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Reviews

A Thunder of Drums
(1961)

A Oddly Disappointing Film
Do you think a hardened battle experienced calvary trooper, played by Charles Bronson, could lose a fight to a brand new second lieutenant? I couldn't. This should have been a good film. The supporting cast had great character actors like Arthur O'Connell and Slim Pickens. Richard Boone was the lead as Captain Maddocks. But these three were shoved off by the poor performances of a pre-tan George Hamilton, pre-Peyton Place James Douglas, and pre heart-throb Dr. Kildare Richard Chamberlain. Then there was the Casablanca plot borrowing of all of the undermanned army forts in the West, Hamilton's East Coast girlfriend would have preceded him to his assignment as the fiancee of another officer of the fort. I can't even recommend watching this if you like watching train wrecks. This film just sinks to bottom weighed down by some of the worst acting ever put on on the screen by a major studio that invested in a usually good writer and a decent director.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
(2018)

A depressing story well acted
Melissa McCarthy does a great turn as Lee Israel. a writer whose muse had abandoned her. McCarthy's character finds herself as a literary pariah turned away by her own agent. McCarthy really captures the essence of a woman desperate to save herself from oblivion. One of the scenes that really captures her nearness to the bottom occurs as an exterminator refuses to enter her apartment due to the stench. As she attempts to clean the place the viewer could almost retch at the filth that is exposed.For a brief time, her talent as a literary forger gives her a semblance of her old life back but she over reaches and her life collapses. This is not a happy movie, you don't leave whistling a happy tune. You might leave feeling broken-hearted and sad for yourself but her life rings true for most people who struggled to survived fearing at any moment what little they have would be taken.

Bolívar: Una lucha admirable
(2019)

Historical, maybe
I know little of Simon Bolivar and less about South America and shame on me for my ignorance. No doubt this series will send me to the history books. In the meantime, Bolivar is an entertaining look at the period. We have all the necessary tropes--treacherous relatives, corrupt officials, wavering revolutionaries, and the honest slaves--plus a beautiful background that serves as setting. The actors are good and we don't have the terrible mugging for the camera we see in telenovelas. The series is certainly entertaining and perhaps it might make you curious to learn.

Unexpected Guest
(1947)

A Hoppy Whodunnit
Kids might not have picked up the tip of the cowboy hat to Agatha Christie but they would have understood the reference to one of Mickey Mouse's enemies, the Phantom Blot. Great film for a Saturday morning showing at the local movie theater for kids. A haunted house, mysterious voices, the murders of various heirs, sliding secret doors, and California Carlson in danger--could it get any better. If you were a typical ten-year old fan of Hoppy then this was pure yummy hamburger. The story moves along quickly and there are a few scares (opportunity to shout out "Watch Out Hoppy!) and just enough laughs to keep a kid's attention focused on the story. Try and remember that this film was made for the eight to twelve year old boy audience of the 40's and 50's and not today's over-sophisticated middle schooler.

And if you don't know The Phantom Blot then you are not the audience for this film.

12 to the Moon
(1960)

Positive in Message
If the budget was $150,000 then it's all up there on the screen. While we get several tropes of the era, the messages of respect, cooperation, and hope are not only worthy but surprising given the politics of the period.

Yes, the special effects are laughable but you have to be impressed by the casting which is remarkable for its diversity. In some ways this film is still ahead of our time. I find it sad that fifty years after the making of this film, we are in the midst of divisive politics that seems to be walking us backwards.

If you get a chance to see this on TCM then at least DVR it for watching at a reasonable hour. It cant hurt to watch something that reminds us of what we can be through sacrifice and hope.

North of the Rio Grande
(1937)

Hoppy gives Lee J. Cobb a start
As a Hoppy western this story has some interesting moments. From the start when we see Lucky at a coroner's inquest being run by Henry Stoneham, we know who the bad guy is. Morris Ankrum (Stoneham) seemed to be born to play bad guys and he did a good job. But it was Hoppy's younger brother who was murdered so it's only time until the real villain is brought to justice.

Yet somehow a musical number is inserted with Windy (Gabby Hayes) on the piano belting out The Wearing of the Green at the behest of Bull O'Hara (Walter Long) that has everyone in the cast up dancing and singing.

This film has the first credit for Lee J. Cobb as the owner of the railroad. I was stunned to see a youngish Cobb in the cast and even more surprised to learn Lee J. Cobb was bald at 26. I always believed Lee J.Cobb to be one of our finest actors. In 1968 I took a small group of students to Lincoln Center to see Cobb as King Lear. It was electrifying and every one of my charges was captured by what they were seeing on stage.

You know how the film will end but that was what you wanted to see. I was such a fan that my parents indulged me with a black Hoppy outfit complete with two six guns and a black hat.

Death Valley Days: Splinter Station
(1960)
Episode 2, Season 9

Jane Russel
No doubt that the two leads-Jane Russel and Claude Akins-are fading from memory but they do fair work here. Mary Taylor (Russel) runs an outpost holding horses for the Union when Caleb Luck (Akins) who is a Confederate calvary man happens by as he is trying to evade capture. Caleb is bitter and nothing would make him happier than killing Mary. A problem with a mare who is having difficulty giving birth affect both Mary and Caleb and provides a way for the story to conclude. Perhaps not the best episode but Jane Russel still has her movie star aura.

The Blake Mysteries: Ghost Stories
(2018)

Awaiting the return of Craig McLachlan
Most fans of the Dr. Blake Mysteries know Craig McLachlan is Magistrates Court battling accusations of sexual misconduct. It seems someone has decided to keep the idea of the show alive until the court makes its decisions. We have some of the major cast members return for this episode featuring Jean Beazley Blake stepping in to solve several murders past and present. We have a good whodunit here and some new characters are introduced who could become regulars should this format continue or if we have a return of Craig McLachlan then Dr. Blake can pick up just where he left off when his mysterious disappearance is explained. Until then, enjoy this episode for itself.

A Paris Romance
(2019)

It is what you expect
Hmm. A Hallmark movie, so girl meets boy and boy romances girls then girl has complication and leaves but boy follows girl and . . .. You still get to have some wonderful glimpses of Paris including Norte Dame before the fire. I wish there was more of Paris but I appreciated the brief stop at Sacre Coeur as it brought back a warm memory of sitting on the steps with my family as we ate our lunch. The movie shoot was very well done for a Hallmark film where you expect to see the kitsch cardboard sets. The acting is okay but Jen Liley just does the big eye roll once too many times. Not the worst Hallmark film that my wife has had me watch but just once could we have a different ending.

Ms Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries
(2019)

A confused Mulligan stew
If you are look for the style and panache of the original, this is s miss. Geraldine Hakewill is Peregrine Fisher and heir to the Fisher estate including Aunt Phryne's pearl handled gold plated revolver. Instead of the Roaring 20's, we have the swinging 60's.

This Miss Fisher is supposed to be our new Emma Peel and she even has her own smitten detective in the person of James Steed (Joel Jackson). Her police nemesis is Chief Inspector Sparrow, a misogynistic throwback to 1940's.

The show is harmless but could have been so much better.

The Code
(2019)

Dull
Probably not fair to make a judgement after one episode but I expect to see a decent plot and characters I like enough to tune in again. The cast didn't have even a single character I found compelling and then there was no chemistry between characters. I didn't expect "A Few Good Men," but this was a ripoff without style. I don't know why CBS even went with this. A realize military drama is in style now but the Marines deserve better than this.

Rawhide: Incident of Judgment Day
(1963)
Episode 19, Season 5

Claude Rains (who)
The Claude Rains of Casablanca and Notorious plays a washed-up, drunken judge who by chance haunts the ghost town where Rowdy has been brought to stand trial for failed escapes from a Yankee POW camp. The Confederate soldiers who were with Rowdy blame him for the failures and intend to hang him, especially Captain Francis Cabot (John Dehner). But Judge Longford (Rains) recovers from the bottle long enough to present a solid defense of Rowdy. Rains delivers a solid performance that makes a predictable script worth watching.

Capitaine Marleau
(2015)

Yes, Corinne Masiero
I am not familiar with Corinne Masiero but she has created a character for the ages. I cannot think of Hercule Poirot without David Suchet and now Corinne Masiero has brought another character to life: Captain Marleau.

Marleau is a brilliant captain in the French Police but is as idiosyncratic as can be. She looks like a homeless person and the beat up winter hunting cap she is never without adds to the characterization. We frequently find her lopping alone in a sort of duck run as she jogs before receiving a call that a body has been discovered and it appears to be murder.

She is frequently added by one of her two assistants who she keeps confused by her quirky but honest demeanor. When dealing with suspects she is completely non PC. They tend to underestimate her which keeps them feeling cocky. We know that she will solve the mystery and bring the perpetrator to justice.

Marleau has odd connection with a few other colleagues, usually pathologists who are as individual as she is. The series is fun to watch and Marleau has enough allusions to American TV to make you chuckle as she will tell a suspect she is no Columbo. There are allusions to matters French but these wont distract an American viewer. You may have to read the subtitles but they are clear and easy to read.

Currently this is running on Mhz, so you will a subscription.

Have Gun - Will Travel: Heritage of Anger
(1959)
Episode 37, Season 2

Really.
A Mexican infant is given up by his mother as she wants a better life for her son. Now as the boy is a teenager, his Mexican mother wants him back. Nita Garcia agrees to Paladin's plan: he will bring the boy back to her but the boy will choose where he wants to live. Jose decides he will return to the Avery's. But Manuel Garcia, the boys father, a bandit, objects. You can figure out what happens. What makes no sense is Jose speaks no Spanish. He has spent all of his life with his adoptive parents and yet his English is heavily accented by a Spanish accent. The story has a strong moral to it but what was the director thinking? I suspect his prejudice comes through in believing a Mexican infant surrounded by American English speakers would somehow grow up to have an accent regardless of upbringing.

Gun Law Justice
(1949)

For old timers like me
Some social problems are here to stay. No one one wants to give an ex-con a break. Once upon a time Hank Cardigan was a big time outlaw. Now he is a old man needing a job but no one will hire him. Hank gets a break to ride shotgun on a stagecoach. but on his first run the coach is held up by the Duke Corliss gang. Corliss had been trained by Hank and now has brought Hank's son into the gang. Hank foils the robbery but recognizes his son as one of the bandits. Hank tracks the gang to one of his old hideouts. He tries to convince his son to leave the gang but to no avail. Duke Corliss tells Hank that he will cut the kid loose and convince him to go straight, but does Hank plan to turn them in. Hank believes in snitches get stitches, he isn't a stool pigeon. Duke's real plan is to use Tom and get Hank and Tom either killed or sent to jail. A perfect opportunity arises as the town people plan a reenactment of Hank's last big robbery. but Duke plans to use the event to pull of a real robbery and have Hank blamed for it.

If you are real, real old (like me) you will recognize some of the bit players like Myron Healey even if you don't know the names. This film is best for nostalgia aficionados who are trying to recapture memories of Saturday matinees that featured cartoons, a serial episode or two, and at least two Westerns. Yippee yi yo kayah..

The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage: Deals Are Made to Be Broken
(1991)
Episode 4, Season 1

Not the A-1 episode of the series
Is that Black Jack Savage riding through the village at night and spreading fear. Maybe, but if nothing Disney went for a new opening and dropped the hanging man . Good move.

If we have been paying attention to the rules, we know Black Jack can't leave the castle. So who is pretending to be Black Jack? Why does the Governor General want to buy back the castle. And why is Barry's wife on the island? Wait. Is that Michael Chiklis, the Commish, offering to buy up all the land from the frightened villagers? Something is rotten on the island.

If Barry's wife and Logan Murphy vs the Exorcist and the Governor General vs Otis (Chiklis). Who will win? One other problem. Why does Barry's ex want a smaller offshore island. You will get your answers.

The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage: A Day in the Life of Logan Murphy
(1991)
Episode 3, Season 1

Logan Murphy, Man-Hunter
After watching the start of the third episode, I believe I might have a clue why this show didn't catch on with parents, at the start of each episode we see a noose and then the drop and dangling legs of Black Jack Savage. Now we begin with a drug dealer escaping from a FL chain gang and he has one goal in mind: find Logan Murphy and kill him. Murphy doesn't believe Tarberry and just believes Barry is coning him again.

Barry finds himself getting an offer from the FBI. Barry may be 17th on the most wanted list but Hancock is number three and if he helps them catch Hancock then they will make a deal. Barry has his own deal in mind. Will Barry save Logan? Will Hancock catch Logan? Will the FBI catch anybody?

We have a number of captures, escapes, recaptures, and escapes, and I guess some disappointments for everyone involved, except for the "real" Black Jack Savage.

The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage: A Pirate Story
(1991)
Episode 2, Season 1

Do you like cliffhangers?
A young couple and their baby are out boating on the water when they stop to pick up what appears to be a man on a small raft. Turns out it is a trap and the mother and father are executed and the boat scuttled. The papers report a missing couple but Savage tells Barry Tarberry that the baby is alive because the boat hasn't sunk. Savage brings the Lawtons to "speak" with Tarberry. Tarberry refuses to help until Savage aligns the spirit of Jennifer Lawton with Tarberry. Now onboard, so to speak, Tarberry is looking for help and enlists the help of Logan "FX" Murphy. Logan needs money but Tarberry's assets have been frozen by the Feds. Tarberry fast talks Logan into helping. Using Logan's "super boat," Tarberry saves the baby. Now Tarberry and Savage not only need to keep the baby safe but bring the murderous to justice. And they need to act when they learn another couple is in danger. Can they help?

The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage: Pilot
(1991)
Episode 1, Season 1

Action and Humor as done best by Stephen J. Cannell
This was the pilot for a proposed action series under the Disney banner and written by Stephen J. Cannell. The Cannell touch is clearly evident. A duo of would be heroes, Barry Tarberry (Daniel Hugh Kelly) and Black Jack Savage (Stoney Jackson) who are assisted by a nerd genius, Logan "FX" Murphy (Steve Hytner) strive to get the bad guys. Tarberry is an American financier whose questionable deals have forced him to flee the country one step ahead of the Feds. And once he takes refuge on a Caribbean island by bribing the President, Tarberry also has to dodge the bounty hunters hired by the bail bondsman that Tarberry stiffed of $500,000. Tarberry discovers the castle he purchased is haunted by the ghost of Black Jack Savage. The two form an unlikely partnership for their own reasons. Kelly is perfect as the handsome hero who has a smidgen of the coward to overcome. Jackson is terrific as the hip 300 year old ghost who has to redeem himself by saving a hundred lives or he will be sent to Hell. Since this was the premise for a series, the movie has much exposition to fill in the background and present the raison detre. The made for TV movie is fun and should be put on a DVD along with the six episodes of the series. It's too bad this didn't click but audiences may have passed on this as a retrofit of Riptide with one of the good guys as a ghost. Regardless, this movie is entertaining with enough action with comedy to appeal to a large audience, but it didn't.

The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage
(1991)

Entertaining and Fun
This was the pilot for a proposed action series under the Disney banner and written by Stephen J. Cannell. The Cannell touch is clearly evident. A duo of would be heroes, Barry Tarberry (Daniel Hugh Kelly) and Black Jack Savage (Stoney Jackson) who are assisted by a nerd genius, Logan "FX" Murphy (Steve Hytner) strive to get the bad guys. Tarberry is an American financier whose questionable deals have forced him to flee the country one step ahead of the Feds. And once he takes refuge on a Caribbean island by bribing the President, Tarberry also has to dodge the bounty hunters hired by the bail bondsman that Tarberry stiffed of $500,000. Tarberry discovers the castle he purchased is haunted by the ghost of Black Jack Savage. The two form an unlikely partnership for their own reasons. Kelly is perfect as the handsome hero who has a smidgen of the coward to overcome. Jackson is terrific as the hip 300 year old ghost who has to redeem himself by saving a hundred lives or he will be sent to Hell. Since this was the premise for a series, the movie has much exposition to fill in the background and present the raison detre. The made for TV movie is fun and should be put on a DVD along with the six episodes of the series. It's too bad this didn't click but audiences may have passed on this as a retrofit of Riptide with one of the good guys as a ghost. Regardless, this movie is entertaining with enough action with comedy to appeal to a large audience, but it didn't.

FBI
(2018)

Engrenages with minuses
There is a French series with the name Engrenages, or in English, Spirals. Unfortunately the episodes in FBI seem to dip into Engrenages but surface minus the panache. The cast is boring, I can't seem to find a hook to like any of them. I thought with the FBI caught in the cross-hairs of an inordinate amount of bad publicity that this FBI might be getting a Dick Wolf facelift. Not what I had hoped for. The "stories" thus far seem to have been pilfered. With time the series might find its legs but I have doubts. It does have a good slot between NCIS and NCIS, New Orleans bit viewers can siphoned off before renewal time.

Have Gun - Will Travel: A Quiet Night in Town: Part 1
(1961)
Episode 17, Season 4

Can the Devil speak true?
Paladin has captured Joselto Kincaid, an alleged fugitive killer, and is bringing him in for a trial. Needing a brief stop before boarding a train, Paladin stops over in a town for the night. While there, four local thugs bored in a no horse town decide to hang Kincaid. Their first attempt is foiled by Ray Remy, local older, overweight sheriff who also runs the town bar. After overpowering Paladin, the men take Kincaid, but before he can be hung, Kincaid hurls imprecations at Joe Culp. Culp loses his temper and shoots Kincaid and then rifle butts Paladin's right hand.

When Paladin recovers, he goes after the men. Culp draws on Paladin and the result baffles Remy. How? Paladin tells Remy guns are his tools. But now there are still three others to capture. Paladin will offer them a choice: put cuffs on and be brought to trial or die.

This is a rare two-episode Paladin which means there is more time to develop character and plot. The production set is bleaker than usual setting up a shadowy backdrop for this morality play: the struggle to determine is it justice or revenge we see before us.

Well done episode(s) featuring a young Sydney Pollack who was an actor before becoming an Oscar winning director. Pollack makes a good bad man indicating he might have matured into a fine actor.

Hold the Sunset
(2018)

Rubbish Roger. Rubbish you prat
A group of familiar faces trying to make a comedy of aging and moving on from the aged parents and their now aging children/adults to a new life.John Cleese (Phil) struggles for laughs, and Jason Watkins (Roger) manages to be sure there aren't any. Alison Steadman (Edith) overacts the mother torn between her new life with Phil and her responsibility to her 49 year old man-child. As a comedy of situation, Hold the Sunset is Fawlty Towers without the laughs or humor or joy.

800 Words
(2015)

Quirky with a undercurrent of meaness
I tend to be a fan of scripted comedies and the off kilter are usually the best. I am thinking along the line of The IT Crowd, Gaven & Stacey, Moone Boy, and Doc Martin. A commonality being is that the most unlikable character has something likable about them. Not the case in 800 Words. I can forgive the main character,George Turner (Erik Thomson) for being somewhat of a tosser, but he is surrounded by characters who are less than completely sympathetic including his son and daughter. The series is somewhat a fish out of water do which follows George's attempts to fit into this odd ball New Zealand town thus accounting for the humorous situations he becomes stuck in. If the genre is appealing to you then you will most likely find someone who draws you back to the show. I am watching this because my wife likes it and she has suffered through some of my favorites so fair is fair.

Diagnosis Murder: Alienated
(1998)
Episode 6, Season 6

Nice spoof via several members of the Star Trek cast
Every so often Diagnosis Murder let itself run off the rails a bit. This is such an episode. Dr. Travis and Steve Sloan set off for a fishing vacation in Utah. But when Steve leaves Jesse at the cabin while he looks to find some real beer to drink and not the light stuff Jesse brought, a fire prevents Steve from a return. When he does return he finds a Jesse who is distraught and suffering from paranoia. Jesse claims he was abducted by aliens and no one believes him. Jesse gets more confused as he meets people who also claim to having been abducted, "agents" who want to interrogate him, and people shooting at him. While it's not too hard to figure out what's going on, it's fun for fans to see all those familiar faces from Star Trek again; plus Billy Mumy from Lost in Space. A good episode with a fun mystery to solve.

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