Existentialist's Top Ten
I doubt the 2-hours is a favorite of NYC's chamber of commerce. The grime and sin fairly drip off the screen-- location filming on the streets being a big, big plus. Poor cabbie Bickle, he's trapped in his own isolation and can't decide whether to break out or celebrate. He'd like to connect with high class Betsy, but he's too self enclosed to realize his porn movies are an insult to her. Then too, he'd like to affirm conventional values by rescuing little Iris from life on the street. But she's too much in love with her pimp, a part of the city filth which he takes care of with an angry gun. Hailed now by the cops and public as a hero, he nevertheless falls back into isolation as passengers come and go from his private cab. Still, he's done his bit to clean up the city. Now he can drive at ease within his self-enclosure. Perhaps the moral is we're each condemned to live inside our own cab. Or is his problem more simply an instance of urban neglect.

Heckuva job by Scorsese and Co. that holds fast audience interest even minus a storyline. Instead, it's an account of one man's struggle inside an alienating environment, and actor DeNiro triumphs in a darn difficult role. In fact, he's in about every scene, so there's plenty of chances to fail.

No need to go on; 1000+ reviews says it all. Nonetheless, I nominate the movie for existentialism's hall of movie fame. Plus next time I take a cab, I'll darn sure be nice to the driver.

Lady Behave!

Promising Premise Partially Realized
Fitfully funny slice of madcap. Movie picks up steam as it goes along, especially when the kids come in. Seems only way Paula can keep sister Clarice from jail for bigamy is to get her sister's first marriage annulled. But to do that Paula has to pretend to be wife Clarice in first husband Cormack's wealthy household. Seems Cormack was too foggy to remember the real Clarice, so the trick might work, that is, if his two rambunctious teens will accept their new mom. If this sounds complicated, it is, so you may need a scorecard.

I wish there were more snappy lines to go with the fast-paced hijinks, but apparently the censors were active- (IMDB)- given the.touchy premise of fake marriage. As a result, the dialogue doesn't help the potential, leaving the chuckles to various antics instead.

Anyway, Eilers does well as the sober-sided Paula who centers the film; then too, I think I notice a faint facial resemblance to Joan Crawford, of all people. At the same time,1960's Batman- helper, Neil Hamilton, shows a handsome younger face as Cormack, combining both looks and straight-man deadpan. There's also a good look at peppy teenager Marcia Mae Jones who does keep things moving. In fact, she almost takes over the film in its latter stages.

All in all, if you're not expecting polished madcap in the 30's style of MGM or TCF, the antics are mildly amusing, even if no thanks to the Breen office (IMDB).

Daughter of the Tong

Okay Programmer
Thanks to the movie's extended prologue I now know who the FBI is. Like most Americans, I was in serious doubt. Kidding aside, the prologue is rather odd in its assumptions, even for 1939. All in all, there's nothing special about this 60-minute programmer that mainly dramatizes the agency at work in stopping an Asian smuggling ring. It appears the culprits smuggle people into the country inside sealed boxes who apparently breathe by magic. Anyway, despite the title, the flick's not very ethnic, Loo being the only real Asian, and with no real presence of a tong.

Story-wise, Withers goes undercover to penetrate the gang and its mysterious mastermind, Carney. But to us viewers, the culprit's pretty apparent from the outset. Don't worry, though, if things slow down there's always a brawl available- I hope the guys got double pay for all the acrobatics. And catch the great Richard Loo already planning his many sinister roles in WWII, along with Dave O'Brien taking a break from six-shooters and cowboy hats. On the other hand, it's too bad Brent didn't make a stronger try at acting evil since she really looks the part. The best part to me was the well-crafted car chase over mountain roads that's worthy of a more expensive production. Anyway, the flick's an okay action feature for a slow evening, but nothing more.


One More Silent Guffaw
This is the silent sound of my hands clapping and my mouth guffawing. Was there ever a better slice of sheer lunacy than up-in-the-air with ZAZ. A plane in distress doesn't seem like satirical material, but in the inspired hands of ZAZ the laughs link up all the way through. It's also a triumph that the ex-pilot's dramatic part is so well combined with the nonsense. And happily, there's no draggy parts either.

Big fun too for us geezers is seeing headliners like Bridges from the past, and shouldn't overlook red-haired Ken Tobey who fended off the classic The Thing back in '51. Thanks, Ken. All in all, I'm just wondering what the deadly serious stars were like between shots. Holding their deadpan expressions amid the lunacy must have been a career challenge. No need to go on as the number of reviews tell the story better than I can. So don't miss it. Meanwhile, from now on, I'm flying ZAZ's wacko airlines with lovely Hagerty as stewardess.

Fear and Desire

A Bust, As Kubrick Knew
Kubrick's visual flair is undone by a pretentious script and uneven acting. Then too the storyline is a real stretch, so, all in all, I can see why the legendary filmmaker disowned this his first feature length effort. Nonetheless, there's all kind of tension implicit in four guys trapped behind enemy lines. So the premise has real potential. Too bad the script seems more interested in literary tropes than their life-and-death anguish. It's hard to be absorbed into the characters when they're spouting dialogue from Shakespeare. After all, these are supposed to be ordinary guys, not someone declaiming from center stage. And just who decided Pvt. Fletcher should impersonate a dopey clown that's about as humorous and affecting as a kick in the shins. And what about the girl whose deadpan expression never changes regardless the provocation. Clearly, at this stage, Kubrick is more skilled with camera than with actors. All in all, there may be something profound somewhere in the mess, but excuse me if I don't go digging in what may be a fool's errand.

Decoy: The Sound of Tears
Episode 27, Season 1

So Who's The Culprit
We see a shadowy woman standing in the mysterious opening scene. Suddenly she loosens a barrage of bullets into a poor shadowy guy across from her. So what's the story behind this murder, and guess who gets to figure it out. Pretty good whodunit, again showcasing fine acting, though actor Mendick's cop needs tone down a bit. And catch Casey showing some un-cop emotion when recalling a tragic romance of her own. Actress Pleshette gets featured billing, but it's really Molly Mc Carthy's showcase. I wish IMDB had more on this obscure actress, whose career was brief but clearly talented. Then too, catch the crowded street scene and cavernous terminal (Grand Central Station) near the end. It's excellent performances and colorful locations that again distinguish this unusual 50's series.

Reservoir Dogs

Defies A Conventional Rating
If I had a dime for every quart of phony blood the characters swim in, I'd be a millionaire. Add a dime for every f--- word and I'd be a billionaire. Jokes aside, there's clearly a creative force behind this ragged production. Trouble is Tarantino and co. lacked enough budget to complete their hopes. So what we get instead are special moments awkwardly combined. It's not surprising Tarantino would go on to an iconic career once the budget squeeze was off. However, I do wish he could have worked in some eye-catching females for relief from all the ugly guys. Surely that wouldn't have cost much. Nonetheless, I'm sure old time movie buffs like me are delighted to catch authentic tough guy Tierney as the gang leader. Too bad for his career he couldn't limit his fisticuffs to the screen.

Because of the Tarantino name and the hallelujah reviews, I guess I was expecting more than the mixed result I got. Still, you might want to catch the compelling moments that dot the result.

Isle of the Dead

It Ain't Club Med
Some great faces in this vintage horror flick-- a gaunt wild-haired Karloff, a scary ethereal Thimig, and a weird little Knaggs we needed to see more of. Overall, however, the 70-minutes is a collection of memorable moments rather than a compelling totality.

Plot-wise are the dozen or so isle dwellers dying of plague or is it of an evil vorvolika (vampire). Karloff's no-nonsense army general starts off thinking it's the former but ends up thinking the latter. In fact, the script toys with science vs. superstition even down to the last. Is Thimig beset by a death-like trance or an evil spirit; is it a plague that sweeps the isle or is it a vorvolika. Thus the premise repeats the classic conflict between the natural and the supernatural.

Producer Lewton's tragically short career specialized in some of the best examples of poetic horror in Hollywood annals despite their often catch-penny titles, e.g. I Walked With A Zombie. His hand is evident here with the eerie b&w compositions ultimately more unsettling than our current taste for blood and gore. Catch, for example, the flowing white gown amid the dark spooky woods, a study in artistic composition unrepeatable by modern Technicolor. Add up these memorable scenes and the production's an adventure in the visual artistry 40's horror.

Nonetheless, I don't think Isle is top-notch Lewton. For one, the screenplay doesn't seem to know where to go with its provocative science vs. superstition premise, resulting in a narrative of visual moments rather than suspenseful whole. Then too, actress Drew lacks the depth needed to convey a possible vorvolika, which drives much of the plot. But then, more ambiguity would have undercut her ingenue role as actor Cramer's heart-throb. So I guess the problem lies in how her role is conceived.

Still, no Lewton production that also features the unforgettable Karloff can afford to be missed. What a great presence he was. Meanwhile, I guess I won't be doing any island-hopping any time soon.

Decoy: High Swing
Episode 25, Season 1

Unusually Thought-Provoking for 1950's TV
I'll leave plot recap to reviewer Kapel'. More than most cop shows of the time, Decoy concentrated on human interest for audience appeal. That's probably because Casey couldn't be seen duking it out with criminal thugs in the manner of a standard male series. Despite some over-acting (Dekker), this particular episode is distinguished by a surprising climax unusual for its day. The build-up has touches of both criminality and tragedy with wife Atwater's poignant cripple and husband Dekker's single-minded devotion. Still, the ending comes as a memorable surprise that heightens what may be a tragedy or is it justice served. On the other hand, there're no characteristic views of NY streets or locales, since it's this study of values that prevails. All in all, the entry's a thought-provoking episode, so don't miss it.


One Of Allen's Best
No need to recap the wacky plot or what there is of it.

Be prepared to duck since the shtick flies faster than speeding bullets. Most antics, verbal or otherwise, hit the laugh mark, but with so many zooming around some are bound to bring a "huh", like the execution scenes. Still, this is Allen at his inventive peak, his Fielding Melish a perfect nebbish as he fumbles his way through thick and thin, never at a loss for a screw-up wherever he goes.

Still, screenwriter Allen's toying at times with touchy political subjects, like an aggressive US role in Latin America, along with a mounting communist resistance, and even a cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover you wouldn't want to date. And this at a Cold War time when Castro's influence was still quite strong along with a real beard as well. But Allen's flair for nonsense buries such subtexts in a steady barrage of goofy antics.

The flick's short on eye-candy except when Melish ogles through porno magazines while trying to avoid the gaze of a disapproving old woman. Otherwise, ex-wife Lasser has the only female role, mainly as bookends to the narrative nonsense. Anyway, it's top-notch Allen at his creative goofiest. So don't miss it, even if not an Allen fan.

Bad Girl

Needs More Spark
Despite initial high ratings (IMDB), the 90-minutes now seems talky and strung out. Eilers is a model who's heard every come-on in the book. Naturally, she doesn't trust men, but then she meets Dunn cute in the rain. Surprisingly, however, he seems uninterested which nonetheless interests her in him. So her defenses ebb while he slowly warms up to Eilers' winsome charm. The question is how their relationship will develop, especially when he conceals his money problems from her.

The flick starts off well with what looks like a royal wedding ensemble parading through a high-class bistro. I guess the girls are modeling ritzy wedding gowns that really are quite a sight. There's also a lot of snappy boy-girl badinage to percolate the proceedings. At that point, the snarky movie looks promising. Trouble is things soon settle into a talky soap-opera that meanders around in not very interesting fashion. Eilers makes for an appealing personality as she slowly lets her guard down. Dunn, however, lacks impact, perhaps because of his relentlessly good-guy role. Stealing the show is Gombell as Eilers' sober-sided best friend. Her character projects the kind of spark the talky narrative needs.

All in all, I'm not surprised the screenplay's adapted from a stage play, always a risk for movie-makers who need to find ways to vary the stage talk. In my view, Borzage and Co. don't succeed despite the accolades of the time, and despite the director's well earned reputation .

(Catch the big radio consoles of the time. They were a common living room fixture that families could gather around to hear "Amos & Andy" or "Inner Sanctum" if in a darker mood.)

Code of the Cactus

Fumbles A Novel Idea
I hate to be a dissenting voice, but at best this is a mediocre oater or should I say ten-wheeler. Director Newfield appears unconcerned with the staging-- for example, O'Brien's wounded in one shot and fully recovered in the next, then there's the awkward opening sequence that fails to plausibly combine the sequences. As a former front-row kid, my enjoyment of these matinees doesn't depend on their logic, but I hate to have my nose rubbed in it.

McCoy plays an eye-rolling Mexican hero with some amusing pidgin Spanish like "You'll see me later" instead of "Adios". He goes undercover in order to break up a rustling ring and find out who's in charge. At the same time, there's quite a bit of hard riding that doesn't always make sense. On the other hand, the freight truck rustlers amounts to a dramatic and novel idea that carries the hour. There's also a lot of fast shooting. Too bad, however, so few gunslingers seem to aim, especially Carson, who looks like he's "throwing" his gun and bullets instead of aiming, (thanks Newfield).

Too bad we don't see more of O'Brien and especially his then wife, the lovely Dorothy Short-- after all the ugly guys, we need a girl break. Anyway, except for the truck angle and Art Davis's delightful way with a western song, it's a forgettable oater.

Spooks Run Wild

An Unfunny Mess
It's Bela Lugosi and The Dead End Kids, so I figure it can't miss. I was wrong, a real disappointment. A poor screenplay has the youthful ruffians running around an old house to no apparent purpose. There's hardly any of their usual knock-about. Instead, what comedy there is is mainly racial humor supplied by "Sunshine" Morrison in a "feets don't fail me now" mode. Also, Lugosi's poorly used in generating scares, mainly just walking around like a lost vampire. Then too, the staging generates little mood, fright, or laughs. And whose dreadful idea was the ending turn-around that's about like having Frankenstein turn into a Club Med tour guide. It's like the producers are toying with the haunted house scenario and can't come up with anything coherent. One thing for sure, the lame results are not the cast's fault.

Unhappily, there's not much eye candy either, since the lovely Short gets little screen time. (In fact, she and leading man O'Brien were married at the time.) To me the funniest moment is when Gorcey asks Hall how he can read in the dark; to which Hall replies "I went to night school". Okay, this front row geezer gets no satisfaction bashing the results, the boys and Lugosi providing me some of my best matinee moments from long ago. Fortunately, this misfire's an exception to the norm.

My Friend Irma Goes West

Chaotic, But Still Pretty Funny
Wacky comedy where the gags keep coming at us from every direction. Poor Irma, to get in movies she's got to get to Hollywood with her troupe of friends, agents, boyfriends, and monkeys. Will she make it or will she keep getting on trains to Chicago. It's special fun for us geezers who recall ditzy Irma's popular radio show where Wilson also starred. Then too, the production date is 1950. So, the movie includes such period snippets as: TV is just beginning, Hopalong is a favorite show, and Margaret Truman's singing career is a common joke. Thus it's also nostalgia time for many of us. And oh yes, mustn't forget the glimpse of a rural Las Vegas before it became fun city.

All in all, the flick's a humorous delight that proves even Jerry Lewis is funny in small doses. Here he shares the laugh stage with a dippy Irma, an unexpectedly funny John Lund, and the superlative Pierre who mugs it up in true Chimp fashion. Then too, Martin shows his leading man stuff but unfortunately gets a clunky song to warble. And how about cutie Diana Lynn, sort of an early Debbie Reynolds. Too bad her career was cut short by a stroke.

I could have done without the gangster bit, but at least director Walker keeps things moving. Then too, the various threads aren't always blended but who cares. In short, the 90-minutes manages more than its share of laughs, along with a starting gate for the 50's unforgettable Martin and Lewis.

Clearing the Range

Mediocre, At Best
Mediocre oater, at best. Some good skyline shots, along with picturesque Vasquez Rocks north of LA, but also lots of rather pointless posse riding around scrubby LA area hills. Bad guy Kildare embezzles money from his bank and kills Jim Fremont when latter discovers the theft. Soon Jim's brother Curt rides into town but seems strangely uninterested in who killed his brother. Good thing Zorro-like El Capitan mysteriously arrives to make sure justice is served.

Gibson makes for a rather affable hero, no tough guy poses for him, but not very convincing either. Still, it's a stretch to have a mere change into black costume make him unrecognizable to the whole town. Good thing Eilers is there to offer plenty of attractive eye candy. The storyline may be hard to follow (it was for me) with all the characters coming and going. One thing for sure, the producers spared no expense in hiring an army of extras. Anyway, the flick's an antique (1931) which may be the best reason to catch up with it.

Still of the Night

Convoluted suspenser that showcases both Scheider and Streep. It's not a flick to tune in and out of. The plot's tricky, with a number of flashbacks that got somewhat confusing for me. Anyway, Scheider's an emotionally detached psychiatrist who's slowly unwound by the mysterious Streep as he delves further into the stabbing death of her lover and his former patient, Bynum. Scheider's convincing as Dr. Rice whose emotions are hidden behind a professional demeanor. Doing that meaningfully, as Scheider does, strikes me as challenging for any actor. Meanwhile, Streep also scores as the emotionally troubled Brooke, who appears the obvious culprit in Bynum's murder. Crucially, however, it's hard to tell what's going on behind that unstable outer woman. Together, the two characters are little short of riveting as they interact in ambivalent fashion. Also look for renowned actress Jessica Tandy as Rice's sober-sided mother in what appears a tacked-on role that's nevertheless well played.

Though the screenplay's murky, perhaps appropriately so, there're a number of grabber scenes, like the dream sequence with the sinister little girl or Rice's walk into Central Park. However, the climax appears clumsily contrived in order to get a conventional ending. Too bad, since the movie's mood and well-placed ambiguities deserve better. All in all, it's an intriguing movie that remains a testament to its two leads.

Wives Under Suspicion

Tepid, Despite Many Good Moments
I tuned in to catch that great patrician actor from the early 30's, Warren William. A commanding presence in every respect, too bad he's become so obscure. I expect his early death, 1948, has something to do with it. Then too, his best films-- Employees Entrance (1933), Skyscaper Souls (1932), Three On A Match (1932) -- were all pre-Code and as a result never turned up on censored TV for decades. Now, thanks to cable, they're run on outlets like TCM. So be sure to catch them if you haven't already.

Anyway, this programmer from Universal has a good premise, the humanizing of an egotistical DA (William), who counts his capital-case wins on an abacus that uses miniature skulls as a counter. Worse, he's sorely neglecting his patient wife (Jackson) who's slowly running out of patience, but he's too self-absorbed to care. But then the McAllen case comes across his desk and the ironies with his own life begin to intrude. Will his self-enclosed bubble now be enough.

Overall, the results are rather tepid despite the promising elements. Ten years later and the film would likely have gotten a noir treatment. Here, mood is largely missing, while suspense is slow to build, but does have one good unpredictable showdown scene that had me guessing wrong. Truth be told, I'm afraid many lesser performers could have handled the DA role, it not being one of William's showcases. In short, the DA is one of the typically conventional roles he was reduced to during the Code era. Also, the ethnic humor from the Butterfly McQueen-type maid reminds us that it's only a movie, after all.

Overall, there are gripping moments; however, the 70-minutes fails to come together in strong fashion despite the many promising elements. Too bad.

(In passing-- old time TV fans may recognize Milburn Stone as Doc from the classic western series Gunsmoke, along with Gail Patrick (Jackson) who successfully produced the prodigiously demanding Perry Mason series with Raymond Burr.)

Blondie's Holiday

Dagwood The Gambler
Catch Blondie's polka-dot dress, or more accurately, how can you avoid it. It's a real eye-grabber. Poor Dagwood, he's up to his neck in trouble yet again. He's got to pay for a class reunion dinner for 200 or is it 400 guests at a fancy eaterie. If he doesn't, Blondie's ex-high school admirer, handsome hunk Paul, will best him again, and what will Blondie say. If that's not bad enough, our hero has just been fired for being chummy with a bookie. So where will he get the money for the big bill. Good thing Daisy and her puppy herd are lending 4-footed support.

It's a typical knee-slapper from that classic movie series. Everyone's in fine form, along with good pacing that doesn't drag. And get a load of the legendary Dagwood sandwich that only an alligator and our hero can eat. Then there's Blondie's 1940's hat that has a garden growing out of it-- makes me think of my mom. Anyway, good to see reference to the GI Bill that helped so many vets recover financially after the war (here it's 1947). So mix in post-war suburbia with our favorite period couple and you've got a can't-miss hour's entertainment.

Dark Waters

Dark Mood Can't Overcome Flawed Script
Rather maddening movie that starts off as a first-rate suspenser. Traumatized by a high seas sinking, Leslie seeks to recover by visiting her nearby aunt and uncle in their bayou country mansion. But once there, strange things like voices in the night, haunt her. Everyone in the mansion is kind to her, but something's amiss-- but what and why. Good thing Dr. Grover's around to furnish comfort.

Oberon is first-rate as the afflicted girl, her eyes expressing the inner torment in convincing style. Suspense builds as her condition wavers inside the darkened house, while outside lurk the dark waters of a treacherous bayou. It seems poor Leslie's tormented by mysterious forces on all sides.

It's a first-rate cast, especially Bainter as the kindly aunt. Trouble is the suspense is squandered by a murky screenplay that is good at setting things up but flounders at playing them out. But then the script is the result of six writers, a cumbersome number, at best. Then too, the climax falls flat, being much too lengthy and too talky to peak the suspense. It was also a mistake, I think, to insert a reveal scene too early so that the mystery part is lost. Better to leave us guessing til the end in usual suspense fashion. It also looks like the narrative flaws were simply too many for ace director De Toth to overcome with his edgy skills.

Thus, the overall result represents a squandered opportunity, even though it fortunately remains an Oberon showcase.

Phantom of Chinatown

An Asian Detective Starring A Real Asian Actor
Fairly entertaining hour, thanks mainly to affable teaming of Luke and Withers as sleuth and cop, respectively. In a well-performed early scene, a famous explorer Benton collapses in the middle of a special film presentation of his search in China for a mysterious tomb of Eternal Fire. So who killed him and why. Overall, the whodunit part is underplayed with not much attention to the suspects. Instead, focus is more on the two leads and finding the contents of mysterious Chinese scroll from the ancient tomb.

I really like the opening footage of Benton's beleaguered camel caravan struggling across what's supposed to be a Chinese desert. Using real stock footage instead of studio contrivance gives the show initial impact. Then too, this was apparently the only Asian detective entry of its time (e.g. Charlie Chan, the other Wong's) to use an actual Asian actor as the title sleuth (IMDB). Nonetheless, Wong's supplied with a Caucasian partner (Withers) to share the spotlight with. Not surprisingly, there's the usual sinister shadowy figures and thrown knives typical of the genre of the time. All in all, the Monogram programmer is more an entertaining hour than an absorbing one; so, on a slow evening, you might give it a try.

Decoy: Saturday Lost
Episode 24, Season 1

A Frantic Woman With No Memory
Absorbing entry as we wonder what's behind Beth's sudden loss of memory connecting her to her dead half-sister. Actress Lord as the emotional Beth piles it on as she struggles with herself. Is her memory loss genuine amnesia or more simply emotional repression, and what does it have to do with her half-sister's suspicious death. Casey again anchors the histrionics with a professional demeanor. It's that coolness under pressure that defines her strength unlike male cops who can depend on physical prowess.

Note the opening shot where Beth writhes on a bed finally looking through the headboard bars that indicate the internal prison she's in-- a lot said in a single shot. Also, I can't help noting how the risks of marijuana are again exaggerated as was the norm of the time; that's not to say there aren't risks, but exaggerating them had an opposite effect on later generations, especially the 1960's. Anyway, it's a fairly suspenseful half-hour, again showing how perfect Garland was for her defining part.

Missing Girls

A Bunch Of Characters In Search Of A Story
The first several minutes where Ann leaves her abusive father's family for the city looks promising. But once she gets a job there, the vulnerable girl more or less drops out of central focus, and the movie goes with it. What we get instead is a mish-mash of characters having to do with gambling, newspapers, and murder. It's like the three writers each had his own subplots without much blending. On a positive note, catch how legalizing gambling with its tax revenues foreshadows an issue of our own time. Good to see a young Ann Doran, who later became quite a formidable actress as her credits demonstrate, along with old crone Vera Lewis who's enough to scare Superman. All in all, however, it's a flick that can't seem to make up its mind. Too bad.

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