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Reviews

M Squad
(1957)

Good News_The series is out on DVD
I've been working my way through the DVDs by timeless media. Man, they are great. Great because of Lee Marvin. I was expecting Marvin might have some work yet to becoming the Lee Marvin we know in Point Blank and The Killers. No way. He has tough guy cop done better here than it's ever been done. Someone mentioned that Marvin's Frank Ballinger challenged bad guys to escalate things with him. That's the perfect way to put it. The gun stays on the hip, Marvin gets in their face, reads them the facts and lets them absorb it. And then cuffs them. There are so many subtle things Marvin does here that make the tough guy work. It's maybe how he appraises the other actors. Like he's thinking " I'm listening, I'll tell you later if I believe you." Very stony. The material, in it's sketchy short form, deflates the magic of Marvin here and there but in a funny way. My favorite Police Squad type of moment has Marvin in a fistfight at the circus that starts a fire that burns the whole circus down in an apocalypse of panic and flames. Footage of some old big budget movie used as a backdrop. Very Frank Drebbin kind of unintended consequence. I recommend you get your own copy of Marine sniper turned actor kicking ass on TV

Iron Man
(2008)

Bronson Canyon not officially mentioned as a location?
Quibble , quibble for a near perfect movie. I notice under locations there is no mention of Bronson Canyon ( or caves). But it was a very big part of the Stark in captivity shots. Unless, it was a set dressed to look like Bronson Canyon as a homage to all the low budget flicks that used it as a handy dandy ready made cave setting. Pretty good gag if that is the case. Building a set that looks like Bronson Cave. The trivia mentions a special fork lift transportable cave set but I think that refers to the interiors.

Great movie. I'm glad Downey is enthusiastic about making more of them.

Stan Lee, did you ever imagine yourself showing up in this great a film.

Buffalo Girls
(1995)

Nice Script Out of a Sprawling book
Impressive script that gets the gist out of a big book and renders a lot of the main plot points with simple scenes. Favotites were the simple way they presented the gift of NoEars with his wax ears from Calamity. In the book I believe that was all NoEars initiative that made that happen. But this is a movie and Calamity giving that gift made it very touching. Jim Rag's love of beaver is also very simply portrayed. And I guess it is really ultimately smart to deviate completely from the main revelation of the book. Now this is really a spoiler for the book but I want you warned. Do not proceed if you haven't read the book because it is a great book. Calamity Jane in the movie is an actual mother with a child she will meet in heart wrenching scenes. In the book, most of the story is told with letters to "Janey". Letters to Janey are just a way for sad Calamity Jane to talk to someone that she feels would understand her. Janey never was. At the end, sad Calamity Jane has no one and we learn she has created this imaginary daughter and an imaginary romance with Wild Bill. A hard thing to put over with the same emotional depth the movie gets with an actual daughter. That bugged me a bit, but I got over it. It's no Lonesome Dove but it's a great film of characters that are shaped by their common love of the early American adventure.

Equinox
(1970)

Check Out The Criterion Edition
Bad, good, it doesn't matter. This is one of the great film labors of love. Rent the criterion edition and do as I did. Listen to the commentary over the Muren cut of the film. Then Switch to the Jack Harris, Jack Woods commentary over their cut. I was under the false impression as I watched the kids cut that Woods did not add much when he made his cut. Watching Woods cut you see how much effort went into shaping the final theatrical cut. It's amazing that the actors, unpaid for 2 years, already constantly returning to remote sets to incrementally add to to the shot count, would ALL reassemble for the extra shots that Woods would want to add. Listening to Muren, Danforth and McGee knock their own acting and talent is a real crack up. Everyone involved obviously loved the doing of this film. I am still impressed by the high quality of illusion achieved, especially the forced perspective work and the matte painting by Danforth.

The Liberation of L.B. Jones
(1970)

SPOILER- I've only seen the shock ending
I caught the tail end of this movie at a drive in. It involves Yaphet Kotto and probably Anthony Zerbe. Kotto forces Zerbe into a hay bailing machine and a very realistic looking dummy is shown being broken and mashed around in the machine. I've always wanted to see the rest of the movie to see what lead to this grisly comeuppance. I also wonder if like a lot of under respected movies, horribly shocking scenes get cut out and forgotten. It wouldn't surprise me if the VHS copy omits the scene. It was very well done. Kind of the opposite of gory. Here the body keeping its integrity while being horribly bent is what shocks. It made quite an impression on me.

Pinocchio in Outer Space
(1965)

Imaginative, Strong Design and Above Average Animation
I'm transferring my VHS copy of this film to DVD right now and I'm re-appreciating the hard work to make this above average animated sci-fi fantasy. Great character design reminiscent of the Fleisher era Popeyes. Lots of imaginative monsters. The animation is never lazy, lots of full character shots of walks and runs and good "acting" to go with the voice track. I mistakenly thought this was an example of the early Japanese animation like Astro Boy. It's actually French-Belguim. I saw this when it came out in the sixties when I was about 12 or 13. At the Knob Hill theater in Oklahoma City. Probably co billed with something like Hercules vs The Vampires.

Licensed to Kill
(1965)

Blasting Away with The Broomhandle Mauser
The Charles Vine character made quite an impression on me at 12 (maybe 13) years of age. The "other guy" 007 we are lead to believe, has some sort of distraction keeping him from the important task of protecting a defecting Soviet scientist with the secret of anti gravity or perpetual motion or somesuch breakthrough. Charles Vine will have to do. As Sammy Davis JR sings, He's The Second, Not the First, but The Second Best Secret Agent in The Whole Wide Worrrrld.

An "M" stand in looks Vine over and heartily disapproves of his hand cannon, a broomhandle mauser, in a special holster that covers his entire lower back. He has several scenes where he is blasting away with this great weapon. One car chase where he leans out the window with a long silencer on the ww1 vintage pistol "Thwipp, Thwipp, Thwipping" at the enemies car in the middle of busy daytime London traffic. Later, stoppped at an enemy roadblock, he does a trickey behind his back shot, shooting through his coat, then rolls into the middle of the road and from his back shoots the other enemies, shell casing flying. All of this action barely ruffles his hair.

His final battle places him against a master assassin with holey socks and his own silenced mauser. Charles Vine has to keep his cool and load the trickey top loading magazine of his mauser out of earshot of the close by Red assassin. The Gun was the co star. I have the very popular facsimile of the broomhandle mauser that is commonly used by fans of Star Wars to recreate the Han Solo blaster. What a horror to discover that this whole great memory of a blood thirsty intense spy drama is actually played as a super silly spoof. Completely tongue in cheek at all times. Catch it if you can. I have it on video tape and have no memory of how I came by it.

The Flesh Eaters
(1964)

The Drive In Memories
I just watched the new, good print, wide screen, DVD. What a trip. The following contains spoilers. I saw this movie back in the early 70s when attempts at shock were becoming more common. Herschell Gordon Lewis, etc. I suppose my viewing was a re-release that grafted on the "Nazi" experiment scene because I remember the bonus footage being in the film I saw at the Riviera Drive-In in Oklahoma City. Naked girls being skeletonized is something I hope I would remember accurately. I noticed Radley Metzger's name in the credit roll. Metzger soon made a name for himself in the more high profile Porn of the "Porn Chic" days. At the time of Flesh Eaters release it made one of the more memorable covers for Famous Monsters Of Film Land. The guy playing Bartok, Martin Koslek, played an identical scientist type involved with flesh eating fungus in Agent For H.A.R.M. He's very effective and has a number of great, leering, close ups. His totally heartless mad scientist gets to do some sick stuff. Sticking a microphone in the face of the hysterically screaming beatnik character Omar as the Flesh Eaters eat his guts. Casually carving large chunks of the heroes leg off to remove burrowing Flesh Eaters ( a great effect, lots of sick depth). See it to believe it.

Out of the Past
(1947)

Dickie Moore Rocks
Everyone quite rightly mentions the great work of the main cast of this film. And they are all great. But to me the cherry in the ensemble is Dickie Moore's deaf mute character. For whatever reason "the Kid" has this deep, unquestioning loyalty to Jeff. And in spite of his handicap, he definitely has Jeff's back. I've got spoiler on this comment because I'm mentioning the fly-fishing moment. That is one of my favorite scenes of all time. The way Moore plays it, he just turns into a bird dog, his focus so complete he's a statue. And zip, so long pal. Of course you got to love the end. The Kid can tell the truth about Jeff, or lie for the girl's happiness. And this quiet little character makes the tough classy decision. Then the goodbye wave. No lip pursing, or beetling of sad brow. Moore plays it perfect.

Hell Is for Heroes
(1962)

McQueen's Got The Moves
Steve McQueen is the reason to watch this movie. As some of these recent Docs on McQueen point out, he researched his moves, how to plausibly use his hardware and props and look very cool doing it. Turning his part into something he can omit unnecessary duologue from while he does physical stuff. His Reese is a hardcore guy with no room for nonsense or humor. When the Nick Adams character, a puppy dog native trying to adopt the unit as an ersatz GI, tries to ingratiate himself with Reese, Reese says "If I see you at the front, I'll Kill you myself." With that 1000 mile stare very few tough guys really master. And a goofy detail that I associate with this movie and the McQueen body/instrument. McQueen scrambles over to another foxhole and drops his weight into a perfect glide on his knees coming down the dirt bank. A hiss of contact that is pure grace, pure athleticism. Dumb detail but exactly the kind of stuff you're absorbing while you watch McQueen. I wish Don Siegel could have worked with McQueen on other projects. They both had a larger than life style that still kept it real.

Cherry, Harry & Raquel!
(1969)

Meyer shot a movie and lost half of it
Russ Meyer is a genius at cutting films. And from other examples of his work you can tell he had the whole multi, jump cut vision in his head. Shooting plenty of coverage to get the whole hyper-active, ceaselessly interesting story told. But Cherry, Harry and Raquel was completely shot when the lab ruined over half the footage. Meyer was forced to improvise and Uschi Digart became the scene padding "Muse". The afterword narration becomes a completely overboard retelling of the whole movie. But for all those sad concessions to losing whatever Meyer might have made of this story, it's one of my favorites. Charles Napier absolutely rules. He must have double the muscles in his forehead and scalp than the ordinary mortal as evidenced by some of the mugging he does in this flick. Meyer's kinetic film cutting was far ahead of it's time. The climactic final shoot out is just bloody and macho and totally hilarious stuff.

Atlantis: The Lost Continent
(1961)

Paul Frees All Over The Place
Anyone else notice that Paul Frees, the worlds greatest voice, doesn't just do the narration. He is doing the voice for Demetrius' father. Weird accent and all. And the Princess' father as well! Which is strange since the actor playing him has such a distinctive, tired old man delivery that goes with his appearance much better than Frees voice. There can't be any argument Frees sounds more like a King. Pal obviously loved the guy. He's in every film Pal made from '53 on.

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