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Latina, Physical Culture Poses (No. 2)
(1905)

Calithenics
Latina, if that's her name, does some basic calisthenics in this half-minute short.

There isn't much to this short to the modern eye, but viewed through the prism of evolution, it seems to have a little more meat on its bones. While strong man Eugene Sandow was the first 'physical culture' star, the field has always had a bit of sexuality to it. Although I doubt if my mother or millions other housewives watched Jack Lalanne for a thrill, we still make sporadic efforts to try to stay healthy. This movie fits somehow in the arc of telling that story.

The Stepfather
(1987)

And Again
Jill Schoelen's father died a couple of years ago. Mother Shelley Hack married Terry O'Quinn, but despite his obvious love of being a family man, she cannot accept the new order of things. Perhaps this is because she senses he butchered his last family.

I'm a great fan of Donald Westlake, who wrote the script for this movie, but it looks like just another slasher flick to me. Perhaps Westlake is too versatile a writer, having at times written mysteries, humor, science fiction, adventure novels ad the sublime Kahwa, which combines all these genres. When he set out to write a slasher novel, inspired by his own stepdaughter's issues -- this must have been an encouraging movie for her --he did exactly that. Everyone seems competent, but you can predict the final sequence two minutes int the movie, as well as many of the other scenes.

The Eleventh Commandment
(1933)

Cast And Crew Try
An old lady dies without family, and leaves her estate of $50,000,000 -- a lot of money even today -- to William Mong, her lawyer. Somehow, in the last weeks of her life, she left her big mansion to Mong's partner, Theodore von Eltz, who's engaged to Marian Marsh, Mong's daughter. And Eltz has some people who may have claims to the estate...

It's crooked lawyer vs. Crooked lawyer, and I'm not sure why they can't split the boodle, but greed is greed, I suppose. This cheap Poverty Row flick is stylishly directed by George Melford. Like many an important silent director, he was kicked to the side in the early talkie era. He kept going for a while, but didn't outlast 1937, even though he lived to 1961.

Although there are some nice points in the direction, and some excellent, although bottoming actors in front of the camera -- Alan Hale and Marie Prevost among them -- there's not an ounce of humor in the script, although Miss Prevost offers some mildly funny touches.

Kyoraku no mai
(1942)

The Unseen Argument Between Head And Heart
It's 1863, and the politics of Japan have grown confused. Not only is there the continuing conflict between the Shogunate and the larger domains, but a growing movement for the restoration of power to the Emperor is at hand. The issue of the moment is how to deal with the foreigners who have been troubling the nation since Perry's fleet visited ten years before. The two sides argue over whether the foreigners should be expelled or welcomed. Both sides have turned to assassination. In the middle of this, the ranks of the expulsion movement "Joy-i" in the person of Kotaro Bando, understand that the logic of the situation, with foreign warships and cannon far more powerful than Japanese ones, cannot be resisted.

The stuation grows bloodier, but not in the cinematic style of samurai movies. Fights take place offscreen, reflecting the dishonorable, assassin nature of the deaths. Although Kotaro Bando represents the brains of the still jingostic movement, it is Juzaburo Bando who represents its heart. Can the brain convince the heart?

Because this is in many ways an inteernal monologue -- and the propaganda seeking viewer might see the Second World War as a outgrowth of these events --and the usual, more satisfying shots of people moving, people fighting, are eschewed, it is more a piece of endless talk.... with some bloody results.

Indestructible Man
(1956)

Joe Flynn's Help Doesn't Help
In proof of the assertion that it takes more than Angel's Flight, the Bradbury Building and that shipyard where Alan Ladd got his in THIS GUN FOR HIRE to make a interesting movie, I offer The Indestructible Man . The corpse of Lon Chaney Jr. Is resurrected by Robert Shayne (with Joe Flynn's assistance) and he rampages around, with a voice-over telling us what we are seeing. Credit the fortunately unique Jack Polloxfen as director/producer..

It looks like the sort of a movie on which people worked for a pay check, but not a large one.

The Wreck of the Hesperus
(1948)

A Lighthouse On Norman's Woe
Willard Parker is a skipper who loses his ship. He is blackballed by ship owners and goes int the salvage business with Edgar Buchanan. When his brother's ship, The Hesperus, is lost on Norman's Woe, he agitates for a lighthouse. What he does not know is that Buchanan is a wrecker who lured his brother's ship into destruction.

Inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, this short feature pulls a long bow aimed at the audience. Too brief to be of any depth, it lacks the star power and rubber giant octopus of Demille's REAP THE WILD WIND, telling its story a bit too efficiently to be more than a decent programmer. It's B material all the way thrugh, but just the sort of efficient film making that filled out a movie program for decades.

Four Boys and a Gun
(1957)

Some Early Roles For Interesting Performers
Four young adults -- James Franciscus (in his movie debut), Frank Sutton, Tarry Green, and William Hinnant -- scramble to make money. None of their schemes work, so they try robbery. When they kill a cop, one of them faces execution.

Producer-director William Berke had been making TV shows for four years. Then he returned to the big screen in 1957, directed six pictures, and died early in 1958. He started directing B westerns in 1935, and spent fifteen years doing little else, turning out as many as ten in a year, usually on a 12-day shooting schedule. Coming back from TV, he stretched into other genres, like this cheap crime movie based on a mid-1940s novel. However, while the camera work is competent, the performances seem to concentrate on loudness rather than subtlety, the movie on shock rather than emotion.

The Johnnie and the Telephone
(1903)

The Practical Joke
A stage door Johnnie enters the chorines' dressing room, and the waiter soon fetches champagne for all, which the man, of course, pays for. He attempts to make a phone call while the girls sneak drinks.

It all leads up to a practical joke, and I wasn't terribly impressed. Certainly the poor copy of the print I saw didn't help, but it's an ill-natured jest jest at best, and the low opinion held of the predatory young men who hung out at stage doors doesn't make it any better.

Johnny You're Wanted
(1956)

The Untalented Amateur Investigator
John Slater is driving his lorry towards London when a girl jumps onto the road in front of him and begs a ride. Down the road a piece, he stops at a cafe for some coffee and a phone call. When he returns to his truck, he finds her gone, shrugs his shoulders and continues on.... and finds her dead further down the road. The police investigation finds it a murder, and Slater finds himself right in the hapless thick of it, along with strong woman Joan Rhodes (in her movie debut) and stage psychic Garry Marsh, along with an investigation into drug trafficking.

It's a decently set up second feature, with some amusing points about how enterprising amateurs getting into the middle of murder investigations rarely do anyone any good, particularly themselves. Slater is pretty good as the clueless truck driver who keeps finding himself in trouble, and quota quickie director Vernon Sewell does his usual competent, cheap job.

The Gift
(2000)

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibity
Cate Blanchett is a widowed mother of three small boys in a southern town. She supports them all by reading the cards -- not Tarot, but what appear to be Duke University cards. She is subject to visions of her dead grandmother and dreams. When Greg Kinnear's fiancee disappears, the police reluctantly call Miss Blanchett, whose vision lead them to drag redneck Keanu Reeves' pond and find the corpse.

Sam Raimi's movie is not a standard horror movie, but a meditation on the oppressiveness of having psychic abilities, or indeed, different. It's populated with quite a distinguished list of actors, including J. K. Simmons, Michael Jeter, Katie Holmes, Hillary Swank, and Rosemary Harris. Given Raimi's varied credits -- he was working on SPIDERMAN while cutting this film -- it offers an interesting vision of what super-powers mean. Or perhaps, if you're not so inclined, some fine work on editing for atmosphere.

Latina, Dislocation Act
(1905)

Poorly Shot
Here's Latina showing off how she can dislocate her shoulders. Yech. Or can she?

Start with your hands clasped behid you. You cannot raise them to your head because of the way your body is put together. At least, I can't. Latina can.

Except. We can't see her hands at the crucial point, where most human beings -- by which I mean me -- cannot advance the movement. I've seen enough of these acts to know some people can do this sort of thing, but given that it's Billy Bitzer shooting it, the way the coamera is set up is suspicious.

Sengoku burai
(1952)

Something Worth Dying For
It's a time of chaos in Japan, with the clans fighting among themselves. Toshiro Mifune is helping to defend a castle, but confuses to another samurai that he wants to escape before he dies; the other says that he wants to die for the domain his family has served for generations. If Mifune doesn't feel that way, he should leave. Mifune escapes with Shirley Yamaguchi, the daughter of a bandit, and stays with her father's group for a while. He and Yamaguchi can't keep their hands off each other, so it's off to sell his sword to another clan.

THis appears to have been planned as a movie for Kurosawa to direct, and he's given script credit; other Kurosawa regulars like Takashi Shimura and Eijirô Tôno also pop up, but that may be coincidental. They all worked frequently for the actual director, Hiroshi Inagaki. None more so that Mifune, who appeared in more than 20 of Inagaki's films.

In the end, though, this is a story of two lovers who are fated for each other, and not as impressive as it might have been. Part of the problem I have in it is the image, which seems to have had a lot of scenes shot in fog, and the print a bit dull.

Northward, Ho!
(1940)

Promo Film
Here's one of the many short films that MGM made over the years to puff their productions. There's a set-up of some of their major, big-budget releases over the previous decade, and how people said they couldn't did them..... and they couldn't.

No, actually they did, ad they offer clips from movies like TRADER HORN and SAN FRANCISCO before they tell you what movie they're pushing with this short: NORTHWEST PASSAGE, starring. Spencer racy ad Robert Young, b shwing the work they did to get the shooting sites is Idaho and Oregon ready for the production.

Refugees in Camp in Jefferson Square
(1906)

Aftermath
After the San Francisco Earthquake knocked the city out, and the fires did more damage, many of the refugees from teh devastated area settled in a tent city in Jefferson Square. Here are some images from that site.

What the audience will notice is how ordinary everything looks for the era. There is no sign of devastation. The houses stand, the trees tower above, and people walk, dressed in the elaorate clothes of the era, with huge hats. True, everyone is carrying something, and there are a lot of soldiers in the street, but other than that, it looks like othing has happened.

Under Western Skies
(1945)

How Do They Think Of These Titles?
Leon Errol's vaudeville show comes to a small town where Irving Bacon is the heroic sheriff, and where school teacher Noah Beery Jr. And bandit Leo Carrillo compete for Errol;s daughter, singer Martha O'Driscoll.

One of at least eight movies with the same name, this 57-minute musical comedy western is more interested in showing us Shaw & Lee doing one of their stage acts, and Dorothy Granger singing one of the movie' three songs. It's unassuming, and director Jean Yarborough doesn't stand in the way of the silliness.

Feather Your Nest
(1937)

In Which George Is Not The First To Sing "Leaning On A Lamp Post"
George Formby works at a record company where he drops whatever he's holding when a whistle goes off. He and Polly Ward want to get married and have already bought a house and furnished it on credit. At work, ewly signed Gilbert Russell is recording "Leaning on a Lamp Post". When George is taking the soe master to the production facilities, a whistle goes off and he drops the master, shattering it. Eventually, he records a new master on his own, hoping that it will be laid to a bad recording, and redone.

There are a number of standard comedy set pieces, and George gets to ride a motor cycle. Clearly ATP -- which would become Ealing -- knew they had a star in the making, and were repeating elements from his earlier vehicles. He has good chemistry with Miss Ward; despite being a song-and-dance girl herself, she doesn't get any songs, but falls into the ingenue role, albeit one with some push to keep George moving.

George sings three songs, including "Leaning on a Lamp Post"; it would become his signature tune. Like George's earlier vehicles, this one turns out nice again.

Garde républicaine à cheval
(1897)

Men On Horses
The troops ride their horses from the right edge of the frame to the left edge of the frame. It's among the simplest of actualities, since the framing is so square and central that it seems a simple statement of fact. Little more than a photograph with a slight extension in time. For fifty seconds, it's "Here's a ma n horseback riding along. Here's another man on horseback riding along Here's another man on horseback riding along. Think you can't be bored in less than a minute? Start to feel that the boredom is part of the intent? I think if yu d, you're hallucinating.

The Bushwhackers
(1951)

Good Men Do Nothing, But The Wicked Keep Busy
With the Civil War over, ex-Rebel John Ireland vws never to kill a man again, and heads west. He gets caught up short in Missouri, where paralyzed Lon Chaney Jr. Is burning out land grant recipients because the railroad is going to come through, and make the land worth a fortune. He's assembled a team of baddies, including Laurence Tierney, Jack Elam, and daughter Myrna Dell; the good people, like newspaper editor Frank Marlowe and his daughter, Dorothy Malone, are scared to oppose him. The only thing standing in his way is a shortage of sociopaths. Some of Chaney's hirelings have scruples.

Rod Amateau's first movie as director has an overtly stated political theme, which is carried out in a heavy-handed fashion by a highly competent crew and interesting cast.. Yet while you can see the roots of ultra-violent spaghetti westerns here, it isn't well carried off.

Black Horse Canyon
(1954)

Mari Blanchard Tries To Tame A Mustang And Joel McCrea
Joel McCrea is one of those no-truck-with-women guys, raising Race Gentry out in the west. When Mari Blanchard needs help catching and breaking a mustang that's gotten free, the two of them help her out. Gentry yearns for her, but Miss Blanchard sets her cap at McCrea. He seems mostly amused, but there seems to be more to it.

It's a handsomely shot Universal "Shaky A" with scenes of the horse lifted from 1949's RED CANYON. McCrea offers his lines in his usual straightforward manner, Gentry struggles to make the transition from boy to man, and Miss Blanchard, who was the inspiration for Al Capp's Stupifyin' Jones, oozes sex appea.

The Modern Pirates
(1906)

Can No One Stop Them?
Evil doers who have an armored car invade an estate, slaughter the inhabitants ad leave with the silverware, I guess. The police are alerted! They travel the road in their clown car, but the evil doers overwhelm them every time in this sprightly comedy from Arthur. Melbourne Cooper.

It's cynically humorous, and quite funny, with its "pirate motor" swallowing cops easily. Cooper seems to have had a specialty in making trick films, oing early animation for his own company and under contract for Robert Paul. He left the industry in 1913 and lived to be.87, dying in 1961.

The Falcon in Danger
(1943)

Of A Wedding License
Tom Conway, playing the Saint knock-off his real life brother George Sanders abandoned to him, is actually in danger: of getting married. He aso has a fine little mystery to solve, when a plane sets down at the airport with no one aboard.

RKO actually paid for some good writing for Conway's series; this one is credited to Craig Rice and Fred Niblo Jr. RKO stocked it liberally with starlets, ad there's the always watchable Clarence Kolb around as an 'industrialist' near the center of the story. Another Falcon movie was the first to use a Raymond Chandler story as its plot basis. The results were pretty good mysteries and some nice cheesecake. This one lives up to that undemanding standard for a second feature.

Hit-and-Run Driver
(1935)

The Accidental Criminal
When a guy's strikes two people and injures them badly, he panics and drives away. But hit-and-run is a crime, and even hick cops have science labs with men in white coats peering at fuming beakers. This will bring the criminal to justice and ensure that CRIME DOES NOT PAY.

The fifth entry in what would become MGM's long-running crime series isn't about hard-hearted criminals or Nazi spies like some of them are, but about an ordinary Joe who panics. The difference in attitudes about people who commit a crime and have twinges of conscience versus career criminals (or Nazis) may strike the modern audience as a bit odd.

She Always Gets Their Man
(1962)

Watchable If Obvious
Ann Sears lives in a residential women's hotel and works for a small engineering firm led by Terence Alexander. She loves her boss, but he is too consumed by his lack of business ability to recognize it. On the day he finally does, Miss Sears' cousin, Sally Smith, takes up residence at the hotel and work at the firm. She also takes up all the ladies' boy friends. When she seems to be aiming at Alexander, the women club together an hire a cheap actor to play a millionaire to distract her.

It's a Danziger Brothers comedy, which means it's shot as cheaply as possible, and spends a lot of time leering at the pretty girls, like many a 1960s British comedy. Fortunately, it's well constructed in all its departments, so it comes out as a watchable effort, despite the simple and easy turns of the plot. With Michael Balfour and William Fox.

Bituminous Coal
(1928)

Coal To Coke To Ships
This silent short documentary shows the audience the coal mining region centering around southwestern Pennsylvania. We get to look at the overt operations of a coal mine, including the dirty job of getting it out of the mine walls. After that, it's a look at it being "cooked" into coke, and finally laded on ships.

It's a dull, grim job, and the low, moaning score emphasizes that. Signs all about the mine warn the people present of the danger, ad the casual way that the miners use explosives to bring down a shelf of coal is sartling.... ans is the collapse of the coal onto the mine's floor.

Rosalie
(1937)

It Took Ten Years To Make This
Nelson Eddy is a singing, football-playing West Point cadet, who falls in love with Eleanor Powell and she with him. Her father, King and ventriloquist Frank Morgan, orders her back home to marry Prince Tom Rutherford. She goes, but tells Eddy, who is now a flier, that if he shows up at the spring festival, she will dance with him. He does, and so forth and so forth and so forth.

If that sounds like 1920s musical nonsense, that's because it was: a Marilyn Miller vehicle produced by Ziegfeld. MGM bought it and over the next decade, it evolved from a Marion Davies vehicle to the finished product. They threw out a score by George Gershwin and Sigmund Romberg -- mostly unmemorable, but including "How Long Has This Been Going On?" -- for a mostly mediocre set of songs by Cole Porter, whom Mayer badgered into writing, on the fifth try, "In The Still Of The Night." Then he had to badger Eddy into singing it.

It's one of those movies that halts so Billy Gilbert can do his sneezing routine, or Ray Bolger a lightning eccentric tap routine. The flimsiness of the plot encourages it with a style of musical that had not yet fully differentiated the book musical from the revue. Ten years later, MGM hadn't gotten the word, so Miss Powell's big dance number is a farrago that relates to nothing but the immense and varied set she dances through. The revue bits are good, and director Woody Van Dyke and DP Oliver Marsh make sure everything gets on screen, but if they had cut the plot and left the revue, it would have been better.

Oh well. "How Long Has This Been Going On?" was a trunk song anyway.

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