Reviews (2,923)

  • ... that I had to abandon any hope of understanding it and just enjoy the performances, which is what most people do with "The Big Sleep".

    Nick and Nora return to New York City, and are immediately contacted by Colonel MacFay (C. Aubrey Smith) who runs some of Nora's business interests. He tells Nick he must come out to the Colonel's Long Island estate to go over the financial statements of Nora's business holdings. So out the Charles' go with their baby and the baby's governess in tow. Nick thinks he sees a dead body on the road to the estate, but when he stops to investigate, it is gone. At the gate of the estate the Charles' are met by tons of people with shot guns and rifles demanding proof that they have an invitation to be there. Once inside, MacFay tells Nick about a disgruntled former employee, Mr. Church, who went to prison for ten years for doing dishonest things at MacFay's behest. Now out of jail, Church is demanding money. In spite of all of the armed guards, things keep happening inside the estate that looks like Church or whoever is working for him can come and go at will. Then, that night, a shot rings out and MacFay is found dead in his bed, his face badly battered. So this starts Nick down the path of solving the murder.

    Past this point things get very convoluted very quickly. There are just too many characters, most of whom have involved stories. Nick and Nora are apart for much of the film, with Nick usually working and sleuthing alone. The high points are the times when some of that great Nick and Nora banter is going on. I wouldn't rate this film above a 5 if not for the great chemistry of Powell and Loy. For that alone it is worth a watch.
  • The Captain and Tennille were a husband and wife musical duo that burst on the scene in 1975 with "Love will Keep Us Together", which was a huge hit that year. In the following months they had subsequent top 40 hits, none as popular as their first though. With the onset of the disco era, their sound was distinct and of a higher quality than the disco dreck that often permeated the airwaves.

    Since visually they seemed like a bit of a gimmick and they had their on unique sound, they got their own variety show in the fall of 1976 on ABC. The guests look like a who's who of that rather unique period of time in entertainment history - mid to late 70s. The first show alone had Gabe Kaplan, Penny Marshall, Ron Palillo, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and Jackie Gleason as guest stars. What do all of these guest stars have in common? They all were on popular TV shows that were also on ABC, with the exception of Jackie Gleason. I don't know if it was in their contracts to help out on new shows like this for the same network, but it probably boosted their own shows' ratings too.

    The show was largely musical, since that is where Captain and Tennille's talents lay. Any comedy would usually involve them interacting with each other or their guests. The problem was that for them to be a top 40 group, they were just over-exposed in an era when appearances by prominent musical groups were supposed to be savored. Captain and Tennille decided to not renew for a second season, but they probably would have faded in popularity as a weekly TV show even if they had decided to go on. There are copies of entire shows on youtube. If you don't think you'll have flashbacks from all of the glittering disco balls, I'd recommend watching it for the nostalgia.
  • Christie killed eight people over a period of ten years, 1943-1953, in England, and the execution of another man for two of his crimes, Tim Evans, was what ultimately led to the end of the death penalty in England.

    British journalist and author Fred Dinenage narrates and hosts a pretty good 45 minute episode on the subject of John Christie for the BBC. Experts dissect Christie's life and indicate what could have been his motivation for his crimes. The only thing not really discussed is why Christie would have killed the Evans' child after having killed Beryl Evans and convinced an easily led Tim Evans to flee London for awhile. In fact, Christie never confessed to the murder of the Evans' child although he confessed to all of the others. It is conjectured that, after capture, Christie had spun a narrative of either mercy killing or self defense in the case of every other victim - even if rational people found that ridiculous, but if he confessed to the child's murder he would just be a child murderer, and he wanted to be in control of how he was labeled.

    The only thing I did not like was that the visuals that went along with the narrated recreation of the crime were always intentionally blurry. It was very annoying.
  • This is the story of serial killer John Christie, who between 1943 and 1953 murdered women and disposed of their bodies on his property at the titular 10 Rittingdon Place. Christie used his mild manner demeanor to gain the confidence of women. He often falsely claimed to have medical knowledge and told them that if they came back to his flat he could take care of their migraines, bronchitis, etc. Once there, he killed them. He was never suspected because the women who disappeared had no known connection to him.

    What becomes his undoing is when he becomes homicidally attracted to Beryl Evans, wife of one of his boarders, Tim Evans. Christie does a pretty good job of planning the killing, but he is rather reckless, telling his wife things that will be refuted later. Ultimately the victim's husband Tim is convicted of the murder of his wife and is executed. There were holes in the criminal investigation for sure, and Evans was an illiterate and mildly intellectually handicapped as well, known for telling tall tales, so he was limited in how he could help his own defense. So when he truthfully does tell the police what happened, they do not believe him.

    Richard Attenborough is very much the enigma as killer John Christie. You can easily find out why Christie probably did what he did with some quick internet research, but here no explanation is provided, and that helps add to the tension. Highly recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ... and forgets about justice. This is the story of LA police officer Karl Hettinger. In 1963, on a routine traffic stop Hettinger's partner, officer Ian Campbell, is overtaken by Gregory Powell (James Woods) and his partner in crime, Jimmy Smith (Franklyn Seales). The two panicked because they were on a bit of a minor robbery spree and feared discovery and arrest. They say they will shoot Campbell with his own gun if Hettinger does not drop his weapon, so Hettinger surrenders his weapon. Powell says he will let the two cops go in one of the fields near Bakersfield, but once there tries to kill them - he does kill Campbell - because he mistakenly thinks that the Lindbergh kidnapping law made all kidnapping a capital crime. Hettinger runs away, hides, and gets to a farmhouse where he contacts police. Powell and Smith are picked up later.

    So the nightmare begins for Hettinger to where he probably envied Campbell's legacy as a cop mowed down on the job. Instead, Hettinger has to go in front of classrooms of cops and talk about what happened as an example of what not to do. The LA police force makes a point to tell officers to never surrender their gun and uses Hettinger as an object lesson. Hettinger ends up shoplifting, has to resign from the force, his marriage suffers, he drinks heavily, cannot hold a job, and idealizes suicide. And he just can't put this behind him either because Powell and Smith, initially sentenced to death for their crime, become jailhouse lawyers and file numerous appeals, forcing Hettinger to testify repeatedly over the years at the various hearings that their paperwork generates.

    For the lenient times, it was a rare criticism of the legal system that became increasingly about loopholes and less about justice. At one point, one of the exasperated prosecuting attorneys says - after seven years of being on this case - that if he had the power he would let Powell and Smith go if only he could prosecute and sentence the defense attorneys to death. I think that was an actual off the record remark. It probably is true that if Powell and Smith had committed their crime ten years, maybe even five years before they did, they would have been executed shortly thereafter.

    There are some excellent performances here, especially James Woods as the amoral, flamboyant, and completely remorseless Greg Powell. Woods had been on the screen for a few years, but this role got him noticed. In his first film role is Ted Danson, later Sam Malone of Cheers, as officer Ian Campbell.

    The only thing to ring false with me was the portrayal of Hettinger's wife as somebody with a therapist's compassion and saint's patience with her husband. I find it hard to believe that, after years of living with the consequences of what happened in the onion field that night in 1963, she wouldn't be just a little annoyed and frayed around the edges.
  • The story is fun even if predictable, but I have to wonder, what was Jeff Thompson (Melvyn Douglas) thinking? But I'll get back to that.

    Margot Sherwood (Myrna Loy) is the editor of a magazine who has a fictitious husband - Tony Merrick - so that she won't get hit on by all of the men who work for the magazine back at a time when smoking and sexual harassment were acceptable in the workplace. It works, but then along comes somebody - artist Jeff Thompson (Melvyn Douglas) - that she would like to see romantically, so she goes out on the town without telling Jeff about the husband. Unfortunately, a drunken would be suitor is also out on the town too and mentions said husband. Jeff is shocked, and Margot explains it was an impulsive never consummated marriage that she intends to end in divorce, but that she cannot find Tony and he is in Argentina somewhere. Jeff uses his journalist contacts in Argentina - funny thing for an artist to have - and discovers there is no husband.

    And that is why I ask, what was Jeff thinking when he barges into Margot's home and claims to be said husband? Her dad calls the press, because Margot's family is a prominent one it ends up in the newspapers, and he introduces himself to all of her friends. This could end several ways - For sure Margot is going to cool to him for doing this, maybe she might even announce he is a fraud - there is just no easy out. She does have a bit of fun at his expense when they run into his friends from Ohio and she does her best Jean Harlow as Jeff's saucy hard boiled wife, shocking the small town Ohioans.

    So all of this is why Jeff is awful. Margot is awful because, to get out of this predicament legally, she convinces an attorney friend of hers that she would marry him if free of the pretend Mr. Merrick AKA Jeff, and to accomplish this she needs his help. The actors are what make this film, but it is really hard to look at them as nice people after all of the using that both leads do in service of the plot.

    One thing nice about the old studio system - MGM had a deep bench of contract players in 1940, not the least of which is Felix Bressart and his homely puss, dishing out homespun compassionate advice in a great supporting role. Also possibly the earliest American film with an African American attorney as a plot device.
  • ... and Henry Hobson does not know his. The title I assume is taken from a phrase to denote a choice where you don't have any real choices. But then if you want to make choices in your life maybe you shouldn't spend the entirety of it inebriated.

    Henry Hobson ( Charles Laughton) is the owner of a late 19th century boot shop in England. He spends all of his time at the pub drinking, then sleeping , then getting up the next day and doing the same all over again. He always belittles his oldest daughter Maggie, calling her an old maid, in spite of the fact that he openly admits he depends on her for everything. Including the running of his shop which he completely neglects. He announces one day that he is going to marry off his two younger daughters to husbands of his choosing, but not Maggie, because she is too old. The daughters are upset because they have prospects of their own choosing, plus their father refuses to pay a dowry, which was the custom of the day.

    But Hobson should not have alienated his oldest daughter, because Maggie has plans of her own. She forwardly proposes to mousy boot maker William Mossop (John Mills) seemingly out of the blue. She is quite honest with him as to how she really looks at this - at least initially - as a business deal because with her business acumen and his very good bootmaking skills they could set up their own shop and do quite well.

    It is great fun to see how romance unfolds between these two. And Mills' Mossop transforms from a very timid man with a cereal bowl haircut who cannot even read into a confident attractive man, with the help of Maggie. Hobson, who thinks he is quite clever because he runs Maggie and Mossop out of his shop when they reveal their plans, grows to regret that decision as everything falls apart for him. Not that he would ever admit that.

    It's all quite cleverly done, and I think it is the best thing David Lean ever did, even if most people have never even heard of it. I never cared that much for his epics for they just seem to drag on too long, even the older ones. This much more intimate film is far more compelling. The one thing that does not ring true is saying that Maggie is 30. I thought she looked much older than that, and in fact the actress who played her was 45 at the time.

    I guess the biggest compliment I could pay it was that my husband liked it. He is normally somebody who likes 21st century horror and fantasy, but to my surprise he enthusiastically stuck with this to the end.
  • This was a musical special starring Carole Lawrence, Donald O'Connor, and Gene Kelly. It was the first appearance of O'Connor and Gene Kelly together since 1952's Singin in the Rain.

    I saw this hour long special on youtube, and at first I thought the year was wrong because I didn't realize that NBC was broadcasting in color when some American families had just gotten their first TV of any kind, much less a color TV.

    All of the routines are musical ones, and Kelly is the main attraction because he was the biggest star of the three. Kelly was likely trying to reinvent himself professionally, as his last major role in a musical motion picture was in "Les Girls" in 1957. Both O'Connor and Kelly perform numbers that are reminiscent of Singin In The Rain, and then Kelly and Lawrence are featured in numbers that remind me of those in "An American In Paris".

    It's mainly interesting from a TV and film history angle.
  • And then just sinks into boredom.

    Martha Pease (Paulette Goddard) demands that her husband Oliver (Burgess Meredith) tell the newspaper where he works as the "Roving Reporter" that he be allowed to pick his own subjects. She will know if he did that by reading the next edition's Rambling Reporter column and seeing that his idea - How has a small child influenced your life? - is the theme of the column.

    After leaving his apartment that morning Oliver confesses to the audience that he is not the Roving Reporter. He is in fact just a classified ad clerk, but that he told his wife this lie before they were married and hasn't had the heart to tell her the truth ever since. As a result he has been lying about his salary and thus he is in peril of having his furniture repossessed and he owes gambling debts. This is all very interesting, but then it just bogs down. And that is hard to believe when one of the vignettes involving people on the street actually being interviewed includes James Stewart and Henry Fonda, good friends in real life, on screen together.

    When I first sat down to watch this I wondered why I had never heard of this one. By the time it finished I knew the answer to that question. Avoid.
  • This reminds me of the better known bigger budget "It All Came True" where gangster Bogie hides out in a board house, hoping to appropriate it for his own purpose, when in the end the board house occupants appropriate Bogie for their purposes.

    Gangster Chink Moran (Sheldon Leonard), a gangster of the more violent style, is being drafted and will now be out of the hair of a gangster of more modern subtle ways, Rickey Deane (Lloyd Nolan). To celebrate having Moran out of his hair for a year or so, Deane decides to go out into the country with his pal and fellow gangster Louie for some fresh air and fishing. They are pulled over in a speeding trap on the way there, where the town judge exacts fines based on how rich he thinks the defendants are. He does this because the town is dying since the factory closed, and speeding tickets are the tax base.

    Deane, the enterprising gangster, decides to buy the town when he learns it is for sale. He intends to get his friends that are under threat of indictment to speed through the town, get caught, refuse to pay the fine levied by the judge, and then keep them in jail for a few weeks for a thousand dollars a week to avoid more serious state and federal charges. That is the racket.

    But the judge's daughter gets wise and forces Deane to spend a large amount of the money he collects on the town - a new fire engine, fresh paint, a new sewer system, etc. Then the feds show up and, given the build up to war going on and the town's new look, want to reopen the factory and put the town back to work. Deane would have a chance to go legitimate, but just then the more heavy handed Chink Moran appears back in circulation and wanting a piece of the action, and he is not civic minded either. Watch and find out what happens.

    This is actually a screwball comedy with gangsters rather than a gangster film with screwball comedy elements. Deane's merry band seems completely harmless, and their interaction with the locals are hilarious. There is a boarding house landlady who is a big fan of the gangsters - she reads true crime magazines - and knows who they all are by name. Deane strikes up a romance with the judge's daughter, in spite of her arm twisting ways when it comes to Deane spending money on the town. This is probably one of Lloyd Nolan's most versatile roles since he gets to play tough guy and good guy, and both serious and funny. Made by refined Paramount, it seems more like an independent production with lots of lesser known players. I'd recommend it.
  • This is the story of a young German couple, Emma (Margaret Sullavan) and Hans (Douglas Montgomery), struggling to get by in Weimar Germany with a Depression going on. It reminds me of "Made for Each Other" starring James Stewart and Carole Lombard made in 1939.

    Hans and Emma are unmarried and facing an accidental pregnancy. They get an appointment with a doctor where it is implied that they can get an abortion. But the doctor refuses, and having no other "references" of doctors who are trustworthy in this matter, they get married and decide to have the baby.

    They face a multitude of problems, the first being that Hans is one of three men his employer has hired with the strict rule that none of the men be married. The reason is that said employer has a homely daughter of marriageable age and he is trying to foist her off on one of them. And said homely daughter has decided that Hans is the man she wants. That leads to unemployment for Hans, but not the way you think. Then they decide to move in with Hans' well off stepmother, but she sees Emma as her personal servant, and then it is discovered that dear old stepmom is running a brothel from her house when Hans is away during the day.

    The two just encounter a raft of cold heartless employers that use the hard times to make ridiculous demands on their employees. It's not like any of this has any parallels in today's world right? But along the way the couple does meet some kind people or else this story would just be too depressing.

    The turbulent political times are mentioned too, as Hans and Emma keep running into a penniless Marxist couple that is homeless and often hungry.

    Frank Borzage spent his entire life in the United States, but his parents were both from Central Europe. I guess it is from the tales they told him that he learned enough about the place that his films set in post WWI Europe ring so true. As for the romantic angle in this film, Borzage was in a marriage in which the love was strictly one way. His wife did not care for him at all. Maybe some of the optimism and romanticism found in his films is rooted in his hope that somehow his own marriage would eventually work out.
  • But instead this role went to Robert Montgomery. In fact Montgomery had slowly been getting some of the Haines-like roles since he arrived at MGM in 1929.

    Here Robert Montgomery plays swabbie John Paul Jones, Jonesy for short. He starts out the film insulting a chief petty officer on another ship, the aptly named Scotty (Ernst Torrence) because he figures the big galoot is on another boat, has no idea who he is, and thus can do nothing about it. When Jonesy gets shore leave he annoys Scotty more by showing up at his house with candy and flowers. Apparently Jonesy's "girl" is Scotty's wife, a fact the girl neglected to tell him. Leaving that house in a hurry, Jonesy runs into a young man who invites him back to his house - actually a mansion - for a swank party. There he meets an admiral's daughter, Kit (Dorothy Jordan) and they fall in love. Unfortunately, everybody at the party thinks Jonesy is a wealthy oil man from Brazil. Jonesy does not correct this false impression.

    Also unfortunately, the next day Jonesy is tasked with helping Kit and her father the admiral aboard his vessel, so they all see he is really just a swabbie. Even more unfortunately, he is transferred to Scotty's vessel, where Scotty makes life miserable for Jonesy. Oh, and Kit's official beau is still angry about a joke Jonesy played on him at the party and he is an officer aboard his new vessel.

    The plot is thin, but the production values are top notch, as in most MGM films even from the 1920s. This was shot partly aboard an actual navy vessel, so it has portions that are very interesting to a student of naval history. With Cliff Edwards as, Bilge, Jonesy's friend and the world's oldest living swabbie and Joan Marsh as a Jean Harlow-like platinum blonde siren right before the real Jean Harlow shows up at MGM. Also with Hobart Bosworth as the admiral, shortly before Bosworth put some dry ice directly into his mouth on the set of Dirigible, and lost his tongue and part of his jaw as a result. In the words of Robert Osborne - Yikes!
  • This would have been very good as a 50 minute episode of an hour long TV crime drama series. The extra 20 minutes could easily be cut from the padding I mention, and a harder hitting more focused tale would be the result.

    The film opens with a narration about the perfect crime - How to steal war surplus contraband worth 250 thousand dollars from a cargo freighter with no confrontation, nobody the wiser. Then the narration ends and we see that this has been a short film presentation by Jordan (John Russell) who is pitching this to a crime boss whose financial backing he needs. I can imagine that is true, because in 1957 making such a film that involves a freighter and a cast of hundreds would not be easy or cheap. It's not like you could just shoot it on your IPhone Pro.

    Jordan gets the backing he wants, but then he makes a series of bad moves, all involving the cast of accomplices he picks. He needs a nurse, an actual maritime health inspector, and somebody to pretend he is lost at sea that is rescued by the freighter. The problems are in the nurse - she is actually the crime boss' girlfriend who is not a nurse, and the "lost at sea" guy - he is a junkie, unknown to Jordan. Junkies are characteristically undependable, a slave to their habit, and the fake nurse will have to ride around in an ambulance for a few days as an actual nurse before the heist. What if the ambulance driver starts tossing medical jargon at her like "banana bag" and tarchy?? What if she is asked to start an IV? The results could be grisly or at least malpractice.

    I found a couple of more questions that were never answered. For one, how does Jordan know that a particular freighter has war surplus drugs onboard? Also, definitely a plot faux pas if you are diabetic. It is never a good thing for your blood sugar to "shoot straight up", and that means more insulin if it does happen, not less. But I digress.

    On the positive side what this film lacks in logic and meaningful dialogue it definitely has in noir imagery. In particular, there are some great shots of a mass grave of the LA trolley cars towards the end. If you watched and remember "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", you'll remember that the trolley cars being abandoned in the late 40s weighed heavily into the plot of that film. Also, John Russell is great as ruthless villain Jordan, with his severe features and always dressed like a 50s insurance salesman. In fact he winds up being a little too ruthless for his own good.
  • ... because in the silent era Powell often played a villain, although often an inept one. Without the power of his voice, Powell looked the part of a villain. But then the sound era brought him new fame and prominence.

    Real life clown Hal Skelly plays clown Hap Brown, who is doing OK in vaudeville. After a performance one night he sees a man leaning against a lamp post homeless and hungry. But he has to work very hard to get the man to come home with him because he is very proud. The man turns out to be European clown Gardoni (William Powell), who is not making it in America. Gardoni and Hap decide to partner up, but they lay an egg because Gardoni insists on doing their act with the more sophisticated European style entertainment rather than the "hokum" that Hap says that the audience wants. Gardoni just abandons Hap at that point without a word.

    So Hap returns home and gets a job washing dishes, thanks to a friendly waitress, Marie (Fay Wray), who Hap falls for. Hap finds out that Gardoni has a new act mainly consisting of material that Hap taught him, and soon Gardoni has a new wife, who happens to be Marie.

    So Gardoni is definitely not a nice guy, using everybody by hook or crook. But he needs neither hook nor crook to use Hap, who is just an affable doormat. I think that the film was trying to make out Hap as a nice guy, when a nice guy would be someone in disposition between Gardoni and Hap.

    This might actually be a 5.5 versus a 6 out of 10, but I rounded up because there is not another film in which William Powell sports an Italian accent, and it is interesting to watch an actual American clown of the early twentieth century - Hal Skelly - at work. Kay Francis plays a gambling seductress with very short hair. She has the distinction of working with William Powell and Basil Rathbone in 1930 with both of them having an Italian accent in those films. But the film with Rathbone is "a notorious affair" indeed, with Rathbone's accent being particularly hilarious.
  • ... with those three pieces being a war film, a wartime hospital part, and then a gangster film part. All of these parts are good within themselves, but together they produce an incoherent whole.

    Spencer Tracy and Franchot Tone play two WWI draftees who meet and become buddies in basic training. Fred Willis (Tracy) is a bit of a wise guy. Jimmy Davis (Tone) is a shy hayseed bookkeeper. The implication is that Davis finds himself in being good with a rifle. When the two are deployed, Jimmy is badly wounded after cleaning out an enemy machine gun nest.

    After the war, Jimmy just seamlessly transitions to a - hitman for the mob??? The implication is that when "they gave him a gun" he evolves from someone who faints at the idea of bayoneting somebody into The Enforcer. I just don't buy it.

    On top of that we have the two leading men falling for nurse Rose Duffy, played by Gladys George. George was a great character actress, but I'm just not buying her as the angel of mercy who peacetime knits quietly while hubby is out murdering for hire while she doesn't have a clue. For one, she is and looks too old for the part. She was 37 when this was made and looks it. George was best at playing wise "dames" like saloon keeper Panama in The Roaring Twenties.

    You've got good acting in this film and well staged battle scenes, but in the end it delivers a muddled message and is probably one of the last of the American anti-war films inspired by WWI.
  • ... and here he is a cold blooded one as Eddie Fletcher. He is in charge of "The Purple Gang" who is having to change up their rackets with the repeal of Prohibition. In this case, they have decided to go into kidnapping minor mobsters and ransoming them. They figure that people on the wrong side of the law are less likely to complain to the press or the police, keeping their enterprise quiet.

    The Purple Gang decides to kidnap Jan Tornek (Werner Klemperer) , who the gang thinks is just somebody who gambles heavily. They think wrong. He is instead working for the Capone gang in the drug trade. And when kidnapped he offers up his boss, Erik Vajda, who is one of Capone's lieutenants and worth lots of money to Frank Nitti himself. What the Purple Gang didn't figure on was that Ness and the Untouchables have been staking out the drug trade for awhile and are very aware of Tornek's comings and goings. When he doesn't show up at his scheduled time to pick up his package, they know something is amiss. So Ness and company stumble into the Purple Gang quite by accident.

    This episode is quite violent, even among episodes of the Untouchables. Most of the violence is just implied, except for the final shoot out. Eddie Fletcher was an actual member of The Purple Gang, but as with all episodes of The Untouchables, the fate of both Fletcher and his gang in this episode is highly fictionalized.
  • The one thing that makes me have misgivings is that it was produced by Sky News Australia, which is owned by the Murdochs, which own Fox News. But the reporting is fascinating.

    The documentary starts out by mentioning that apparently something very similar to Covid was circulating among those who returned from China after the Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019. There are numerous interviews with scientists around the world, a timeline of what happened and when, and also numerous interviews with Trump and members of the Trump administration. Some of the questions for Trump are gotchas too, not just soft ball questions. It appears this documentary was made after Trump left office and so were most of the interviews.

    The US has not had much in the way of investigative journalism for years, since both left and right wing media have adopted a "Tell Them What They Want To Hear" stance to grow their audiences and news has become profit driven. I wonder if Walter Cronkite was alive today what he would have to say about all of this.
  • ... it being rather odd that Darrin Stevens' boss, Larry Tate, in Bewitched and Darrin's wife Samantha - actually the actors who play them - are shown being romantically involved in this episode, four years before Bewitched premieres, but I'll get back to that.

    This episode has a very beautiful girl, Rusty Heller (Elizabeth Montgomery), deciding that using men is the best way to get to financial independence. Actually, she probably decided that a long time ago, but in this episode of The Untouchables, she puts her plan and wiles into action. One night at a private party she meets gangster Charles Felcher and his attorney Archie Grayson (David White). She wisely starts from the bottom - Grayson - and works her way up - Felcher - and beyond - the Capone gang. She is playing every man she meets, but she has so many balls in the air - pardon the mental imagery that last phrase invites - can she keep them and all of her double crosses straight?

    As a secondary plot, Rusty meets Elliott Ness at a speakeasy raid one night and indicates that she has information he can use to nail Capone - she is also playing Capone's bookkeeper. Rusty seems fascinated by Ness because he "hears her music but does not dance to that tune". Perhaps Rusty has never met a man with integrity before Ness. It's a rare opportunity to see the personal side of Ness and to see someone try to reach out and touch this Untouchable.

    It's also an early TV role for Elizabeth Montgomery, oddly sporting a southern accent, with her character's own greed and zest for revenge ultimately being her undoing.
  • Aired about three years before JFK's assassination, this one is rather eery now.

    It's a tale of two killers seeking two victims that wind up in the same place at the same time, neither knowing about the other. The hired assassin is very nondescript and does not even have a parking ticket on his record. And you would expect a hired assassin to be those things. Somebody with a record a mile long who is flamboyant and walks around in loud suits is going to get noticed. He is hired by Frank Nitti to kill Chicago mayor Anton Cervak after Cervak rebuffs Nitti's attempts to get him to ease up on his crackdown on mob activity.

    The unhired assassin is a bricklayer turned derelict from bad stomach pain that from the narration is psychosomatic. He is bitter towards all leadership business and political, but the election of Roosevelt has him weirdly turn his hatred towards him. He decides to start a movement that will kill all "bosses", and intends to start with the president elect. He feels it is destiny when Roosevelt is planning to speak where he is living in Florida so that he won't have to take a trip to kill him. He buys a revolver for eight bucks out of the last 43 bucks he has in the world and waits. What's odd is that this derelict looks a lot like Lee Harvey Oswald.

    In the meantime, Ness and the Untouchables have been guarding the mayor. As a result, Ness gets to know Cervak and a genuine friendship grows between them. Robert Middleton is a character actor with whom I was not familiar until I began to binge on Untouchable episodes, and I am quite impressed. Here, as Cervak, he plays a generally cuddly admirable guy in the tradition of Edward Arnold, where in another episode he plays a cutthroat gangster also quite believably.

    There is lots of irony in this two parter as well as good acting and a great script. I'd recommend it.
  • This episode has some chilling scenes that add up to a fine episode, but countering that is a beauty and the beast kind of story that seems ham fisted and forced.

    Frank Halloway (Cliff Robertson) is aided in his attempt to break out of prison by his attorney, Daniel Oates. Halloway has 250 thousand dollars of the loot from a robbery waiting for him in California. Oates wants half of that for helping in the prison breakout and bankrolling his trip to get the money. Oates sends Mona Valentine with him to make sure he doesn't go get the cash and just run out on him, plus you are not going to pull off the beauty and the beast angle with some male henchman accompanying him, at least not in 1960.

    Why do I keep saying beauty and the beast? Because Frank Halloway has the ugliest mug that ever cracked a mirror. He has teeth that are too big for his mouth that look like he borrowed them from Goofy Grape, a bulbous nose, and wild goofy hair. Mona takes one look and is repulsed. She tries to be nice about it, but Frank recognizes the reaction he has gotten from people his entire life. And now for the ham fisted part. In spite of them being on a bit of a timetable with the feds looking everywhere for Frank, Mona and Frank have time on this cross country excursion to stop off to get his teeth filed, his nose fixed, and his hairline repaired. The result is that Frank now looks like the Cliff Robertson we all recognize. The other result is that Mona, a mild mannered girl whose highest ambition was to go to secretarial school so she could work sitting down for the rest of her life before all of this happened, is now entering into an affair with a man who has already hit her and shown his explosive temper earlier in Oates' office. Color me incredulous.

    Frank is a person with an ugly soul that no surgery will fix, but the episode does make the tie in that perhaps him being scorned his whole life because of his looks did happen to precipitate his criminal behavior even if it doesn't forgive it, and that just undoing that physical ugliness is not going to repair his humanity.

    This is a worthy episode of The Untouchables, and I would recommend it.
  • This was a one hour crime drama show shot in spartan black and white that lasted four seasons and supposedly followed the exploits of Elliott Ness (Robert Stack) and his Untouchables (unbribable) during their time in Chicago, 1931- 1933, although the details are very fictionalized.

    It managed to stay interesting and creative by centering loosely on the criminal exploits of Al Capone and mainly Frank Nitti, played by Bruce Gordon throughout the series, but branching out to other Prohibition era criminals, often without the involvement of the Capone gang, and sometimes even without much mention of the Untouchables themselves. In fact, the Untouchables are often shown dealing with issues such as local murders that would be outside the purview of federal law enforcement and more in line with what the local police would have dealt with.

    The guest stars are like a who's who of 1960s TV and even film - Elizabeth Montgomery, Lee Marvin, Cliff Robertson, Victor Buono, Rip Torn, Werner Klemperer, Brian Keith, etc. - as well as some veteran film stars such as William Bendix, Barbara Stanwyck, and J. Carroll Naish.

    The show is episodic, skipping around in time, and it is interesting that with all of the talk of bringing criminals to justice that Ness ends up shooting it out with and ultimately killing almost all of the criminals at the end of the show. Either that or rival criminals ended up killing each other. The Department of Justice couldn't have been happy about that.

    Ness died shortly before this series began, and it is ironic that the best days of his career were during his time with the Untouchables. Afterwards his life went on a downwards trajectory and included a couple of divorces, a failed election campaign for mayor of Cleveland, and failed business ventures. His time with the Untouchables largely forgotten by his death, this TV show resurrected interest in that period of history and thus that period of Ness' life.
  • This film covers lots of ground. It starts out being a slice of life in Depression era New York City where New York cop on the beat Danny Dolan (Spencer Tracy) meets diner waitress Helen Riley (Joan Bennett) and they fall in love after a rather raucous romance. During this time, Danny gets a promotion and becomes a detective on the force. This is the precode part of the film.

    The noir part of the story has to do with Helen's sister, Kate. She had been in love with gangster Duke Castenega, but when he left town she got engaged to the horse-faced but honest and steady Eddie, who is a merchant seaman. Kate gets married and Duke is captured and sent to prison but manages to escape, finding his way back to Kate while Eddie is out to sea. This is the noir part - Kate willing to blow up her life over a strong physical attraction to Duke that I think even she mistakes for love.

    The two parts of the film intersect when Danny is one of a group of detectives tasked with bringing Duke in, with Helen having divided loyalty between Danny and her sister.

    There are lots of interesting, poignant, and funny scenes - Danny and Helen playing out a scene from "Strange Interlude" that they remember as "Strange Innertube", Danny rescuing a dog that his homeless and hungry owner is getting ready to drown out of desperation, Kate's drunken wedding reception and her dad throwing the radio out the window. As for the dog that is rescued, I thought it was odd everybody was so interested in the dog having plenty to eat, but nobody ever bothered to help his elderly and equally hungry owner who had already said that if he had the nerve he would kill himself. Some things never change.

    What took an entire star off of my rating were the tedious scenes involving a perpetual drunk who just gets annoying. Every time I think he is gone for good he comes back, ruining every scene he is in. Fortunately, he is completely gone during the second half as the action and drama part heats up.
  • This was flapper Alice White's last starring role at Warner Brothers as the roaring twenties have ceased to roar and the Great Depression rolls in. This seems to be, in fact, the roaring twenties' last hurrah a year out from that decade.

    Alice White plays rich spoiled party girl Kay Elliott who pals around with a likewise rich partying crowd. One night she and her friends are arrested for disorderly conduct and taken to night court. There young attorney Alan Ward is observing the proceedings of the night court as part of his own continuing education when Kay and her friends are brought in. The judge gives Kay a small fine, and then she is about to marry fellow idler Jack Gregory when Alan intervenes and whisks her away. This is partly because he is attracted to her and partly because he works for Kay's dad and doesn't want her to make a big mistake. Gregory is upset about this for more reason than just love - he and his sister (Myrna Loy) are broke, and they want to get their hands on the Gregory millions. Complications ensue.

    The reason to watch this is not the plot, although it was better than I anticipated, or the acting - the only person in the cast who will have an acting career in three years will be Myrna Loy, and she is very much supporting cast here. It is all of the things that were so very Jazz Age or just plain obsolete that show up here - ink wells, dictaphones with cylinders, the ubiquitous fox stoles and cloche hats, and men wearing tuxedos at every public event.

    This is also the death rattle of the Vitaphone sound on disc system. Cameras could not move when using Vitaphone, so everything is a series of still shots. But sometimes the director would want motion or want a distance shot. For example, at one point Alan Ward is retiring for the night and there is a long tracking shot that takes the camera from down the hall up to Ward. He is heard singing from a distance, but his lips are not moving! That was because, to get this shot, silent film had to be used and in that case it was improperly done. There are other such shots and those are made with peoples' heads turned so that you cannot see their mouths move out of sync with obviously dubbed conversation.

    It's all a very light and airy confection and I'd recommend it, especially if you are a film history buff.
  • Myrna Loy play Vivian, a woman who helps a gang of jewel thieves, but not on this particular heist of some pearls. A rival gang knows that Vivian is associated with the thieves, and is watching her so that when she heads off to rendezvous with the gang that they can follow her to the pearls. And this rival gang does not consist of nice guys. They have no problem with killing people who get in their way.

    Spencer Tracy is a federal agent pretending to be an ex-con so he can travel along with Vivian and apprehend the jewel thieves when she unwittingly leads him to them. But Vivian realizes he is a cop and is trying to find a way to get away from him without letting him know that she knows.

    Then they run into a bad rainstorm out in the middle of nowhere and stop at the house of a man whose wife is having a baby - two of them actually. And it is there that everything changes in a way you could probably write yourself if you:

    1. Are familiar with how MGM of the 1930s often shoehorned these rustic scenes into films to get the city slickers to come to their senses.

    2. realize the vagaries of the production code.

    3. can paint by numbers

    The acting is the real reason to hang around. Myrna Loy is playing the elegant person she portrayed in so many films made after The Thin Man. Spencer Tracy is in the final phase of his "tough guy" era which he was in over at Fox and at first at MGM, even if he is just pretending to be a tough guy here. And in fact he is portraying somebody who is acting, which can't be easy to do subtly. It is interesting to see how the two play off of each other and attempt to keep up a believable front.
  • ... Because he is third billed, is hardly on screen versus everybody else, and he spends most of the time he is on camera mutely over emoting. This premiered in February 1993, so this was before he was a shooting star on NYPD Blue the following year.

    This was Robert Blake's first acting job in eight years, and he does a serviceable job playing this film's version of John List. I'm not sure List was this powder keg always about to explode that he is portrayed here, but then the guy was such a loner all his life there probably is not much in the way of insight in existence unless it is coming from police psychiatrists after List's arrest. If you don't know, List is infamous for having bought a mansion, then lost his job as a bank executive when he could not relate to people, pretended to his family that he still had that job, embezzled from his mother to meet his bills, and then when the money ran out killed his elderly mother, his wife, and his three children and was a fugitive from justice for 17 years before being caught in 1989.

    The film follows List after he murders his family and disappears, but pretty much shows the same pattern in his new life that he had in his old one - He finds a church, gets married to a woman who is looking for security who is ultimately disappointed in his ability to provide, buys a house he cannot afford, and is frustrated by his lack of success in the workplace.

    It gets one key thing wrong - When List was arrested he initially denied that he was John List. Also the great irony of List killing his family at least in part because of the financial burden of the mansion he bought in New Jersey is not mentioned. That irony was that after the house burned down in 1972 it was discovered that the stained glass sky light over the ballroom was Tiffany glass and worth an estimated hundred thousand dollars at the time. That would have solved List's financial problems.

    This is a very mediocre and lazy effort at telling one of the great true crime stories of the twentieth century, and I found it disappointing overall.
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