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The Prime Minister

Three cheers for Colonialism!
"The Prime Minister" is a film of its times. As Britain had its back up against the wall against the German war machine, most of the films made in the UK were intended to bolster the war effort...either directly or indirectly. So, while the film is set in the 19th century, its aim clearly is to harken back to a bygone era...when Britain was the strongest colonial power on the planet. It also has the theme of unity and draws obvious parallels to Churchill and his seemingly lone campaign against the Axis. The film also was designed to turn American sentiment towards the cause of this underdog. As a result, the film seems a bit overly schmaltzy and overly dramatic at times. Realism was being sacrificed for propaganda reasons.

Unlike the earlier Warner Brothers film, "Disraeli" (1929), this film from the same studio tries to do an overview of Benjamin Disraeli's entire career. It follows him as a rich dandy to joining Parliament to becoming Prime Minister (several and on). All the while, his wife is by his side...encouraging and pushing him toward greatness.

So is it any good? Yes, but I was surprised that occasionally John Gielgud (Disraeli) overacted a bit. He also struggled with showing emotion...any emotion. He was a great actor, but you can't see a lot of this greatness here. But as I said above, realism was sacrificed a bit in order to make the film rousing and a propaganda piece...and that had to effect his acting. The film also, at least in 2022, a bit stodgy and slow. Not a bad film...but you might learn a better lesson about the man by reading the Wikipedia article on him. Also, I agree with the reviewer, as it seems odd that the movie never once mentions that Disraeli was Jewish (though he later converted to the Church of England)...odd considering the state of Jewry in 1941.

Bridge to the Sun

A most unusual film.
"Bridge to the Sun" is a true story. An American, Gwen Harold (Carroll Baker), meets a Japanese diplomat, Hidenari Terasaki (James Shigeta), in 1931 and they marry. While the cultural differences between them seem insurmountable, it's made so much worse by the outbreak of WWII. Since Teresaki is a Japanese national, he's deported to Japan...and his wife agrees to follow him. Much of the film is about her experiences during the war as well as the difficuties her husband faced since he had an American wife and since he was against the war.

The film is fascinating and well worth seeing. My only complaints are frequent ones for bio-pics made during the 1960s. Despite the film begin set from 1931-1945, the hair and fashions clearly are those of 1961. They didn't even try giving Baker a period hairdo or clothing and it just showed a lack of effort on the movie makers' part. Another problem, and a more minor one, is the stock footage used of an American plane strafing the Japanese countryside...clearly the type of plane changed three times due to sloppy editing. Still, beyond this, the film is interesting and worth seeing...and my complaints are more cosmetic than the story itself.

Max Steiner: Maestro of Movie Music

It helps you appreciate a part of filmmaking you often fail to notice.
"Max Steiner: Maestro of Movie Music" is a loving tribute to a great composer and orchestrator of movie music from the late 1920s to the early 1960s. Many of the greatest movies of this time were scored by Steiner (over 300!) and the film features a lot of his music, countless interviews (some by people who knew him) and lots of film clips.

What I like about this documentary is that it gets you to appreciate something you often don't even notice as you watch movies...the music, and not just the themes but the incidental music. What I would have also liked was to hear about other artists like Steiner...but perhaps that's best for another film. Very well made and well worth seeing...particularly if, like me, you adore classic films.

By the way, for some odd reason the closed captioning for this film is terrible by modern standards. This might make watching the film difficult if you are severely hearing impaired.

Swing Shift

Very flawed characters make this a tough sell....though it's high on realism.
"Swing Shift" is a film about two women working in a defense plant during World War II. Much of it centers on the women's free time...and the things they did to stave off boredom and loneliness.

"Swing Shift" was apparently a big box office bomb. And, while I think the plot was pretty realistic, it also isn't one that impressed audiences. After all, it's a film about women in a WWII defense plant and the leading lady is committing adultery when her husband is serving abroad. This isn't exactly a crowd pleaser plot. Realistic? Probably so...and I am sure a lot of marriages dissolved thanks, in part, to the war and long separations. It's just folks probably didn't want THAT much realism. Another problem is that despite being a Goldie Hawn film, it really isn't a comedy...and I am sure that disappointed a lot of folks as well. Not a bad film...but also one that could have been better and would have benefitted from more likable characters. It also might have benefitted if it had more characters...some choosing to sleep around and some choosing other outlets and having different stories.

Cole Younger, Gunfighter

A decent western....provided you know it's mostly fiction.
"Cole Younger, Gunfighter" is a remake of "The Desperado"...which is odd since the first film was made only four years earlier. Also, despite the title mentioning the real-life criminal, Cole Younger, it is a fictional movie.

The story begins in the South just after the Civil War. In this Hollywood version of history, the South was being cruelly run by evil Carpetbaggers and Bluebellies. Carpetbaggers was a nickname for Northerners who moved to the South following the war in order to exploit the Southerners. Bluebellies were Union soldiers stationed in the South. The problem is that although MANY films of the 20th century talk about the scourge of these two groups, this really isn't very accurate. Although surely SOME of the troops and Carpetbaggers exploited the people and were jerks, this is NOT the norm. What WAS the norm is that many Southern men felt disenfranchised...and joined the KKK in order to retake power and keep black citizens from power. I don't want to talk much more about this, but it is a common myth in movies.

In this story, two Southern men are randomly picked out during a peaceful meeting which had nothing to do with politics or hate. The two men are cruelly beaten in order to get them to confess to crimes against the Reconstruction government (i.e., the military leaders appointed to run the various ex-Confederate states). The pair are beaten badly...but one manages to stop his attacker and he ends up beating the Bluebelly. Now Kit and Frank (James Best and Jan Merlin) are on the run from the law and eventually meet up with the bandit, Cole Younger (Frank Lovejoy). Frank tries to capture Younger for the reward money....and Kit beats the snot out of him. As Frank runs off, he threatens to 'get you both'! Younger is worried that not killing Frank will come back to haunt him. And, because Kit stays with Younger, he finds that he is now a wanted man. What's next? Well, apart from a lot of shooting, you should just see the movie.

If you realize it's almost all fiction and you don't mind its historical inaccuracies, then you are left with a pretty good film with some very good acting.

Sadly, this was Frank Lovejoy's last he had a fatal heart attack at age 50. He's quite good in the film...even if he lacks any sort of Southern accent.

The French Line

The plot is ludicrous, as I can't imagine men only wanting Jane Russell's character for her money!
"The French Line" is a film that deliberately accentuated Jane Russell's bosoms. While none of the scenes seem risque today, Howard Hughes deliberately pushed the boundaries of the day in order to create ticket sales. He even seemed happy when the Catholic Legion of Decency gave the film a 'banned' rating...and ticket sales were hot as a result! The ad campaigns also emphasized you can see in the poster on IMDB emphasizing it's in '3-D'!

To enjoy "The French Line" you really do need to suspend your sense of disbelief. First, Jane Russell plays a rich Texan who is afraid men will ONLY want her for her money. Yeah....right!! Second, the very Mexican Gilbert Roland plays a Frenchman....and he's about as French as a burrito! Obviously, RKO didn't really put a lot of thought into this...and perhaps these silly decisions were made by the studio chief himself, Howard Hughes, since he had a long history of meddling with productions.

When the film begins, Mame (Russell) is upset because although she'd mega-rich, two MORE oil wells come in that day. That poor, poor thing! Later, when she talks to her fiance, she senses something isn't right. It seems her instincts are right....he is a chauvinist and doesn't know if he can be married to a woman with all the money!

Upset by this, she concocts a strange go on her honeymoon cruise anyway...but posing as a 'normal' lady. At the same time, she cruelly forces her friend to pose as her...even though she is on her own honeymoon. This means her poor and frisky husband is given a different room and cannot spend time with her, as Mame's plan if for her friend to be single and see if men chase her like they used to chase Mame. Huh?? I can think of two very good reasons guys would chase Mame!

During this trip, Mame spends most of her time with a 'Frenchman', Pierre (Roland). He seems smitten with Mame...but also spends time with the faux Mame. Who does he really love AND is he the type to chase a woman just because she's rich? Mame would sure like to know.

In addition, the film features Russell in several song and dance numbers...all of which seem rather out of place in the film. As IMDB indicated, the studio was trying to replicate "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"...which also was filled with similar musical numbers.

Overall, this is an enjoyable but incredibly silly film. You can't take the plot very seriously but it is a decent time-passer with way too many song and dance numbers.

The First Texan

Generally true....but not exactly true!
The story of the life of Sam Houston certainly would make for a great picture. He was the only person to be governors of two different states (Texas and Tennessee), was the first president of Texas and was ultimately destroyed because he opposed Texas leaving the Union in 1861. A truly interesting man...and "The First Texan" manages to capture SOME of his greatness.

The film only covers the period after Houston quit the governorship of Tennessee to the independence of Texas...just a few years out of Houston's life. So if you're looking for anything before this or after, it's not in the movie. But what bothered me about the film is that it created a fiancee for Houston who simply never existed. In fact, Houston was married multiple times and such a romance with Katherine Delaney never existed. What did exist were some divorces and scandals...none of which are talked about much in the movie. In other words this is no 'warts and all' portrayal of the man.

Overall, the film is rousing and interesting if not 100% accurate. Worth seeing but Houston really deserved better...and probably something longer than just a 90 minute or so film.

Murder, She Wrote: The Fixer-Upper
Episode 15, Season 6

Howard is transmographied into another person!
This is the third episode featuring Jessica's niece, Victoria, and her husband Howard. While Genie Francis once again plays the niece, her husband is inexplicably no longer played by Jeff Conaway but a different actor. This change isn't explained. I can only assumed some voodoo curse of the like was involved.

Victoria is working as a realtor but she isn't doing very well...something which seems typical for Jessica's kin. In particular, she's trying to sell a $4,900,000 mansion but the really annoying client seems to be making it tough...yet blames her since it hasn't sold. Clearly, MOST folks wouldn't blame Victoria IF she kills her client...which eventually she is arrested for doing! Can Jessica determine the real killer? And, can she figure out why Howard looks so different?! And, can she figure out where Chad Everett got that godawful that looks like it belongs on Frankenstein!

This is a not particularly great episode. Much of it is because the killer admits what they did...with no real proof. The other reason is that I find some of Jessica's nieces and nephews a bit...well...dopey and it gets old seeing this again and again.

Murder, She Wrote: How to Make a Killing Without Really Trying
Episode 14, Season 6

So, what work did Philip really do?!
Jessica Fletcher has arrived in New York City to see her financial advisor. While her portfolio has done well, Jessica and practically everyone has difficulty seeing his secretary makes a variety of excuses for him. In fact, while he's out playing golf and schmoozing, it seems his secretary is actually doing his job. Later, when Philip is found with his head stove it, the police think that perhaps this secretary did it...especially since she's been signing his name to various stock trades. To make matters worse for her, the cop investigating the case seems to hate stock brokers!

This is a decent episode and well worth seeing.

Murder, She Wrote: If the Shoe Fits
Episode 13, Season 6

Cabot Cove's li'l social worker.
In "If the Show Fits", Jessica is a very nice lady and befriends a poor kid and his mother. And, when the mother disappears, she contacts Children's Services and gets them to agree to let her keep the boy until his mother returns. Imagine their surprised when she does disappear....and is soon jailed for murder! Does she get to keep him even when the reasons change?

This episode really emphasizes what a nice person Jessica well as being a crime-solving genius. Not a bad episode at all, but a bit tough to believe that a tough, uncaring bureaucracy would just let Jessica take in a boy in need of a home.

Murder, She Wrote: Good-Bye Charlie
Episode 12, Season 6

Three sets of folks...vying over the same body!
During the run of "Murder, She Wrote", the series aired a few so-called 'bookend' episodes. In these, Angela Lansbury introduces the show and in some cases narrates, but she does NOT star in the show. Instead some other amateur detective does the sleuthing. Most of these are, at best, okay. However, while they only did one such episode in the prior five seasons, in season six, "Good-Bye Charlie" is the fourth bookend THAT season....and considering this is only episode 12 I wonder how many more will occur this season. Was Angela Lansbury ill or have some other commitment this year? All I know is that they aren't generally welcome shows.

Frank Albertson (Bill Maher) is a down and out private detective who is one step away from bankruptcy. However, he sees a possible way out when he learns that his old Uncle Charlie has a fortune. But there's a one knows where Charlie is. So Frank concocts a have Charlie declared dead. But when he learns that they need to wait seven years until such a declaration can be made, he comes up with a claim the body of ANYONE who might conceivably be Charlie. So he and his wife (Faith Ford) do some research....trying to find a town where a horribly disfigured man was discovered dead. Then, they'll claim the body...and Charlie's fortune. Once they find the perfect body, there's a hitch...two other folks have also claimed the body is their loved one! What's next?

This comedy episode is very different in style than other "Murder, She Wrote" installments...too different for my taste. It wasn't so much bad as...different. And, unlike other bookend episodes, I cannot imagine this one being made in to a regular series. Overall, a bit below average but enjoyable.

Murder, She Wrote: Town Father
Episode 11, Season 6

What a bunch of village idiots!
Some greedy developers want to make massive changes to Cabot Cove...which will take away the nice small-town feel the residents love. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but these outside interests are full of dirty tricks...and create a scandal involving the current mayor (Richard Paul) and some mistress...complete with HIS kids! Amazingly, the townsfolk believe this lie very quickly and it makes the mayor's reelection seem very uncertain. As a result, folks start scrambling...looking for another candidate. And, repeatedly, they try to get Jessica to run for mayor.

While this is an enjoyable episode and all involving the group of gossips from the beauty shop are good, the show did have one problem. It simply made everyone in the town MUCH stupider than usual. No one questions if the woman is lying and no one bothers to check out the details of her allegations! This just seemed, well, like a big oversight to say the least. Still, it is worth your time.

Murder, She Wrote: Class Act
Episode 10, Season 6

Wow...I even preferred this over a Jessica Fletcher episode.
In season three, Angela Lansbury took off an episode and instead of starring in it, she just introduced it. Instead, another amateur sleuth was the star and according to IMDB the series made several 'bookend episodes' where Lansbury got a break from filming and only introduced and sometimes narrated the episodes. Considering she was in her 60s, I cannot blame her for taking some time off!

Most of these bookend episodes are okay but make you wish Lansbury has been in the lead. And, you can assume by the structure of the shows that they were intended as potential spinoff series. Oddly, "Class Act" actually did something no other bookend episode made me wish the network HAD made a series out of it!

In "Class Act", Barry Newman plays a police lieutenant, Jake Ballinger, who is frustrated because one of his cases is closed too quickly. Although a guy confessed to the killing, it seems he might have been coerced into doing this with the promise of a light sentence. And, when Ballinger tries to get the files on the case, they are locked...and no one in the department seems to have access. Obviously some important person has ordered the case to be buried. Additionally, for even asking about the closed case, he's now being punished...taken off active duty and placed in charge of teaching a class at the local university!

While Jake has zero interest in teaching a law enforcement class, he goes. After all, if he doesn't he'll likely be fired. But he finds that the students in the class only took it because they figure it will be an easy A. After dispelling this notion, all but two of his students withdraw. And, with the remaining two students, he decided to investigate the closed case...sort of learning in the field.

This is a really good an intelligently written episode. Most importantly, it left me wanting more and could have worked well as a weekly series....having a small group of eager students helping him work on closed cases or cases which were never solved. Well worth seeing and truly original.

Murder, She Wrote: Test of Wills
Episode 9, Season 6

It was a dark and stormy night....and a 'harmless game'.
Henry Reynard (Gene Barry) is a rich jerk. When the show begins, he's invited Jessica to his mansion on a private island. He tells her that someone is trying to kill him and he wants her to stay and investigate...and he'll pay her $1,000,000 to do so. Soon after this, Henry is apparently shot to death. Instead of worrying about him, his loving heirs all go to check out his will...and are shocked to discover that he's left all his money to Jessica! Soon after, another shooting occurs!

In many ways, the plot seems like "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie as well as the movie "Murder By Death". In other words, it's all very familiar to viewers familiar with these stories....though there are many differences.

So is it any good? Well, it's not bad...but familiar. Worth seeing, like nearly every episode in the series.

Murder, She Wrote: When the Fat Lady Sings
Episode 8, Season 6

A good episode...despite a LOT of exposition at the end.
"When the Fat Lady Sings", not surprisingly, is set at an opera company. The story is good, though the end of the show was a tad weak, as the police detective needed to explain what ACTUALLY happened to both Jessica and the audience.

The story begins with an opera star (Theodore Bikel) apparently shooting a man...and then suffering a heart attack. In the next scene, a police detective (Jerry Stiller) is interviewing Jessica about what she knew about the shooting...which at this point isn't much. Little do either know that another corpse will soon turn up AND the case will revolve around $7,000,000 in smuggled emeralds!

The story is pretty good and it was nice seeing Jessica's very larcenous friend from season 5 once again....and he's apparently learned to walk the straight and narrow! Worth your time.

You Never Can Tell

Did Dick Powell do something to get in trouble with the studio?!
My wife thought "You Can Never Tell" was kind of cute. However, she didn't finish the movie and I sure thought it was pretty ridiculous. It's the sort of movie that makes you wonder if the leading man, Dick Powell, had done something to tick off a studio executive!

When the story begins, you learn that Rex the German Shepherd inherited millions from his deceased owner. As a result, Rex now lives a nice life and is cared for be Ellen (Peggy Dow). However, after she meets a seemingly kind man and falls for him, SOMEONE poisons Rex and the doggy dies.

The scene switches to some annoying version of Animal Heaven where it's presided over Mufasa. I say annoying because the film footage is all shown in negative....and it's hard on the eyes. Anyway, Rex is there (since he was such a good boy) and he requests that Mufasa (or whatever the lion's name is) send him back to Earth to investigate his murder and bring the killer to justice! So, he's reincarnated as a human and is a hard boiled doggy detective...and he's assisted by a horse who has been reincarnated as a lady.

If this plot sounds completely insane, then, well, you pretty much have a clear picture of the film. It is enjoyable at times but also dopey at others. It falls into the category of a must-see, however, not because it's good but because of a major Hollywood star doing a film THAT weird and, well, silly. Powell tries his best but it's a pretty inconsequential film.

It Runs in the Family

Three generations of folks who don't quite know what to say or how to say it.
According to IMDB, some critics noted that it was extremely difficult to understand Kirk Douglas in the movie because he'd has a massive stroke and his speech was severely impacted. Fortunately, the DVD did have just make sure to turn on this feature before you begin watching.

This film stars Kirk Douglas, his son Michael and his grandson Cameron. It also shocked me that it starred Diana Douglas.... Kirk's ex-wife who plays his wife in the film. It's all about the difficulties the three generations have relating to each other...particularly the ailing family patriarch (Kirk) and his son (Michael). While they might love each other, they clearly don't like each other...and they have a very difficult time expressing themselves to each other. Additionally, they all go through crises during the course of the film...enormous life events that will seriously change the course of their lives.

Although many of the characters are difficult to like, the difficulties they have with intimacy is an issue most of us can relate to...and on that level the film is worth seeing. Just don't expect to like the folks or the dumb things they do during the course of the movie. And, if you can't watch a movie because of this, you might just want to skip this one.


Not many films like this one!
Before I get to discussing the plot of "Illusion", I should point out that the DVD, amazingly, is NOT captioned in any way (at least the DVD I saw). This is a serious problem not just for people like me who are hard of hearing because the film stars Kirk Douglas AFTER his major stroke....and it's very difficult to understand him without captions. It's a shame, as I am thrilled they'd hire a disabled man but you might struggle to understand the film at times.

Douglas plays an aging movie director who will be dying soon. One day, he has what you can only assume is a dream or vision. In this experience, a man (is he an angel?) transports the director magically to a movie theater...complete with a bed for the director. The man shows the director three short films.

The first shows the directors son, Chris, as a teen who is smitten with a girl. It's a tad creepy the way he follows her and the story ends after Chris goes through hell trying to get the girl. It also turns out that the director abandoned the son, long, long ago.

The second film shows Chris about a decade later. He and the girl have gone their separate ways. He is a goth who works for a very self-absorbed no-talent performance artist. One day the artist announces to Chris, his assistant, that he saw the most amazing woman on the street and Chris' job is to find her and invite her to a big event. He's also told if he doesn't find her, he's losing his job and not getting paid! When Chris tracks her down with the clues the artist gives him, he finds it's the same girl from the first film.

In the third and supposedly final film, you see Chris again...about a decade later. He's just being released from prison and goes to the old town looking for the girl. He cannot find her but is befriended by a nice guy (Bryan Cranston) who invites him to his house for a party. At the party, he sees the girl...but it appears that she's married to this nice man and has his child. But is this all? Is there, possibly, a fourth reel?

The film is both very surreal in style and existential as it asks questions about the meaning of life. Both make it a film that many probably might not like, as it's anything but a Hollywood style film. It is something that might appeal to folks who like the films of Ingmar Bergman as well as Kurosawa's later films, as these two famous directors were some of the few who did films that explored these issues. Overall, a truly unique and interesting that you really should see if you want something different...or if you don't mind exploring your life and life choices.


A cat is the owner of a pro baseball team?! Huh?!?
The plot to ""Rhubarb" is completely ridiculous. Because of that, it's the sort of film you just need to watch and suspend your sense of disbelief.

When the episode begins, an eccentric rich guy (Gene Lockhart) is showing his assistant, Eric (Ray Milland) a cat he admires. It seems there is a nasty feral cat that lives on a golf course and steals balls as they near him. Some horrible jerks sic a couple German Shepherds on the cat...and the cat chases them away...much to the delight of the rich guy. He loves the cat's it never gives up. So, he asks Eric to capture the cat so he can adopt it and he names him Rhubarb.

After a few months, the elderly man dies. When his will is read, his nasty daughter is shocked to only receive a token bequest and the bulk of the estate goes to Rhubarb...with Eric acting as his executor. It turns out one of the things the cat has inherited is a second-rate baseball team. They are stuck in a losing streak...and having the cat owned by a cat embarrasses the players. They are so embarrassed that the players all pretend to be injured and are unable to play. Eric comes up with an convince the players the cat is their good luck charm. And, once he does, the team starts to win. What's next? A lot...and you should give it a look.

The film is fun...and ridiculous. If you like other strange baseball fairy tales (such as "Angels in the Outfield"), then you'll likely enjoy this good natured little film.

Murder, She Wrote: Night of the Tarantula
Episode 7, Season 6

This one felt a bit embarrassing.
"Night of the Tarantula" is an embarrassing episode to watch. After all, the series was excellent entertainment...well written and entertaining. However, here there's all sorts of silly mumbo-jumbo...stuff that really didn't fit into the series and seemed to come from left field.

The episode is set on some Caribbean island where voodoo is popular. There is a murder and it's made to look as if this dark art is involved. Not surprisingly, Jessica discovers that the guy wasn't murdered by evil spirits (huge surprise there).

This episode just didn't fit. Its style and spirit just seem inferior and silly. The ending...with zombies and the like,...well that was beyond silly and was dumb. I hated the episode and it just seemed like a throwaway script still somehow got used.

Murder, She Wrote: Jack and Bill
Episode 5, Season 6

The book end episode about a doggy.
Because Angela Lansbury was not exactly a Spring Chicken (in other words, she wasn't young any more), starting a few seasons into the series, they made a few episodes, here and there, where Lansbury introduces the show but she is NOT in the story itself. This was an attempt to give her a break from the rigors of filming...though it is odd that "Jack and Bill" came just after another bookend, "The Grand Old Lady". Unlike the two previous bookenders, "Jack and Bill" is more comedic...though all were apparently unsuccessful attempts to create spinoffs.

The hero of this story, Bill Boyle, is an ex-football player who is now a private eye...a BROKE private eye (Ken Howard). Unless something happens to change his luck, he simply cannot remain in business. When an old friend shows up, he (Max Baer Jr.) asks Bill to watch his doggy...just for a short time. However, when this friend ends up in the hospital with bullets in his chest, Bill is forced to keep the dog and try to work out the crime...with the help of the doggy!

The dog clearly was the star of the episode and how much you like it probably will have something to do with whether or not you like dogs in TV shows. I thought it was cute...some might think it is a bit dopey or schmaltzy due to the dog. Still, as a bookend episode, it's not bad and enjoyable.

Murder, She Wrote: The Error of Her Ways
Episode 4, Season 6

Jessica about to get sued?!
The structure of "The Error of Her Ways" is most unusual and I cannot recall an episode before it where the crime is solved at the beginning of the episode! However, the accused killer keeps insisting she is NOT a killer and that she'll sue the police AND Jessica. This creates a bit of a frosty relationship between her and the police detective investigating the case (Elliot Gould). In addition to this crime, there is a question about $3,000,000 in stolen funds. Are the two related? And, is Jessica going to have to sell everything to pay off a lawsuit?

This is a very good and interesting episode of "Murder, She Wrote"...well worth seeing and a bit unusual in style.

Murder, She Wrote: The Grand Old Lady
Episode 3, Season 6

Much better than the previous 'bookend' episode.
Considering her age, it's not at all surprising that Angela Lansbury complained to the producers that she needed a rest from time to time. So, occasionally they did so-called 'bookend' episodes...ones where Lansbury introduces and closes the show by speaking to the audience. Otherwise, she is not in the shows and they are similar to the normal episodes in style but feature other amateur detectives. The first of these, "Murder in a Minor Key" was definitely NOT a very good episode...but fortunately "The Grand Old Lady" was much better.

The story is set on an ocean liner in 1947. There is a killing and a world famous mystery writer (NOT Jessica Fletcher) decides to investigate the crime. At the same time, the son of a real detective assists her and manages to figure out the mystery.

This is an interesting period piece but what I really liked was the was most unusual and the ending was most atypical of an episode of "Murder, She Wrote". Worth seeing.

Bullet Code

Solid and entertaining.
Why not explain it to Mathews family properly?

Pop--sidekick (Slim Whitaker) catsup.

As far as B-westerns go, "Bullet Code" is among the best. There are a variety of reasons....but the biggest one to me is that it emphasizes realism compared to films with singing cowboys with idiot sidekicks.

Steven Condon (George O'Brien) is a decent man. However, when one of his range hands betrays him to a group of cattle rustlers, he's able to drive away the rustlers...but THINKS he's accidentally shot the guy who betrayed them. Now, to me, even if he had, it would have been justified...but in reality the rustlers shot him and have convinced Steve he did it. As his friend (and betrayer) lies dying, he askes Steve to go check on his family, the Mathews,....and Steve agrees.

When Steve arrives along with his friend, Pop (Slim Whitaker), the pair soon discover that some unknown person is trying to destroy the Mathews ranch. But who and why? Well, Steve and Pop help out...even when the Mathews family thinks Steve is a murderer for killing that guy at the beginning of the picture...which he really didn't do.

The main plot of a greedy land baron trying to steal a ranch is hardly original, the story is done well. O'Brien is excellent as an 'everyman' sort of cowboy hero and Whitaker is good because he's NOT a dopey sidekick but a very competent one. My only complaint is that when Steve realizes he didn't kill the man, he did a lousy job of explaining it to the Mathews family!

The First Deadly Sin

Sinatra knew when to hang it up and call it a career.
"The First Deadly Sin" is Frank Sinatra's final starring role in a full-length movie. This is after a ten year absence from films...which is sad, as he was a terrific actor.

Sergeant Delaney (Sinatra) is a police veteran who is nearing his retirement. His final case involves a psychopath who killed a victim with an ice axe...the type tool you'd use in ice caving. It's not surprising it takes him a while (and with some help) figure out the weapon, as it's not exactly an everyday tool or murder weapon. After seeing another similar case, Delaney starts to wonder if a serial killer is running loose in New York City. Amazingly, his boss orders him NOT to pursue this...and just wrap up the case quickly. So, he decides to investigate on his own and he soon sees there is a pattern!

In addition to this case, Delaney is having problems at home. His wife (Faye Dunaway) is in the hospital, and regardless of the doctor's reassurances she'll get better, she isn't. Can Delaney manage to work the case without his wife's problems overwhelming him?

Of all the many wonderful roles Sinatra played, I think his very best were often his detective films...particularly "The Detective"....a ridiculously underrated movie. Here, he acts much like the same sort of character, trying to navigate a system where others don't seem to care. Here, his world-weary but decent detective persona is every bit as good as it was in "The Detective"....and it's nice to see the man chose to quit films after this, as topping it sure would have been difficult.

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