MartinHafer

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Reviews

Hong Kong Nights
(1935)

This probably wouldn't play very well in China!
"Hong Kong Nights" is a cheapo film that is set in Honk Kong and Macao. When seen today, the film is a bit cringe-inducing, as most of the Chinese folks are treated like servants. They are also either evil or a bit dumb...or at least the leading lady believes when her rickshaw driver doesn't understand English! Show this to a Chinese friend...and you might just see their head explode!

The film stars Tom Keene as, of all people, a guy named Tom Keene. His lady love is Trina (Wera Engels) and Keene is assisted by the dim-witted Wally (Warren Hymer...in a very typical sort of role). Keene is working for the US government searching for illegal arms smuggling and Trina just happens to be involved with one of the suspects.

I noticed that IMDB pointed out that Hymer just disappeared from the movie about 75% of the way through it. Considering he had a terrible reputation as a nasty drunk, I wonder if he was tossed off the picture and they just finished it without him.

So is it any good? Not really. It's pretty stagy and dull. Not a terrible film...but not a good one either.

All for Mary
(1955)

What could have been funny instead sadly, becomes tedious.
Clive (Nigel Patrick) and Humphrey (David Tomlinson) both are heading to a vacation in the Swiss Alps. They meet on the plane and Humphrey is a bit annoying. Later, they find themselves at the same resort and get on each other's nerves. They also both set their same sights on the same woman. But instead of wooing her, they get chicken pox and a ridiculously annoying woman comes to take care of them. What's next?

I think had "All for Mary" been constructed a bit differently, it would have worked much better. Let me explain. First, nearly all the film takes place either in an airplane or inside a ski resort...and because of this, it seems very stagy...more like a play than a movie. Second, the film often spends too much time on the annoying sequences...particularly the Nanny bit in the attic of the resort. Instead of being funny, I wanted to see Clive do some ultra-violence on Nanny!! This leads to what is the biggest problem with the film....as too many instances of Clive and Humphrey being annoyed and these instances seem to go on and on. Their annoyances during the film slowly begin to annoy viewers as well.

Shadow of the Law
(1930)

Hard to believe....but enjoyable.
When the story begins, Jim (William Powell) has taken a neighbor in his apartment on their first date. Later that evening after he returned her to her flat, there is a HUGE commotion in her place. Jim arrives to see what the problem is and a guy is beating Ethel. He tries to stop the guy and quiet things down...and the guy attacks him! While defending himself, the guy is knocked out the window to his death. Jim had done nothing wrong but when he tells the police, his witness, Ethel, beats it and can't be found. With no proof he's innocent, he's sent to prison.

While in prison, Jim in a model prisoner. So, after three years he's made a foreman and given special privileges...though he STILL has a life sentence. In addition, the warden wants him to be a snitch...to find out where his cellmate, Pete, has hidden the loot from a robbery. Well, Jim will have no part of snitching and instead warns Pete. And, since he won't snitch, Jim decides to use his privileges to help him escape...which he does.

A couple years pass. Jim has a new identity and is a well to do executive. But he STILL has that life sentence hanging over him, so he has had detectives searching high and low for Ethel. When he finds her, he has Pete (who has now finished his sentence) approach her about telling the authorities the truth. She pretends to agree but soon runs away because she's an evil weasel. What's next? I won't say....but remember, she IS an evil weasel...and her plans will NOT be for good!

The plot is very, very difficult to believe (both at the beginning and the end). But even in cases like this, if the acting is good you can overlook this....and the acting is fine. Powell is typically good and Paul Hurst is excellent as Pete. Well worth seeing...though very improbable.

Final Curtain
(1957)

Too bad the network execs weren't completely insane...otherwise this MIGHT have been a TV series.
"Final Curtain" is a pilot for a failed TV series from Ed Wood that was assumed lost. However, back in 2012, it was shown at a film festival and since then someone posted it to YouTube.

The film is not as horrible as some of Ed Wood's other productions...not that this is a glowing endorsement. But if you didn't know it was from Wood, you might think it was some art film!

The pilot is much like major portions of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in that it obviously was shot without sound and to 'cleverly' get past this, there's some ultra-bizarro narration and weird edits. As I said, it seems much more like an art film than anything else....a very BAD art film. Most of it simply consist of a guy in a tux staring about an empty theater as nonsensical narration supposedly tells his increasingly distraught thoughts of terror.

While this is a bad film and it's obvious why the proposed series never was made, for laughs I suggest you show the film (without the opening credits that say it's from Ed Wood) to a pretentious friend. Tell them it's a lost Ingmar Bergman film he made for American TV...and watch them wax philosophical about this great pilot and how it would have changed TV for the better.

Overall, very bad but not nearly as bad as Wood could have done!

Alive and Kicking
(1958)

Three elderly runaways!
"Alive and Kicking" begins after three old women escape from their retirement homes in search of adventure. The coppers are looking for them and they hide out in a motor boat...and they accidentally motor off to sea. There, they are picked up by a Russian trawler and the sailors are quite nice and plan on taking them back to the Soviet Union. However, they are able to convince these Russians to release them to a nearby Irish island. There, they find a seemingly abandoned house and they take refuge there. Soon, however, the new owner shows and he welcomes them. But before they can work out where the three women are going to live, it seems that the man had a heart attack and tumbled into the sea. Now, with no relatives to inherit the place, the three decide they wouldn't really be hurting one if they pretend to be his nieces. Soon they are accepted by the islanders and are quite happy. However, how can they afford to live there? After all, with no money, there's no food!

The story isn't particularly deep but it is cute and enjoyable. My only complaint was the poor use of rear projection in the motor boat sequence. Other than that, it's nice viewing...despite the old ladies being a bit larcenous. If I had to sum of the movie in a word, I'd say...charming.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
(2018)

Wow...talk about uneven!
"The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is a frustratingly uneven film. It's made up of six stories all set in the old west and the problem is that the tone and quality of the six segments varies widely. The first is, by far, the best and most interesting...and the only one that has anything to do with Buster Scruggs. The segments about the limbless man seems, to me, to be the most pointless and cruel. And the rest all fall somewhere in between. It's also very odd, as the first segment was completely comedic...sort of like a Roy Rogers or Gene Autry film with a sociopathic singing cowboy. But, oddly, most of the rest aren't funny in the least. Because of this, I just felt very frustrated as I watched....it just seemed incoherent overall. I would have much preferred if the first segment had been stretched out to a feature-length film....that would have worked for me. But overall, it just didn't work....with segments ranging from 10 to 2 in score.

Dear Zindagi
(2016)

Resist the urge to turn this one off!! Really...keep watching and allow it to impress you.
I need to warn you about "Dear Zingadi". It's a film you likely will not enjoy...at least for the first half of the story. Now this does NOT mean you shouldn't see it. On the contrary, it's a really amazing film...one of the best Bollywood films I've seen in some time.

The story is about Kaira (Alia Bhatt) a young woman who SHOULD be happy but desperately hates herself and her life...though she really has no idea this is so. But she knows she's vaguely unsatisfied...particularly in most of her close relationships. She is disconnected emotionally from her parents and she has a series of relationships or near relationships with men where she destroys them. Eventually, she does something drastic...she seeks therapy.

Her therapist, Dr. Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) is extremely odd and repeatedly he says and does things which confuse her. He certainly does NOT act like a therapist and she often leaves sessions a bit confused. Where is all this leading? See the film and don't try to guess why!

While the film isn't perfect, it's actually one of the best films I've seen about psychotherapy and the therapeutic process. Being a trained psychotherapist myself, I could really appreciate this. Sure...they didn't get every detail perfect...but the writing for Kaira and SRK was spot on...and very intelligent as well.

Overall, this is a difficult film to predict as it often avoids the usual cliches. Often you see them coming...only to have the film go a different direction. This is particularly true with Kaira...as at first she seemed like the overused cliche of the spoiled rich girl who eventually becomes kind and decent. And, when it didn't exactly go that way, I was thrilled. The same can be said about the therapist. Dr. Khan's bowing out of her life was done in a somewhat unexpected manner...and I love it when films surprise me. To top this off, kudos to Bhatt for her fine acting...and you really notice this late in the film. As for SRK, he's wonderful...like we know he can be when he gets excellent material. A nearly perfect film.

By the way, if you care, the inkblots you see from the Rorschach Test in the film are two real ones. Often TV and films show fake ones but they are the real thing.

Jab Harry Met Sejal
(2017)

A rom-com where one of the characters thinks she's god's gift to men.
I noticed a major problem when I looked at reviews on IMDB about this movie before I started watching it. There were TONS of one and two sentence reviews that either gave it a 1 or a 10....and in both cases they really DON'T explain why they felt that way about the film at all. They either say it is garbage or one of the best films ever! With such reviews, it makes it hard to determine anything about the movie...so I just had to see it for myself as I found many of the reviews to be mostly useless. I sure long for the days when IMDB used to require reviews be at least 10 lines in order to get posted!! I also wonder how honest these reviews are when so little effort was made in writing them.

I must admit that the film started off VERY badly for me. After all, it's a rom-com and you know by the end of the movie that the pair will fall in love....so why did they make the female lead so incredibly easy to hate. Sejal (Anushka Sharma) comes off as an incredibly spoiled, entitled and thoughtless 'lady'....one who simply thinks most people are beneath her and money solves everything. In fact, she so much as says this! How can a movie recover from such writing? And, who would root for them to get together by the end of the story?

Harry (SRK) is a tour guide who works in Europe and apparently he specializes in working with groups of Indians. Well, after working with one tour group for a month, he is happy to have gotten them on the airplane home and it's time to relax. However, he's shocked when as he's leaving the airport, one of them comes running out looking for him....and missing her airplane because of this. It seems that Sejal lost her engagement ring and is heartbroken...which is very understandable. However HOW she acts is simply unacceptable. Instead of asking Harry for help, she demands he drop everything and take her all over the Netherlands looking for the accursed ring. She never says please or thank you and then insists that since she's rich, that means he MUST help her! Even when he says a white lie that he has another tour group to meet up with (understandable in this situation), she tells him to blow them off and help her because...well...she's apparently better than everyone else. She then threatens to give him a negative review in order to get him fired in order to get him to cooperate. How can a film recover from this? And, more importantly, how can a movie be romantic when the woman is beneath contempt?!

I've seen Khan himself play similar roles...such as the obnoxious playboy who thinks he's adorable and so he essentially annoys a woman until she inevitably falls for him. This must be a popular Indian trope as I've seen it quite often. So, obviously some folks often accept this as a plot device (after all, no one is more popular in Indian movies today than SRK)...but if you aren't Indian, it might seem really odd. I am used to rooting for nice people to fall in love in rom-coms and caring about them...and I have a hard time when they aren't nice. I don't think I'm alone here. It's a major strike against the movie.

So did the film get any better and is it worth seeing despite some poor writing? Eventually, yes....but not after more impossible to believe antics from Sejal. In a very annoying scene filmed in Prague, a creep bothers Sejal in a club and she rightfully fights back. However, when Harry rescues her and they run and hide from the creep and his gang of violent friends, she is insufferable. At one point, while they are hiding, she yells out to reveal where they are!!! Why? I DON'T KNOW!!! Then, after they somehow manage to escape again, she starts sobbing loudly and keeps crying...again, possibly alerting the bad guys where they are! If that had happened in real life, I could only imagine Harry tossing her in the river and running away in order to save himself!! But then, after this, they start to have romantic feelings towards each other! Have I missed something here?! No...it seems that the transition from brat to romantic lead is NOT going to be an easy one in this film.

I noticed some complain about how old SRK is compared to his female leading lady. Well, perhaps this is a mistake and giving him a more mature woman would have helped. But to me, this is such a minor concern compared to how godawful they made Sejal that it's not all that important and missed the film's HUGE problem. Plus, for a man in his 50s, Khan does look amazing. With all the lovely location shoots and nice music, the film really had to work hard to alienate me THIS much...but by the end I simply was not on 'Team Sejal'...I still disliked her and think the writers are almost entirely to blame for many of the negative reviews. Although, on the other hand, the actors could have simply refused to make it after they read the script...which they clearly should have done...or at least demanded a re-write.

Namaste Wahala
(2021)

Woefully underrated....and it deserves to be seen.
"Namaste Wahala" is a very good film....and I wonder WHY it has a paltry rating of only 5.1 on IMDB. I just do not understand it. I have my theories...but don't want to get into conjecture. What I do know is that it's a lovely film...one that really hit me emotionally...and it's DEFINITELY a film to watch with a box of Kleenex nearby.

The story is filmed in Nigeria and it's about a very beautiful couple that you are bound to like. But there is a major obstacle in their way. Didi (Ini Dima Okojie) is Nigerian and Raj (Ruslaan Mumtaz) is Indian...and the film is about the uphill battle they both face with their parents. In both cases, the parents simply don't want their children marrying someone who isn't one of 'their people'.

In addition to this plot, there's a shocking subplot involving a friend of Didi who is assaulted by a brute of a man. And, since Didi is a lawyer, she's representing her friend in a lawsuit against the jerk. But, it turns out, her father and his law firm are representing the brutal jerk! This, combined with the ethnic/racial differences make life tough for Didi...as well as Raj.

As I watched the film, I think it was written well because the problems the couple face are things that can be blamed on everyone involved. Neither Raj nor Didi prepared their families for the prospect of a new in-law of a totally different background. And, as for the parents, it's obvious that they need to learn to look beyond race and ethinicity...and their own prejudices. It also seems to say that it's best to trust your beloved family...as in the end, they will usually do the right thing....so don't give up.

All in all, it's a very sweet and interesting film...one that didn't seem too heavy-handed or obvious...and one I recommend strongly. It's a good romance but it has plenty for everyone...if they give it a chance.

Beethoven
(1992)

A cute film about doggies....and a vet who wants to shoot the family pet in the head with exploding bullets!!!
"Beethoven" is a film that easily illustrates that some folks in Hollywood just ain't right! After all, you have a family film with an adorable dog and cute kids....and a plot involving an evil vet (Dean Jones) who wants to earn money by testing out exploding bullets on their pet's head!!! What were they thinking?!?!?!

Now, had they made it a cartoon (like the original "101 Dalmatians"), then it would have seemed cartoony and unreal. But here, you take a beloved Disney actor and he really likes to make money torturing and murdering dogs...and for younger kids especially, this IS real. I am so thankful that I never showed this to my kids when they were little.... I would probably STILL be paying their psychotherapy bills if I had!!

The bottom line is that if you have older kids, you can laugh off the plot and enjoy the film mostly for its puppy scenes at the beginning. But I would NEVER show it to younger kids (perhaps 7 and younger)...never. A clear case where the sequels couldn't help but be better...unless they, too, are about vivisection!!

By the way. All this is a real shame as the cast was good and Beethoven lovable. But the script was just perplexing.

Payday
(1973)

A slice out of the life of Maury Dann...warts and all.
Rip Torn plays Maury Dann, a country music singer who is traveling about the USA with his band. However, the film is not a traditional narrative. Instead of a typical beginning and ending the story is more like a slice out of his life....showing the man, warts and all. And, frankly, he's mostly warts. In other words, off stage he's a user...a guy more interested in various women, drinking, pills and himself than his music. It's not a pretty picture...and in some ways reminds viewers of Andy Griffith from "A Face in the Crowd"....a guy who seems nice to his public but behind the scenes he's just a creep.

This is probably not a great film to show the kids, your mother or Father Flannigan if he stops by for a visit. This is because there's a fair amount of cussing and boobies during the course of the film...making it seem realistic but also making it anything but family-friendly! Worth seeing but unpleasant viewing.

Quick Change
(1990)

Can they EVER manage to escape New York City?!
The story is set in New York City and it begins with a clown (Bill Murray) walking into a bank and announcing that it's a robbery. To show everyone he's serious, he has a gun and a bomb. Soon he ushers everyone into the bank vault as he talks with the police negotiator. Eventually, he lets three hostages go and the police don't realize they are the clown without makeup and his two confederates (Geena Davis and Randy Quaid). As a result, the cop in charge doesn't realize they've left and he thinks the clown is still inside....giving the crooks ample time to escape and make their way to the airport.

What follows is a ridiculous comedy of errors where, try as they might, the trio can't manage to get out of the city. All sorts of crazy and seemingly impossible things happen to thwart them.

The film has many funny moments. But it also, at times, becomes a tad tedious....as you want them to just get out of the city already! It does make for a rather thin plot...and it reminds me a bit of Neil Simon's "The Out of Towners". But overall the good easily outweighs the bad and the film is worth your time.

Anjaam
(1994)

At first, he seems like the typical obnoxious playboy....but then, his really dark side is exposed.
I have seen quite a few Indian films (often from the 1990s) where you have a male protagonist who is a spoiled, rich playboy who falls for a woman....and by the end of the film, he's changed and they fall in love. "Anjaam" looks much like one of these but then instead of the protagonist reforming, this guy becomes dangerous....which is MUCH more realistic than him becoming 'nice' by the end of the story.

Vijay (Shah Rukh Khan) is the obnoxious playboy in this film. He sees Shivani (Madhuri Dixit) on a TV commercial for the airline for which she's a hostess and he's smitten with her. He repeatedly follows her and acts boorish but instead of her falling for this, she marries another man. Does that stop Vijay? Nope...because he's emotionally unstable and twisted...and he will either get her or destroy her. I'll say no more...I don't want to spoil the suspense.

So is the film good or not? Well, it's a bit of both. Since it was made in the 1990s, the acting is a bit less subtle in films you'd see today. The music, also, like older films is a bit dated. Also, the cross-dressing trio just seem way out of place in such a serious film...I was never sure why they were there in the first place. Otherwise, it's a very good, suspenseful and creepy film...and SRK lovers might be surprised at how twisted and sick he is in this one. If you thought he was bad in his gangster films like "Don" or "Raees", well he seems a lot worse and dangerous in "Anjaam"! So, if you are looking for a sweet love story...keep looking! Instead, it's a film with strong feminist vibes...showing how godawful not only Vijay can be but the rest of the men in the story as well.

By the way, there are at least two other Indian films called "Anjaam" which came out before this one. It turns out neither have anything to do with this film other than the titles.

Also by the way, can a judge in India really sentence a person to prison without hearing all the evidence or allowing a jury to decide the case? This part of the film really confused me.

Raees
(2017)

Raess is more realistic and gritty than some of SRK's other crime films.
.As an American, I was a bit surprised when I watched "Raees". I had no idea that Gujarat or any of the other Indian states had prohibition. I guess it makes sense, as a few counties in American states still have various forms of prohibition. But as an American, I instinctively worry about prohibition because it went so poorly here...and encouraged organized crime...much like you see in this film.

The story is a reworking of the life of Abdul Latif*, a huge figure in the Gujarat underworld in the 80s and 90s. But, because the filmmakers didn't want to be sued, they changed names and say in the prologue that the film is total fiction...though Latif's family didn't take it that way!

The story starts with Raees (Shah Rukh Khan) as a boy. He is making bootleg (and often poisonous) alcohol to support his family. But when the business is effectively shut down, the boy switches and begins transporting bottles of liquor for an underworld boss. The film shows Raees' career as he moves up in the industry until, ultimately, he's in charge of liquor in the state. Not surprisingly, the journey is a very violent one...and in true Indian film fashion, it also includes a love story and dancing....something you don't see in all Indian films but likely in all of SRK's movies.

So is it any good? Naturally. SRK's other crime films are very well made...though violent and not the sort of faire all his fans want. I know a huge SRK fan who adores his films, but cannot take all the blood and gore of his crime films...and this one does have quite a bit. It isn't so much that I am complaining...just that you should know this before watching.

In some ways, this film is a lot like SRK's "Don" films...minus all the special effects and improbability. Instead, it's more realistic and gritty...mostly because it was based on a real person (though the filmmakers deny this). And, in the film Raess is more like a hyper-violent Robin Hood-like guy...he murders and punches...but also has a soft spot for the downtrodden. I have no idea if Abdul Latif was like that in any way.

Overall, this is an excellent crime film...but not one for the faint-hearted! It is violent and intense...as most crime films are expected to be.

*Abdul Latif should NOT be mistaken for Abdul Latif Sharif, an Egyptian-Mexican criminal and mass murderer...who made Abdul Latif look like a pussycat..though Latif was a terrorist and murderer linked to some bombings. Unlike Latif, there is NOTHING good that can be said about Sharif...one of the most brutal and evil men of our time. Both, incidentally, were killed some time ago.

La vie privée des animaux
(1990)

Why can't they translate this into other languages?!
"La vie privée des animaux" is a short French show which features video clips of animals with human speech. A few of these fall flat...a few are very funny.

An Italian friend of mine has been repeatedly suggesting I watch "La vie privée des animaux", though I have resisted since my French language skills are not great. It did help some that the clips he sent me were captioned (also in French), but as I watched I kept thinking "Why don't they re-dub this into different languages OR at least caption it in other languages?!". After all, the show is cute, it has a very fast running time (I think at 30-60 minutes they show might get a bit annoying) and it wouldn't cost a lot to do this. Until then, you can only see it in French...which isn't all bad because the show's producers have found some hilarious voice actors and listening to their inflection, tone and sounds of their voices was entertaining.

I could just imagine now tacking an episode of this at the end of a normal nature documentary...just to see the audience's reactions as the animals talk and do a lot of silly things!

Penny Wise
(1935)

The plot makes no sense....none at all...but it's enjoyable.
"Penny Wise" is a short starring Joe Cook that has some funny moments, though its plot makes no sense whatsoever.

When the story begins, Joe is working at a department store and he's a complete incompetent. At the same time, the department store's owner is talking to his daughter and her boyfriend. The owner says that any incompetent can run the store...and to prove it he makes Joe the general manager.

Soon Joe is making all sorts of insane decisions....ranging from doubling all the salaries to having a buy anything in the store for $.01 and get another item for free sale. Soon, the store is completely empty and the owner arrives...and is suitably angry.

The biggest reason to see this one is to see Cook's stunts near the end. Watching him walking on a globe and then riding a unicycle is actually pretty impressive...particularly the globe bit. A few of the sight gags are clever as well. As for the plot...well...it just seems like an excuse for Cook to do his shtick.

You're a Sweetheart
(1937)

Inconsequential...but enjoyable.
While I don't think "You're a Sweetheart" is a great film, it's well worth watching just to see the ultra-bizarro musical number with folks dressed up like birds near the beginning of the movie!

The story is about a Broadway show starring Betty (Alice Faye) which seems doomed. Why? Because the opening night is scheduled the same night as some big charity gala....and all of high society will be at the gala and not the show. So the producer comes up with a weird scheme with Hal Adams (George Murphy)...to have Hal pose as an Oklahoma millionaire and buy up the entire show for its first week run. The thinking is that if the public CAN'T see the show, they'll really want to see it. In other words it's a big publicity stunt.

As for Betty, for some inexplicable reason, no one tells her this is all a stunt. So, she believes Hal is rich and she acts accordingly. What will she do when she learns he's a phony? See the film and find out for yourself.

The best part of the film is the interplay of Faye and Murphy. But it slows down considerably when they get to portions involving the Broadway show...and I would have been happy with less of this...especially since it seemed more like a talent show than a Broadway show. Still, it's enjoyable if you set your expectations lower and see it as more of just a nice time-passer.

Stormy Trails
(1936)

It's just okay...nothing special.
Rex Bell was a third-tier B-western star whose biggest claim to fame was marrying Clara Bow. And, after seeing "Stormy Trails" I can see why he wasn't nearly as famous as many of his contemporaries. It's not that Bell was bad in the movie, he wasn't, but he also lacked the charisma needed to be a big star...at least in this film.

As for the plot, it's not really like the summary on IMDB. It seems that someone is trying to destroy Tom (Bell) and take away his land. And, surprisingly, they're using Tom's brother in their schemes. They are working hard to make sure the note on Tom's land isn't paid...as they want that land...but for what reason?!

There's nothing wrong with this film nor is there anything that really stands out positively as well. A decent but routine B-western....one that might have been improved with a sidekick or a few laughs.

Wildcat Trooper
(1936)

This film stars Kermit and Fuzzy...and it's NOT a Muppet film!
Sgt. Gale Farrell is a Mountie and he's looking for the bandit, 'The Raven'. Well, the search doesn't take long, as the bandit tries stealing one of Farrell's horses....and is, of course, captured. On The Raven's possession is a letter introducing him to a crook named McClain and so he pretends to be The Raven to infiltrate the gang and find out who McClain's partner is.

If the plot sounds awfully familiar, you're right. Quite a few B-westerns used this plot device. So is it any good? Yes and no. The stuntwork done by Kermit Maynard during the film is incredible...and he shows off his horsemanship. Also, Fuzzy Knight is decent as the NOT stupid Mountie....a nice change of pace. But on the other, Maynard's charisma is pretty low and there's not a lot to distinguish other than seeing Jim Thorpe as a native early in the film...yes, THAT Jim Thorpe.

Paroled - To Die
(1938)

Not especially good.
I've seen and enjoyed several Bob Steele westerns before I watched this one but there was just something about this one that left me flat. I think most of it is that Steele just didn't seem up to par...and his acting seemed rather stilted.

Doug (Steele) and Harvey Meline hate each other. However, while Doug apparently can see through this villain, the somewhat dim sheriff doesn't. Doug insists Harvey is up to something...but exactly what is still unknown. The rivalry becomes so bitter and Meline is worried Doug might find out exactly what he's up to, so he sets up Doug to take the rap for a bank robbery of Meline's bank.

Not only is the acting subpar, but the entire story is wrapped up by an external source that arrives to explain the plot and stop the baddie...which seemed pretty weak. Keep looking...there are much better B-westerns out there than this one.

King of the Sierras
(1938)

Seamlessly combining two films to make one?
Before you watch "King of the Sierras" you might want to read the IMDB summary that explains in detail the strange path this took to become a film. To summarize, after the merger of six tiny studios into one, dubbed 'Republic Pictures', the new studio found that among its possessions was a partially complete film which starred two horses, Rex the Wonder Horse and Sheik. Rather than tossing the footage and accepting their loss, someone had the bright idea of using a new cast and using the existing footage! As a result, the film consists of lots of flashback scenes clumsily linked by new footage with Uncle Hank and young Tommy. The story is essentially about wild horses...and their many adventures (yawn).

So did this scheme work? From what I saw, no. The story seems choppy, the sound uneven and the overall effort is pretty dull stuff. After all, most of the action consists of horses running about in the wild. To make it worse, they had the kid sing...and the kid DEFINITELY should not have sung. This probably led to a lot of theater patrons using that time to use the restroom or buy popcorn.

So should you watch it? No...I wouldn't recommend it. After all, if I had to suffer, why should you as well?

The White Hope
(1936)

Joe's running from debt collectors AND trying to train a boxer.
"The White Hope"* is a Joe Cook film...and after seeing it, I can see why Cook only made a few films....it just isn't very funny. Cook himself isn't bad...but the script has very few laughs and a dopey 'punching machine'.

Throughout the film, Joe is running from a man. After all, bill collectors and the IRS are after him. But it's hard to keep running from these folks when he's supposed to be training a boxer for the big fight. But he finds time to also make a bet on a horse race...in the hopes that it will pay him enough to get the collectors off his back.

There just aren't many laughs....and for a comedy short, that's a problem. As I mentioned above, the worst is the punching machine. Who would build a machine to punch people?! And, if they did, would they keep accidentally using it on themselves?! Who wrote this and thought it was funny??

By the way, at one point, the opposing boxer threatens to 'break his beezer'. A beezer's an old slang term meaning 'nose'.

*The term 'white hope' or 'great white hope' is a pretty offensive one if you think about it. It refers to a white boxer who can possibly take the title away from a black champion, such as Jack Johnson or Joe Lewis.

Come On, Tarzan
(1932)

No, not THAT Tarzan!!
The Tarzan in the title to this film is NOT referring to the famous Edgar Rice Burroughs character, but the horse ridden by Ken Maynard in his films. Often the horses of B-western stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were mentioned in the title or in the opening credits....and it must have been a bit demeaning for actors credited below the horses!

The film stars Ken Maynard, an actor who was very prolific in the 1930s but who pretty much wore out his welcome by the mid-1940s. How? Apparently, Ken was a drunk and one of the most hated cowboy stars of the day and folks got sick of him. Read up on him on IMDB to learn more about this. Despite this, I decided to try another one of Maynard's films.

Much of the plot from "Come On, Tarzan" was repeated in a later Hopalong Cassidy film, "Partner's of the Plains". I love Cassidy films (he's my favorite B-western star)....but it's among his worst mostly because the female character in the film is so annoying, ridiculous and one-dimensional!

When the story begins, a group of jerks are rounding up wild stallions and shooting them for their hides. They wander onto land that belongs to the ranch where Ken is the foreman...and instead of leaving, they try to beat up Ken and keep killing horses!! Later, the crooks convince the dim-witted sheriff that the horse, Tarzan, is a menace and should be destroyed.

In the meantime, the new owner of the ranch, Pat Riley, has arrived and Ken and his workers arrange for a rootin', tootin' welcome. However, it turns out the heir to the ranch is an heiress...and one with a broom stuck up her....well, you can fill in the rest. She assumes the worst of Ken and fires him. However, when the will is read, it turns out that Ken is the designated administrator of the estate....and he has to okay any of Pat's decisions until Ken is sure she has sound judgment. This turns out to be pretty wise, as Pat thinks she knows everything about the ranch...even though she's from back east and knows nothing about the west. Is there any way that Pat and Ken can work out a real working arrangement between them? And, can Ken and his men thwart the evil intentions of the gang of horse shooters, as they not only want to kill the horses but plan on robbing the ranch of its livestock.

This film is a bit better than the Hopalong Cassidy film simply because Pat is less obnoxious and hateful than the lady in Hoppy's film. Her nasty attitude changes much sooner than the lady in the Hoppy movie...and that makes it more believable. As for Maynard, he's okay. He has less charisma than some of his contemporaries but he's not bad. But I couldn't believe the insane stunt...and it looked as if Maynard actually did it himself. Watch the scene where three guys are riding on two horses and you'll see what I mean!!

By the way, the ranch owner in this film was played by the ill-fated Merna Kennedy, the ex-wife of Busby Berkeley. After the divorce, she remarried and died only four days later...at age 36 of a heart attack!

Bridal Bail
(1934)

The closest Grady Sutton ever came to getting married.
The plot for "Bridal Bail" certainly is unusual. June and Charlie (June Brewster and George Lewis) want to marry, but June's mother inexplicably wants her to marry the most obnoxious and unlikable cop you could imagine. So, they run away to get married...taking their friends Grady and Carol (Grady Sutton and Carol Tevis) with them. However, another cop stops them for speeding and this is a problem since the couple had already agreed to get married as a publicity stunt at a local movie theater. But because they are in jail, they cannot get married....and so Carol and Grady get married instead. No, the pair are NOT wanting to be married but they plan on going over the border into Mexico to get a quickie divorce! But naturally many problems develop!

This is far from the most logical films I've ever seen...as you can tell by reading the plot above. It also made no sense when the obnoxious cop went into Mexico and started threatening everyone...as if he had jurisdiction in Mexico. But, it's still a pleasant and diverting short....though it's easy to see why Tevis and Brewster never became big-time actresses with films like these and the others I've seen.

The Man from Hell
(1934)

Ruined by Russell.
Normally I'd never call out one person and say that a film stank because of them, but such is the case with Reb Russell in "The Man from Hell". It seems that Russell was an All-American football player in college and this and his youthful looks made him a natural for westerns. Sadly, however, after a dozen films, it was obvious he just wasn't cut out to be an actor. I assume he was a swell guy....and I've never heard anything bad about the guy aside from his inability to act...and it's obvious here in his first starring B-western. When he delivers lines, they sound flat...as if he's reading them instead of acting them. And, despite being a decent looking guy, he has less charisma than a bilious frog!

It's sad, as the basic plot is pretty good and the film could have been good with a different man in the lead. It seems that Clint (Russell) was just released from prison for a robbery he still claims he never committed. He also is committed to staying out of trouble...which is tough. For instance, in the opening scene, a local jerk is in a fight and ends up slapping around a little boy in the process. When Clint calls him on this, the jerk takes a swing at him....and Clint knocks him down...only to get yelled at and threatened by the local marshal. Why Clint never tried to explain WHY he decked the guy, I have no idea...nor did it make any sense that no one in the crowd said a word about WHY Clint slugged the man. This isn't great writing and seems odd. Can Clint manage to avoid breaking the law AND proving he was innocent in this awful town? See the film to find out...or, don't bother, as there are hundreds (if not more) better westerns waiting to be seen.

The bottom line is that putting a terrible actor in the lead will doom a low-budgeted film. After all, it already had a few strikes against it due to the cheapness of the production. The only bright point is that like many Bs of the early to mid-1930s, you get to see George Hayes before he developed his 'Gabby' Hayes persona. Yep, gone is his grizzled beard and he looks downright respectable in this and a few other westerns!

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