MartinHafer

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Reviews

Phantom Killer
(1942)

In some ways, this remake is better than the original.
John Harrison (John Hamilton) is a well respected philanthropist. He's also known for begin deaf and a true mute...born with paralyzed vocal cords. However, shortly after the film begins, Harrison (or a guy looking exactly like him) talks to a janitor (Mantan Moreland) as he leaves an office building. Soon, the janitor finds a dead body. It seems that again and again, when Hamilton is at big public charity events, men from finance companies die in the same cities he's in....but it can't be him, as he is seen at the charity events when the murders are occurring. So what gives? How can this be explained away?!

When the assistant DA (Dick Purcell) tries to prosecute Harrison for murder, doctors verify he IS unable to talk and it couldn't have been Harrison as he has alibis. And, as a result, the DA is laughed out of court...and determined to somehow proved Harrison is a killer...one who sure takes a lot of trouble to establish these alibis if this is true!

The solution to this mystery certainly is no mystery....and most folks watching the film will guess it early on in the film. I think having the man assumed to be mute when he isn't could have worked....but being in two places at once...well, unless he's perfected cloning, there's only one obvious answer! Still, it is entertaining and a decent time-passer...even if it all doesn't make sense.

Some things in the film don't make a lot of sense when it comes to deafness. Rarely is a deaf person unable to talk because of any paralysis....and the term 'deaf mute' really doesn't make sense for nearly all deaf people, as they can talk or make vocalizations....just not all that well in most cases. Also in one scene a person says that deaf people ALL can read lips (also called 'speech reading')...which is definitely NOT true! However, what the film did get right is the sign language. It looks as if they have a person who knows sign language do the closeup scenes showing just the hands....although in a few cases, Hamilton obviously had been taught a few signs. I do appreciate this....as, in the original version of the movie, 1933's "The Sphinx", the signing was all a lot of gibberish and they made no attempt to do real American Sign Language or anything approximating it.

Oh, and finally, Warren Hymer played comic relief as a dumb cop. Interestingly, he wasn't ALL dumb and actually was quite competent at the end of the film!

The Presidio
(1988)

The story idea isn't bad...but the major characters in the film certainly were.
The story is about the murder of an MP at the Presidio Army base in San Francisco. Because the killer left the base and tangled with SFPD cops, the case now is in both the jurisdiction of the police AND Army. But unfortunately, the cop assigned to the case (Mark Harmon) and the Colonel in charge of the military investigation (Sean Connery) hate each other and have a past. Can this odd couple manage to put aside their differences and solve the crime? And, can the Colonel's daughter manage to please BOTH of them?

Rarely have I disliked a trio of characters as much as I disliked the three leads in this film. I don't think it was the actors' faults, really...they just were delivering the lines as they were written. Sean Connery and Mark Harmon's characters were pretty one dimensional and they seemed to spend much of the movie doing lots of macho posturing...to the point where the film really lost me early on into the story. As for Meg Ryan who plays Connery's daughter...she also seemed about as unrealistic as the others and her car chase scene early in the story was cute...provided you didn't think at all about how ridiculous this was. Hopefully, the film gets better as NONE of these characters seemed like real people...more like caricatures.

So despite this, is the film worth seeing? Well, it's certainly NOT a film I'd rush to see and put it more in the category of a time-passer, at best. The reasons for not loving it are mentioned above, as the characters were bad and the film saddled with some occasionally horrid dialog.

By the way, some movies carry various warnings on the DVD cover. This one should have a warning about excessive macho posturing!

Barnaby Jones: Circle of Treachery
(1977)
Episode 18, Season 5

The crooks were right to go after the horny young guy!
When the show begins, a hired gun shoots one of the cops protecting Fritz, a witness in hiding from the mob. The police are able to shoot the killer and he turns out to be a junkie hired to kill Fritz...but by whom? As far as Fritz goes, however, he ran and now no one knows where he is. However, he does trust Barnaby and perhaps the great detective will be able to return the witness to police custody,

In the meantime, Jedediah meets a girl who instantly falls for his shtick. This means she either has low standards OR is working for a mobster who hopes they can get info about Fritz's whereabouts from Jedediah. After all, he seems like a smitten school boy and certainly is the weakest link. Will J. R. wise up or will he end up spilling the beans?

This was a decent episode. While Jedediah seemed kinda dopey at first, he eventually showed some adeptness as a private eye! Overall, interesting and worth seeing.

By the way, notice the scene at the hospital. That doctor sure seemed in a hurry to declare the guy dead. Perhaps the doc was late for a golf game.

Barnaby Jones: Duet for Dying
(1977)
Episode 17, Season 5

It's amazing how long it took to convict these sisters considering they weren't all that smart.
"Duet for Dying" is a very poor episode of "Barnaby Jones". I think it was intended to be funny, but bad acting by the guest stars really made this one a tough sell for me.

The story begins with a lady cavorting in a pool with an older man. You can understand why the younger lady is interested in him when it turns out her sister is in the man's apartment ransacking the place for some valuable coin collection. Unfortunately, he returns to the room to early and the sister is caught. A fight ensues and the ladies kill him...and take his coins as well.

It turns out these sisters have one goal in life....to be famous professional singers. They kill and steal and feel no sense of guilt...and later, they kill again...all to further their ambitions.

Throughout the episode, you hear man after man say how beautiful these ladies were. Well, I know this won't sound very nice, but if you want to describe them this way, make sure they actually ARE good looking and not the two most annoying characters I can ever recall on the show. Now had the men described them as bad actresses playing annoying characters, that I could have agreed with...wholeheartedly. Two very dumb ladies and a couple very dumb guys...an episode should not rely so heavily on folks being dumber than tomatoes.

By the way, I find it hard to believe but these same two sisters would appear in another episode during season 5! Apparently SOMEONE from the show thought these dopey sisters were great characters.

Barnaby Jones: The Marathon Murders
(1977)
Episode 16, Season 5

I know I might be jumping to conclusions, but I kinda think Lorraine has some issues.
It's a shame that there are a few minor plot problems with "The Marathon Murders" as its "Play Misty for Me" sort of plot is pretty exciting. Still, it is pretty interesting and neat to see Barnaby acting like an action hero at the end!

The story begins at a weekend marathon encounter group. Apparently, this therapy group runs the entire weekend, but unexpectedly Lorraine leaves...feigning illness. However, what she really is going to do is kill a group member's wife. After all, she's fallen in love with him and he did say he hates the wife!

After killing the wife, Lorraine essentially tells Ken that she killed his wife....and Ken is apparently too scared of her to tell the cops! And, she threatens to accuse him of the murder if he does. Soon after, she meets with the leader of the therapy group...and he deduces that she might just have murdered Ken's wife. But before he can go to the police, Lorraine kills him as well! Next, she notices that another woman is interested in Ken...and perhaps she'll have to kill her next!

The plot problems are that Ken clearly SHOULD have called the police and why he didn't isn't really clear...and it's a definite plot hole. The same with the therapist...he really should have played this better considering he believes the woman is a murderer!

On the positive side is the exciting ending. When Barnaby hears screams, be runs through the locked door and confronts the knife-wielding woman! He's so cool!

Mine Own Executioner
(1947)

Physician, heel theyself.
Before discussing "Mine Own Executioner" I should explain something about the plot. Burgess Meredith's character, Felix, is called a psychiatrist in the film but he isn't one....he's a psychotherapist. Back in the mid-20th century, there wasn't a standardized degree to be a psychotherapist and many psychologists were NOT folks with PhDs, EdDs or PsyDs like today. In fact, if you could demonstrate your competence, you could even practice without any degree...yes, no degree at all. While this wasn't common, it was possible. In fact, one of the most famous developmental psychologists of the 20th century, Erik Erikson had no degree...but wrote tons of articles and taught at such prestigious schools as Harvard and Yale! So, in the USA, Felix might have been called a psychologist...and apparently in the UK someone like this might have been called a psychiatrist...even though they don't have a medical degree.

Felix is a very good therapist. However, conversely, he's not a particularly good husband and is distant from his wife. He even contemplates having an affair. In addition, while he's good at his job, he's filled with doubts. All this is thrown for a loop when Felix begins working with a very dangerous man. Adam is suffering from PTSD, as he went through hell in a POW camp during the war. But he also is showing signs of psychosis...and that could make him a dangerous person. What's next? See the film.

This is a very interesting film....especially since Felix is so good at helping people but is out of touch with himself. Interesting and well worth seeing...with a rather amazing final portion of the story.

Chikyû Bôeigun
(1957)

Much better once the dopey giant monster is gone.
"The Mysterians" ("Chikyû Bôeigun") is a Japanese science fiction film that is part giant monster film and part serious sci-fi. When it's serious sci-fi and its plot is about an invasion of the planet, it's pretty good. When it's a giant silly looking monster (like Godzilla and an accordian...with deely bopper antennae), it is pretty stupid....and really unnecessary to the plot.

Some aliens from what was the planet between Mars and Jupiter arrive and set up camp in Japan. While these aliens say they want peace and are not invading....well, they don't want peace and they are invading. So it's up to all the know-it-all scientists and the military to figure out a way to dispossess these interlopers...especially now that they are also demanding nookie with some Earth women!

This is a decent film....but the whole giant monster portion definitely seems out of place and hurts the overall film. Very watchable but nothing more.

Barnaby Jones: A Simple Case of Terror
(1977)
Episode 15, Season 5

You've got a friend in me.
One evening, Tom is walking by the warehouse and sees his friend having a fight with some stranger. Tom goes over to help and ends up thinking he just killed the guy. What really happened is that the friend was fighting and stabbed the guy to death...just as Tom arrived. But his 'friend' realizes Tom has had a traumatic brain injury and convinces him that TOM stabbed the guy to death! Later, the killers mob friends insist that Tom is a liability. After all, what if he pieces things together and realizes he didn't kill the man? Hopefully Barnaby can catch up to Tom before it's too late.

This is a pretty average episode of "Barnaby Jones"...with a decent plot and interesting story. Nothing brilliant but also nothing to complain about either.

Barnaby Jones: Copy-Cat Killing
(1977)
Episode 14, Season 5

Good episode...VERY weak ending.
The episode begins with Roland (David Huddleston) kissing his lovely wife goodbye. Well, he must have forgotten something and returns...only to overhear the wife talking to her lover. Soon, Roland arrives at the place where the wife is going to see her lover....and he kills the lover.

Now comes the surprising part...when Barnaby arrives to investigate the guy's death, he meets with the Sheriff...and it's Roland! And, Roland has arranged the body to make it look as if it's yet another body left by a psychotic serial killer! After all, the Sheriff knows the case and knows how to make his victim look like victim #5 of this nut.

This is a generally good episode. But it also repeats a cliche that happened too often on this show. At the end, Barnaby knows who committed the murders...and shows up without ever drawing his gun. Even when the killer and his wife are struggling over the gun, Barnaby just stands there...doing nothing...as if he read the script and knew he's be okay! Now THAT is weak.

Barnaby Jones: Testament of Power
(1977)
Episode 13, Season 5

Inspired by the death of Howard Hughes?
This story was likely inspired in part by the death of Howard Hughes a few months earlier. At his death, there was a long period where no one knew who would be inheriting his huge fortune...and this was a big news story at the time.

It begins with the death of some guy worth half a billion dollars. Who gets the money is unclear...and a couple guys want to make sure they get at least some of it...which means finding the will and destroying them since they know they were cut out of the will. To do this, they kidnap the woman who likely typed up the dead man's will...but she tries to escape and dies in the process. To cover it up, they move the body and pretend she died there instead. Barnaby Jones gets involved to determine what really happened to this lady.

This is an okay episode. The only thing that annoyed me, and it's very minor, is that Jedidah was dating a woman and they were in love...and like in every other show like that, that means you'll never see her again or hear mention of her after this one episode!

Barnaby Jones: The Deadly Charade
(1977)
Episode 12, Season 5

That guy is bloodthirsty!
When the story begins, Nugent (David Hedison) shoots his wife during a dinner party and then shoots himself in a non-fatal location. When guests (including Betty) come to the room and find the dead woman and injured man, Nugent comes up with a story...saying that some guy in a ski mask killed the woman and then shot him. He spends the rest of the episode trying to insure that others are blamed for the killing...making himself the sole heir to the wife's fortune.

This episode does what so many episodes of detective shows does...it has a killing that hits very close to home. Considering Betty is nearly killed and was kidnapped innumerable times on the show, she ought to consider some other line of work!

It's an interesting but not great episode. What I really DID like is that an important part of the show is a Chinese statue....the same statue used in a previous episode to bash someone over the noggin! I can't believe this was coincidental....and folks back in the 1970s might not have noticed this because they could only see episodes as they aired....not one after the other like I saw the shows today.

Barnaby Jones: Sister of Death
(1977)
Episode 11, Season 5

Undoubtedly inspired by the Karen Ann Quinlan case.
Back in 1975, a young lady, Karen Ann Quinlan, had an accident and went into an irreversible coma. She stayed in this state for nearly a decade and was a very well publicized case about the right to die and euthanasia. Well, this story must have influenced the writer of "Sister of Death" because it begins with a very similar situation...with a young woman in an irreversible coma...essentially brain dead and likely to remain that way for years. Her sister, who incidentally is also a 'sister' with the Catholic church is NOT happy about the hospital keeping her alive...and she insists that nature be allowed to take its course and her sister be allowed to die. Only moments later, the Sister leaves the room...and some unknown person pulls the plug on the injured lady. Now, folks assume that the Sister killed her sister...and Barnaby takes the case to determine what really happened...and the case ends up being about prostitution, blackmail and more murder!

This is a clever and interesting episode. However, near the end, it does take a false step when the Sister walks into an obvious trap...which was pretty goofy. Still, it was very original and I could look past this minor problem.

By the way, near the end the Sister is bashed over the dead with a Chinese statue. This same statue would be used in the very next episode! I can't believe this was just a coincidence.

Barnaby Jones: Fraternity of Thieves
(1976)
Episode 10, Season 5

Friendly persuasion.
The story begins with a robbery of some company late at night. During this break-in, a guard discovers the three criminals and shoots one of them, and his partners knock out the guard and take off in their car. Soon after, the man who was shot dies...and his two partners bury him somewhere. You then learn that the three are college buddies who are supplementing their income with robberies!

The dead man's widow has no idea she's a widow...she just knows her husband has been missing. So, she calls in Barnaby Jones to investigate. Soon Barnaby gets to the bottom of things.

This is an interesting caper episode and it's different enough that it doesn't feel like a retread story. Well worth seeing.

The Silent Enemy
(1958)

A neat film because it's apparently based on real folks!
"The Silent Enemy" is a most unusual film because I have never seen another movie like it. The plot, needless to say, is very unusual. It's about the exploits of Lieutenant Crabb (Laurence Harvey), the leader of a group of underwater divers who were responsible for protecting British ships in Gibraltar. To do so, they helped to create the first generation scuba gear--dangerous stuff considering mistakes cost you your life.

The style of the film, as other reviewers have said, is a bit like a documentary and I appreciate that the film lacked the extreme fanfare and 'bigness' of many war films. Instead, it's personal and interesting...a film about some really amazing people.

Ski Troop Attack
(1960)

Pretty dull...but it made money
Roger Corman has a track record that no other filmmaker can match. While he's produced and directed well over 500 films, mostly VERY cheap ones, only one of his movies ever lost money*...so he is an expert at economical filmmaking as well judging the taste of the viewing public.

This is a WWII action picture filmed, of all places, around Deadwood, South Dakota in the Black Hills. It looks good in the movie but is an odd choice that's awfully far from Hollywood. Corman chose this place because he was offered financial incentives by the local government to film there. It stars Michael Forest, a guy who is still making pictures into his 90s, as he recently appeared in a Star Trek fan fiction film that is surprisingly watchable ("Pilgrim of Eternity") as well as a film released in 2020...though I have to admit that "Unbelievable" is total garbage and Forest must have needed the money!

As for the film, it's just okay...at best. While Forest is pretty good, the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable and the story never is all that interesting. I see it as a time-passer or film Corman-lovers should see...all others...you could do better.

*Amazingly, the only film Corman made that lost money was "The Intruder"....one of his BEST films. I strongly recommend you see it!

Unbelievable!!!!!
(2020)

Unbelievable is right!
A few years ago, I was at a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas and saw that there was a free screening of "Unbelievable!!!!!" in a nearby hotel. I didn't have a lot of interest in seeing it but was convinced by one of the producers to see it when he learned I was working for a website that specialized in film reviews. I absolutely hated it...and later the same guy begged me NOT to post my review so I didn't. Years have passed and I notice that the film was finally released and I may as well post my impressions of the film to IMBD...mostly to warn you!

Before I get to this, I should note that I briefly talked to one of the actors who was in the film, Tim Russ. At first he couldn't immediately remember being in the movie but when he DID remember, he rolled his eyes and said something rather derogatory about it.... I can't remember exactly what but it was clear he regretted appearing in the film. I could understand why!

The film stars a lot of B and C-list actors...many of which used to appear on various Star Trek shows. Additionally, Snoop Dog, Gilbert Gottfried and a few others were in the picture. While I love Star Trek.... I just can't pretend that the film was good or that it was funny. I am a fan...but NOT one who blindly enjoys everything Trek related.

The story is dopey. A crazy humanoid plant (Gilbert Gottfried) is angry at the human race and he (it?) is somehow turning all the people of the Earth...and Moon...into plants. So, it's up to a team of incompetents to somehow save the day.

As I mentioned above, the film is cheap and, I might add, cheesy. The special effects are deliberately terrible, the main character (obviously modeled after William Shatner) is a marionette much like the ones seen in Team America: World Police and it's chock full of very bad jokes and silliness. But, having seen this at the recent Star Trek mega-convention in Las Vegas, I also know that most of the folks at the convention will love the film because it makes many allusions to Star Trek and they'll get to see many of their favorite stars in action. As for everyone else, unless you love deliberately bad films (such as "The Toxic Avenger"), stay clear as many of the jokes won't make as much sense and you won't have the same nostalgic connection with most of the cast. Overall, a very hard film to rate...and I think I sort of liked it despite its many, many deficiencies....but I'd have to be drunk to want to see it again.

Los monstruos del terror
(1970)

This must be awful if the filmmakers stooped to ripping off Al Adamson!
Al Adamson was one of the worst filmmakers of the 1960s-70s....much like Ed Wood Jr. Was in the 50s. So imagine my surprise when the IMDB trivia says that the film's title was a ripoff of an Al Adamson title! Wow...talk about setting the bar low! And, this combined with some other trivia (such as the filmmakers running out of money repeatedly and filming as they wrote the thing) lead me to set my expectations VERY low for this movie.

Aliens have come to take over the Earth. But instead of just wiping out people with a plague or ray or space ships, they decide to bring back various monsters and unleash them on the planet. Now considering they reanimate less than a dozen, it would take 158,007 years (more or less) to depopulate the planet! Additionally, while the leader (Michael Rennie) is remorseless and evil, the women that work for him all end up being horny for humans and very emotional.

Occasionally, this film changes abruptly in look--meaning it was pieced together over a long period and, possibly, by different filmmakers and filmstock.

However, this pieced together look is not the problem with the movie, nor are the cheap looking monsters. No, the problem is that the movie is just incredibly boring...making it a bad film that's not even fun to watch in order for a laugh!

I lunghi capelli della morte
(1965)

Maybe something's lost in the translation
"The Long Hair of Death" was originally " I lunghi capelli della morte"...an Italian horror film. I mention this because in many of these old dubbed foreign films, the story itself is often different than it was originally...and I do wonder if this is the case with this film. This is because the plot meanders and makes little sense....perhaps it made a lot more sense when it was originally an Italian film.

Baron Kurt and his father are jerks. First, Kurt has a woman burned for murder and witchcraft...and he knows she didn't commit the murder, since he was the killer. Second, the father forces himself on the dead woman's daughter. Later, this same father kills this daughter. Finally, years pass and Kurt forces the youngest daughter of the dead accused witch to marry him and he treats her abominably. All this worked...but what follows with the reincarnation of the older dead sister...well, most of it was confusing and nonsensical...though the ending was good.

As I said above, perhaps the something was lost when they translated the film into English. All I know is that the film seemed to dance around in circles and really wasn't very satisfying nor enjoyable despite its nice atmosphere.

Blood of Dracula's Castle
(1969)

Not 100% terrible.
"Blood of Dracula's Castle" is a terrible movie. But, for an Al Adamson film, it really is amazingly good! After all, he's the same auteur who brought the world crap like "Dracula Versus Frankenstein", "Blood of Ghastly Horror", "Horror of the Blood Monsters", and "Hell's Bloody Devils"...all films which I rated a 1 some time ago! I enjoy laughing at Adamson's films, so when I found "Blood of Dracula's Castle", I decided to give it a watch...although I actually ended up seeing "Dracula's Castle"...which included a bit of additional footage...sort of like a Director's Cut!

A man inherits a castle in California and learns that there are renters there. The renters turn out to be Mr. And Mrs. Dracula and they hang out there with their bloodthirsty staff, including the butler (John Carradine) who procures them young women so that they might drink their blood. They also have a visitor, a wolfman who LIKES killing...even when he's not in wolfman form. When the Draculas learn that they have a new landlord, they decide to kill him and his girlfriend.

Although the acting isn't great and the music, at times, annoying, this is practically Oscar-worthy compared to the films I mentioned above. At least this one isn't 100% terrible....just mostly terrible.

Ghost Catchers
(1944)

Olsen and Johnson...sort of like Abbott and Costello and the early Marx Brothers put together.
Olsen and Johnson never achieved widespread success in films...they were definitely niche comics. When I've seen their films recently, I was surprised by this as I think some of their films are every bit as good as the best comedies of the era...especially "Helzapoppin". In many ways, they were a bit like Abbott and Costello combined with the zaniness of the very early Marx Brothers films (before they came to MGM and were given MUCH tamer material). Is "Ghost Catchers" among the team's better films?

Early in the film I noticed some good things and some bad. On the good side, Olsen and Johnson are given good support with the likes of Walter Catlett, Lon Chaney Jr., Leo Carillo and Andy Devine. Also, the film is weird....something you want in their films. But on the negative, the comics are stuck with lots of unnecessary and comedy-killing musical numbers. This wasn't uncommon in this era.... Abbott and Costello's early films had singing from the Andrews Sisters and the Marx Brothers always provided their own musical number. But the numbers in "Ghost Catchers" really were pretty dull and really derailed the comics' momentum...plus there was just too much singing. For this reason alone, I much prefer "Hellzapoppin".

As for the plot, a woman and her father have rented a place that ends up being haunted. The rental agent won't budge when they refuse to stay...demanding they honor the lease. So Olsen and Johnson arrive with some friends to try to drive away the ghosts...and there really DO seem to be some ghosts!

The film has laughs...but just too many musical numbers for my taste. Still, it is funny and has the weird sense of humor fans of the team enjoy....well worth your time.

Smoke Signal
(1955)

Generally, very good...and well worth your time.
"Smoke Signal" is an exceptional western in many ways. It has very good acting but more importantly it has excellent writing.

The story begins with a company of cavalry soldiers trying to make their way back to the fort...but hostile Ute Indians are trying to stop them. This is unusual because until recently, the Ute had been pacified. But now they most certainly are NOT and they want to wipe out the white men on their land.

When most of them manage to make it to the fort, things aren't a lot better. The fort's been under siege for some time and sooner or later, they're going to take the fort. However, the Captain (William Talman) is surprised when he and his men arrive at the fort...there's an unexpected prisoner there. Apparently Captain Halliday has been captured and his back story is an unusual one. It seems that Halliday objected to the way his commanding officer treated the Ute. The commander essentially wanted them dead...and Halliday's entreaties to treat them well had fallen on deaf ears. Eventually, in desperation, Halliday deserted...going to live with the Ute. So how did he get in the fort? Well, it seems that the Ute are so angry about the white men and their treatment of them, they want Halliday dead as well....so Halliday seems like a dead man regardless. There's a lot more to the story....try to see it if you can...as it only gets better.

"Smoke Signal" is a product of the 1950s. In the 50s, Hollywood was reassessing the way they portrayed natives. While still they often painted up white folks to play 'Indians' (fortunately they did NOT in this film), often these people were being portrayed more generously....and when they were warlike it was a reaction to their mistreatment and loss of land.

So what did I like about it apart from the acting and writing? Well, I liked the originality of the screenplay.... I cannot think of another western like it...and I've probably seen well over a thousand or more films in the genre. I also loved the Colorado River locale...it was beautiful and seeing the wilderness (mostly around Moab, Utah) is nice. My only complaint is that in closeup shots of the actors as they braved the treacherous river...well, these were done poorly and it's obviously they were rear projecting the river footage behind them...clumsily. It's a shame, as otherwise the footage is amazing...and it's one of the most breathtaking parts of America.

Bad Boy
(1939)

Johnny is not only a crook but a real dope!
"Bad Boy" is the story of Johnny, perhaps one of the stupidest characters I can recall in any low-budge B-movie. Again and again, Johnny has a chance to do something with his life and time and again he throws it away because he is a complete fool...perhaps too much so to make the film realistic.

The story begins right after Johnny graduates from college. He's young and eager and heads to the big city to make his fortune and to help support his longsuffering mother. At first, he works very hard an earns the boss' admiration. However, Johnny makes a new friend at work, Carson, and soon Carson leads Johnny astray...though he didn't have to work that hard to do this! The sober and straight-laced Johnny now drinks, gambles and dates a real golddigger...who he simply cannot afford. So how does he try to manage this? At first, by gambling more. And when that doesn't work, he steals from the company...and ends up, briefly, in jail.

Now you'd think Johnny would have learned his lesson. But Johnny apparently has gerbils living inside his skull and soon he's back with Carson and the hard-hearted ex-girlfriend...and living a life of crime! Will he ever get his comeuppance or will his mother, once again, rescue him?

The film could have worked had it had any subtlety at all...but it doesn't. Like too many cheapo B-movies, it sacrifices realism for economy...economy in not just cost but in the short run-time. As a result, it's not especially good and very obvious. Plus, they make Johnny too stupid to be realistic in any way...and his wife too obviously wicked. Heck, I'm almost surprised they didn't have her dress up like a wicked witch she was so obvious!

By the way, one of the only things I liked about the film was Spencer Williams...at least for a while...later, they, too made him pretty dim! Williams was a very prolific actor during this era and mostly acted in black-only films. It's interesting to see him in a more mainstream film here...even if it is a bad one. Later, Williams would gain a lot of fame playing Andy Brown on TV's "Amos 'n Andy".

We Dive at Dawn
(1943)

Simply terrific
"We Dive at Dawn" is a British war movie made during WWII. Unlike war films from the US during this same period, I've noticed that the British versions tended to be a bit more subdued and realistic...and usually were very well made.

The story stars John Mills as the captain of a British submarine. When it begins, they have just arrived back in port after an uneventful cruise. You see various crew members going home on leave and a bit of their backstories...when suddenly they are all recalled to the ship. Apparently, a new German battleship, the Brandenburg, has just been launched and is leaving port....and they are one of the few ships that has a chance of stopping it. What follows is a very tense and well made film....and, one where I really have no complaints! Well worth seeing.

Hold the Press
(1933)

Surprisingly bad
Tim McCoy was an actor well known for his westerns during, mostly, the 1930s. However, I recently discovered four of his films on YouTube which were NOT westerns...and all made by Columbia Pictures. Some of them are quite good ("Police Car 17") and some, like "Hold the Press", which definitely are not.

In this film, Tim plays a crusading reporter...a really stupid one, actually. Why do I say that? Because he wants to get the goods on a mob and gets himself arrested for drunk driving in order to get thrown into prison!! Now I've seen similar films where the reporter makes a deal with the prosecutor's office to PRETEND to have broken the law and go undercover, but not here...he has a prison record now because of his dopey plan! In the end, he learns that the mobsters have an in with some folks on the parole board...but by then I'd already checked out due to the dumb plot and overall dullness of the film. It clearly could have used the excitement, shooting and fighting you'd normally see in a Tim McCoy western. A major misfire...mostly due to lousy writing.

Barnaby Jones: Renegade's Child
(1976)
Episode 9, Season 5

Not a particularly good episode...though even this subpar episode is worth seeing.
In "Renegade's Child", Barnaby is working for a mother and grandmother to find a little boy. It seems that the mother was sent to prison and since then he's been with his father (Don Johnson). But the father is a mess....a total mess. While he loves the boy, he's also a professional criminal...and a rather dumb one. Why so dumb? Well, first he robs the US Army of some rifles...which means a LOT of prison time when he is caught and a LOT of FBI agents looking for him*. Second, he's also pretty dumb and his partner obviously is out to destroy him....but he can't seem to believe it! Can Barnaby catch up to the boy and save him or will he end up stuck in the crossfire?

The fact that the father was so dumb (as well as the mother) didn't help this one much. But also despite having a kid in peril, I found I just didn't care very much. Nor did I care for the finale where Barnaby charges in against ridiculous odds to save the day.

*By the way, the FBI were never talked about or seen in the episode which is VERY odd. You'd think with such a serious and high profile crime that half of the FBI's agents would be out looking for the guy. You'd also think they'd quickly realize he had an accomplice and would arrest him as well....very odd indeed.

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