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Teenage Bounty Hunters

Surprisingly entertaining!
On their way home from a night out, teenage fraternal twins, Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Angelica Bella Fellini), find themselves caught up in the dangerous world of bounty hunting when they interrupt (and accidentally aid) a veteran bounty hunter taking down a "skip". Much hilarity and teen angst ensues.

There is no way my wife and I were part of the demographic the makers of Teenage Bounty Hunters were going for. I'm a 57 year-old married white guy with two kids under 18, two dogs, and a mortgage. We decided to give it a whirl anyway and . . . Wow! How fun was that? We found Teenage Bounty Hunters surprisingly entertaining.

I can pretty well sum up what we liked about the show in two words, Sterling and Blair - or more precisely, Maddie Phillips and Angelica Bella Fellini. These two young women were absolutely fantastic. Cute, sweet, athletic, funny, bad-ass, and immensely watchable - they grabbed us from the beginning and drug us along on their crazy adventure. The two are helped by some amazing writing. I'm not a 16 year-old girl, but the dialogue seemed on point to me. It's funny and felt true throughout. Their story will tug at your heartstrings one minute and have you on an adrenaline high the next. Even at its cringiest (and you're going to have cringey in a teenage drama), it's still good. And I really appreciated the way the show wove the action and comedy with some interesting notions on religion, sexual identification, race, gun rights, and more. The characters take an interesting travel through these potential minefields. Unlike a lot of television I watch, not once did I find anything to really object to. Nice going!

As soon as we finished the last episode, we looked to see when Season 2 would be out. We were shocked to read Teenage Bounty Hunters has already been canceled. I'm stunned. What a mistake on the part of Netflix! I'm holding out hope there's some way it can be saved. There are so many plot twists and cliffhangers at the end of the season that I'd love to see resolved. But regardless of whether or not we ever get to see the further adventure of Sterling and Blair, my wife and I have decided we'll follow the actors' careers to see what's next for these wonderfully talented performers.

Finally, what a hoot it was to see Kadeem Hardison? I don't think I've seen him in anything since A Different World.


Visa to Canton

An unusual Hammer offering
Don Benton (Richard Basehart) is a former WWII pilot running a travel agency out of Hong Kong. He's approached by a government official about help with locating a downed plane inside mainland China. The plane was carrying an agent with vital secret information. At first Benton doesn't want to help, but changes his mind when he discovers the plane's pilot is an old friend.

Passport to China (lor Visa to Canton) is a different sort of Hammer film. Spy/adventure films aren't what you normally associate with Hammer. Overall, this one goes over about as well as a lead balloon. It's dull, overly talkative, and lacks any sort of real suspense. The mission is handled all too easily and all too casually by Benton. He just sort of waltzes into Canton, shoots a Russian official, and makes his way back to Hong Kong - easy peasy. As with most Hammer films, director Michael Carreras isn't helped by the limited budget. The stagebound sets are distracting. But not as distracting as the non-Asian actors poorly playing Asian roles. Athene Seyler looks downright silly in her Chinese get-up speaking a sort of horrible pigeon English. Finally, there's lead actor Richard Basehart. He's just all wrong form the role. He never comes across as anyone capable of pulling off the mission he's faced with. It's poor casting and a poor performance.


The Day Time Ended

Mind-numbingly awful
A family living on a compound in the middle of the desert is terrorized by aliens.

I promise to keep this short and sweet. The Day Time Ended is such a mind-numbingly awful experience that it doesn't deserve much of my time and effort. I'll start with the plot - what a mish-mash of different sci-fi ideas that all feel like they're from different movies! From the glowing green pyramid to the tiny dancing elf to the gigantic prehistoric creatures to the floating Roomba / fax machine (what was that thing supposed to be?) to the dancing lights to what I'm guessing was a timewarp of some sort, none of it makes the least bit of sense. Without a coherent plot, this one is a dud from the word Go. Poor Dorothy Malone looks as befuddled as I did watching this car-crash of a film. I'm guessing this is what a bad acid trip is like. The special effects, script, direction, and acting are all equally bad. There's really not much here to enjoy.

A VERY generous 2/10 from me.


Return to Horror High

"Class dismissed!"
The movie opens with police investigating a series of gruesome murders at an abandoned high school. It seems that a film crew was using the old building to shoot a movie based on a massacre that occurred at the school several years prior. Who's behind the most recent murders and are they connected to the previous murders?

I understand some of the positive comments Return to Horror High receives for plot structure (which I touch on in a bit), but there's really not much else that deserves much praise. The film is called a horror/comedy. To my way of thinking, horror implies that something is frightening. I can't think of one moment that so much as gave me a chill. As for comedy, I suppose a 13 year-old might find some if funny, but the attempts at humor pretty much bored me. From a technical standpoint, Return to Horror High is amateurish at best. The sets, props, and gore effects aren't really effective. And the acting is equally abysmal. Surprisingly, Maureen McCormick (yes, Marsha Brady) gives the film's most memorable performance - and that includes George Clooney's 5 minutes of screentime.

Return to Horror High's one saving grace is its plot structure. It's so twisted and convoluted that it's often impossible to follow - and I"m convinced that was part of the plan. You're never really sure what you're watching. At any one time, the film juggles four different stories (i'm not sure what else to call them) - 1. There's the story of the original murders as seen in flashback. 2. There's the story in the movie being filmed within the movie. 3. There's the story of the actors/crew making the movie. 4. There's the story of the police investigating the most recent murders at the school. It's an ambitious plot device and concept. While the filmmakers don't always pull it off, I applaud the effort.


Dark Night of the Scarecrow

"I know what you did to Bubba!"
A mentally challenged man, Bubba (Larry Drake), wrongly accused of attacking a young girl, is hunted down by a gang of vigilanties. Bubba tries to hide by posing as a scarecrow. The men, bent on vengeance and filled with bloodlust, aren't fooled and murder Bubba in cold blood. Soon afterward, the men involved in Bubba's murder are haunted by the image of a scarecrow. Has Bubba returned from the dead to get revenge?

It's amazing how good some of the made-for-TV movies from the 70s and 80s actually were - especially some of the horror movies. Whether it's Satan's School for Girls (1973), Gargoyles (1972), or The Night Stalker (1972), there was real quality horror entertainment to be had on TV. Add Dark Night of the Scarecrow to that list. I hadn't seen this one in years until last night and I"m pleasantly surprised at how well it's held up.

Given it's TV origins, Dark Night of the Scarecrow obviously has a limited budget. In this case, I think that works in the movie's favor. It's a "less is more kind of thing". There's not a lot of blood and gore, just creepy situations that leave a lot to the imagination. It also added a bit of suspense to the film - had Bubba returned from the grave or were these men haunted by what they had done. It adds an extra layer of mystery to the film that worked for me. Having said all that, I was, however, surprised how little we actually see the titular scarecrow. He's a creepy looking fellow, that's for sure. Just a few more sightings of the Bubba the Scarecrow would have made the movie even better.

A real highlight of the film is the acting - especially Charles Durning. His character, Otis Hazelrigg, may be even creepier than the scarecrow. Durning could play slimy and conniving about as well as anyone. His character's unnatural obsession with the little girl Bubba was accused of hurting is especially troubling - and Durning plays it brilliantly. I'm convinced that Hazelrigg's hatred for Bubba had a lot of do with his jealousy of Bubba's relationship with the little girl. LIke I said, in these moments, Durning is far more frightening than the scarecrow.

I also need to mention a couple of other performances. Drake is fantastic in the limited role of Bubba. He's quite the sympathetic figure. Lane Smith is great as one of Hazelrigg's gang. The name Lane Smith may not ring bells, but he's one of those guys you've seen a thousand times and he always does a solid job. Finally, Tonya Crow is outstanding as the little girl, Marylee. I'm surprised she didn't have a bigger career.

I can't recommend this one highly enough. It's rock solid entertainment and a must-see for fans of old school, slow burn horror.


El hombre del puño de oro

Will it ever end?
A PI is hired to track down a killer. In addition, hIs client's murdered husband was carrying a fortune in diamonds that she'd like to get back.

Overall, Fistful of Diamonds is pretty much a dud. I'm not sure of the actual runtime, but it felt like it lasted hours. It took me two excruciating nights to get through it. The film features the same action set-pieces over and over. Good guy fights bad guys, good guy rescues girl, girl ends up back with bad guys - repeat ad nauseum. The fights scenes, in particular, are especially boring and seem to go on forever. And, it doesn't help that the movie was intended to be a comedy. The bits and pieces that were meant to be funny go over about as well as the action - boring. On the acting side, I've seen Franco Ressel and Erika Blanc in plenty of other, better films, so I know they're capable. Unfortunately, they don't have anything to work with here.

On the positive side, the score was nice. Very reminiscent of something from a 60s James Bond film. And, given the film only has 6 votes on IMDb at the time I'm writing this means it's something of a rarity. Even though Fistufl of Diamonds is pretty horrible, it's always a little fun to discover something so few people have seen.


The Woman in Green

"Then we shall walk together through the Gates of Eternity hand-in-hand"
Sherlock Holmes is approached by Scotland Yard for help investigating a rather grisly series of murders. After each murder, one of the female victims' fingers has been removed.

For me, The Woman in Green is a nice entry in the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series - nowhere near as good as something like The Scarlet Claw, but few movies are. The viciousness of the murders, even though we see nothing, made for an interesting plot detail. The rest of the writing is especially strong. There are bits of dialogue between Holmes and Moriarty that are as good as any you'll find in the series. The supporting cast, featuring a terrific performance by Hillary Brooke in the title role (though being in black and white, it was difficult to tell if she was, in fact, wearing green), is more than capable and made for an interesting adversary for Holmes. I even enjoyed Henry Daniell in the role of Moriarity. I know he has his detractors, but I think Daniell could play a villain with the best of them. Finally, I actually enjoyed much of Watson's schtick - something that has been known to get on my nerves. Sure, the scene where he's hypnotized goes a bit too far, but his bumbling ways in The Woman in Green actually add to the plot (and also to the fun).

The films' greatest flaw is it's ending. Up to that point, The Woman in Green is as good as most any of the Holmes films. I'm not going to give too much away other than to say Moriarity's means of doing away with Holmes is ridiculous. Just shoot him for crying out loud! And the ease with which Moriarity is taken into custody (again, not really a spoiler - you didn't think he'd get away, did you?) is equally hard to swallow.


Omega Cop

A waste of time
In yet another post-apocalyptic future, a cop works to bust up a band of slave traders and save a few women along the way.

In all honesty, Omega Cop probably deserves a 1/10, but it's saved from that rating because it was so stupid in parts I was mildly entertainined on occasion. So what very little entertainment I got out of this thing was purely unintended. Star Ronald Marchini may have been a martial arts expert, but it didn't translate well to the screen. He's too wooden and unnatural. The rest of the movie is filled with equally poor acting, poor special effects, poor fight choreography, and poor everything else. And I'm convinced that Adam West had no idea what movie he was making. His character is so out of touch with the action in the rest of the film, it was often laugh-out-loud funny. Finally, I sort of felt sorry for Stuart Whitman. He made some bad career decisions, but this might have been the worst. Did he need a job this bad?

The makers of Omega Cop didn't try real hard on the whole post-apocalyptic thing. People with dirty faces, weird haircuts, and trash blowing across an empty parking lot was hardly convincing and just plain lazy.


Freddie Steps Out

The second in the Teen Agers series
Our old pal Freddie Trimball is mistaken for singing heartthrob Frankie (not sure of the last name) who's gone missing. The misunderstanding is natural as both characters are played by Freddie Stewart. When Frankie's wife and baby show up and Freddie's high school, it naturally leads to much hilarity.

Freddie Steps Out is the second in Monogram's Teen Agers series. And, these "kids" aren't getting any younger. Don't misunderstand, June Pressler looks great, but she aged quit a bit between Junior Prom and this movie.

As with Junior Prom, Freddie Steps Out is all harmless enough. I had some of the same problems I had with the first film, however - dull musical interludes and lame comedy. I was especially annoyed by all the baby shenanigans as every character in the film exhibited the brain power of a sponge. Had one person stopped to honestly analyze the situation, everything could have been resolved in seconds. But then again, I suppose that wouldn't have been much of a movie.

I see that there are several more films in the series. I suppose the actors will be approaching middle-age and still playing teen agers. We shall see.


Junior Prom

From a more innocent time
The father of one of the students running for class president promises to buy new football uniforms if the school administration can guarantee his son will win. Fortunately for the other candidate, Freddie Trimball (Freddie Stewart), the principal balks at the plan. But with a musical show to get ready, a prom to plan, and endless singing in the school's Teen Canteen, does Freddie have enough time to campaign?

Junior Prom is filled with harmless enough "high school" shenanigans from a much, much more innocent time. I put "high school" in quotes because it's obvious that most of the actors are way past high school age. I might have enjoyed it more had it not been for some of the duller than dirt musical numbers and the lame comedy from man-child Murray Davis (What did Dunne do? - Arrrrgh!) that I found excruciating. June Preisser and Noel Neill give it their all, but a lot of their good work is undone by male lead Freddie Stewart. He's just so bland. I can't imagine how anyone thought he could carry a movie.

I know that 1946 was a simpler time, but were the kids really jazzed about music like that in Junior Prom? I can't imagine any high schooler being excited over some of the elevator music featured here.


52 Pick-Up

"So long, Sport"
Successful businessman, Harry Mitchell (Roy Schieder), finds himself the target of blackmail after he has an affair. The situation escalates when he refuses to pay up. The blackmailers turn the tables on Mitchell making him the prime suspect in a murder. Can Mitchell get out of his hopeless situation?

Wow - what a nice discovery! Overall, 52 Pick-Up is a really strong film. Based on an Elmore Leonard novel and screenplay, director John Frankenheimer created an extremely effective, tension-filled noir-like film. It's the kind of movie where no one gets off easy and everyone comes out damaged in the end. The murder of Mitchell's mistress was much more brutal than I was expecting. And the scene where the baddie breaks into the Mitchells' house - what an amazing sequence. It was all so much grittier, dirtier, and raunchier than I could have imagined. Other than a shot or two of Mitchell's house, I don't remember seeing a film that portrays Los Angeles in such a negative light. We see the seedy side of LA in all its glory. Instead of movie stars and mansions, 52 Pick-Up is filled with back alleys, adult movie houses, and abandoned warehouses. It's really a well-written and well-directed film.

The film's baddies epitomize nastiness. John Glover is Alan Raimy - a smarmier dude never existed. He's the kind of guy you'd like to punch in the face the minute you meet him. Robert Trebor is Leo Franks - the weak-link in the group. He may seem like a clown, but I wouldn't turn my back on him. Finally, there's Clarence Williams III as Bobby Shy. He's the muscle and the last guy you'd want to meet in a dark alley. Schieder and Ann-Margret may be the "names" in the film, but Glover, Tregor, and Williams (and the city) are the real stars. Also, pay attention to 80's icon Vanity in a small, but important role. I never imagined she would be this good.

Finally, I'm confused as to why Doug McClure is even in this film. He has about 30 seconds of screen time and about 10 words of dialogue. Did he need the work that bad?

Other than a couple of minor contrived moments near the film's climax, I've got nothing to complain about. A strong 8/10 from me.


Psych: Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark
Episode 9, Season 4

"Are you wearing childrens pajamas?"
While investigating a crime involving an ice cream truck, Shawn is shot and kidnapped. Gus, Juliet, Lassiter, and Henry team-up to find Shawn, bring him home safely, and take down the baddies.

As I make my way through Psych for the third or fourth time, I'm putting together a Top Ten list. As is evident by my rating, Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark will not doubt make that list - and most likely will be #1. It's an unusual episode. Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark doesn't feature nearly as many laughs or banter or the nonsense you'll find in most episodes. Instead, this one is a tension-filled, action-packed ride. The final chase scene is as good and thrilling as anything you'll find in Psych. As a plus, this episode gives each of the main characters more to do than the normal episode. It's not all about Shawn. Gus, Juliet, and the rest get a real chance to shine and show their strengths.

Don't misunderstand, while the comedy often takes a backseat to the drama in Shawn Takes a Short in the Dark, there are still some wonderfully funny moments. Gus wearing pajamas, Shawn's apartment and browser history, and the initial meeting with Garth (played by the wonderful MIchael Rooker) - some really top-notch stuff.

Overall, one of Psych's best. While it's probably not a good jumping-on point for someone not familiar with the series, for long-time fans, it's a winner.


Psych: Tuesday the 17th
Episode 15, Season 3

"Shawn! What are we doing here?"
An old friend asks Shawn and Gus for help. He's reopening the old summer camp from the boys' youth. One of his new counselors has gone missing. Before you can say "pineapple", Shawn and Gus find themselves face-to-face with an axe-welding maniac.

What an absolutely wonderful episode! As a long time fan of Friday the 13th, Tuesday the 17th hits every mark perfectly. From the title sequence, music cues, various set-pieces, the camp setting, the filming style, jump scares, and the storyline, the slasher tropes are played to perfection. Not only does it take elements from Friday the 13th, but old-school horror fans will undoubtedly notice bits from April Fool's Day long before Shawn points it out. And, if I'm not mistaken, there's even a small bit from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's easily one of the creepiest, and most fun, episodes in Psych's run.


Psych: Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast
Episode 15, Season 1

"Wanna split a pineapple?"
Shawn and Gus agree to help Juliet investigate the apparent suicide of a young sorority sister who may have thrown herself from the window at a supposedly haunted and abandoned asylum. The girl's death is eerily similar to one Shawn and Gus witnessed years earlier at the same location. Meanwhile, Lassiter is forced to work with the world's worst rookie officer.

I'm slowly working my way through Psych for about the third or fourth time. I can't seem to get enough of it. From Season 1, "Scary Sherry; Bianca's Toast" just might be my favorite episode. Why? Well, first of all, the subject matter appeals to me. A lot of the horror movie tropes I enjoy are here - a maniac with an axe, a spooky old asylum filled with lit candles, and a ghostly figure. Add to that Shawn and Gus screaming like little girls at the first sight of something weird, Juliet getting too into her undercover persona, Shannon Woodward in a supporting role, the truth behind one of Santa Barbara's most notorious urban legends, and the clever title, and you end up with a real winner. The comedy here is first rate. For instance, I think I laugh-out-loud everytime I watch the frightened Gus getting trapped all alone in the creepy asylum Finally, there's the bit with Lassiter and Detective Goochberg. Mercedes Ruehl is a riot! Overall, one of the best.


Green Acres: Oliver Buys a Farm
Episode 1, Season 1

Only hints at what's to come
If you're as old as I am, you've most likely known the words of the Green Acres theme song all of your life. The plot in the pilot episode follows those lyrics pretty well. Oliver wants to farm, while Lisa wants to stay in the city. They go back and forth, but, ultimately, Oliver wins and Lisa reluctantly agrees to go - at least for 6 months.

While I feel that the first episode of Green Acres is good and often quite funny, it only hints at the zanniness to come. Regardless, there's still a lot here to like. First, I really like the documentary style presentation. We see right from the start that Green Acres isn't a show afraid to break the fourth wall - something that happens with regularity.. Second, we get a chance to meet several of the locals who help make the show so funny. While my personal favorite, Hank Kimble, isn't around, we get a chance to see Sam Drucker, Fred Ziffel, Arnold, and a few others. A lot of the locals weren't new to TV audiences back in 1965 having appeared on Petticoat Junction for a couple of years, so there's no time wasted on introductions. Instead, the locals get a chance to meet newcomer Oliver Wendell Douglas. Which leads me to number three, we (along with the locals) get a chance to hear one of Mr Douglas' speeches about the importance of the American farmer. All we're missing is the accompanying fyfe that would come later. Sam and Co's reaction is a hoot.

So overall, Oliver Buys a Farm is a nice episode that goes a long way to laying the necessary groundwork. It might not be as funny as what follows, but still worth a watch if you want to see how Green Acres got its start.


The Avengers: The Gravediggers
Episode 2, Season 4

Mrs Peel as the damsel in distress
After an early warning radar system malfunctions, Steed and Mrs Peel are called in to investigate. Their only real clue is a dead man and something called the Sir Horace Winslip Hospital for Ailing Railwaymen.

The Gravediggers is another good one featuring more than a handful of iconic images that any fan won't soon forget - including an antenna rising out of a grave, Steed's fight scene on a tiny train, and Mrs Peel literally tied to a railroad track. The eccentric and very British Sir Horace Winslip (Ronald Fraser) is one of the series more memorable characters. Steed and Sir Horace's luncheon scene on the "train" is frequently very funny. And I get a kick out of the way the baddie's dress in full morning clothes to tote a casket back and forth. Good stuff. Finally, The Gravediggers benefits from some outstanding supporting actors. In addition to Fraser, Paul Massie, Wanda Ventham, Caroline Blakiston, and the immediately recognizable, but very young looking, Steven Birkoff all add to the fun.


Psych 2: Lassie Come Home

I enjoyed it more than the first one
After being shot multiple times, Lassiter is convalescing in a swanky hospital when he notices some strange, possibly supernatural, happenings. Not wanting to go through official channels and have people believe he's crazy, he calls on Shawn and Gus to unravel the mystery. Much hilarity ensues.

In general, sequels never seem to be as good as the first film in a series. I say "in general", because in this case, I enjoyed Psych 2 much more than the first Psych movie. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons. First, Psych 2 felt more like the show. I loved Psych (the series) so anything that gave me that nostalgic feeling is going to be a winner with me. The first film was a bit overblown, with multiple WWE guest stars. Psych 2 is much more low-key - like the series. Second, the comedy seems more natural. I thought a lot of the comedy in the first movie felt forced. The natural chemistry between James Roday and Dule HIll is here. I actually laughed out loud on several occasions. The bit where Shawn and Gus investigate the Viking bar was hysterical. Admittedly, not all of the humor worked (the foot tickling scene as an example), but most hit the mark. Third, I suppose I enjoyed Psych 2 more because my expectations weren't as high. In all honesty, I probably went into Psych expecting far too much. Psych 2 was always going to benefit from this. Whatever the reason, overall, Psych 2's a winner with me.

It was also nice to see Timothy Omundson back as Lassiter. While it's obvious he's not his old self, I applaud the way the writers worked his physical limitations into the film. Nice move.

I'm not sure how the TV ratings were, but I hope they were good enough for a Psych 3. I'd love to see more Psych movies for years to come.


A Bridge Too Far

"I'm awfully sorry, but I'm afraid we're going to have to occupy your house."
A Bridge Too Far tells the story of Operation Market Garden - the Allied attempt to gain control of strategically important bridges in Belgium and Holland so they might more easily punch holes in the German lines. As far as WWII movies go, this one seems to be as, if not more, historically accurate as any you'll find. And I think that's one of the film's real strengths - it's not a rah rah war movie. In this one, just as they did in real life, the Allies fail. Not something you usually see in a Hollywood film. There's also a certain degree of realism in the battle scenes. The violence is often unrelenting. People get hurt, they bleed, they suffer, and they die. Again, something that's often not seen in the usual sanitized WWII film from this period.

The film features just about anybody who was anybody (as long as they were male) making movies in 1977. The cast is huge. Whether I cared for their characters or not, I found the performances of Michael Caine, Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Hopkins, and Maximilian Schell particularly enjoyable. I can't say the same for Robert Redford (who had too much of a 70s look and vibe) or scene-chewing Elliott Gould. Neither performance worked for me.

Finally, as much as I've always enjoyed A Bridge Too Far, it's not perfect. My biggest complaint is that at 175 minutes, that's at least a half-hour too long. Surely there were things and scenes that could have been edited out. For example, you could cut all scenes featuring James Caan and it wouldn't change the movie much at all. Not only do his scenes have little to do with anything else in the movie, his race through the forest where he's able to elude about half the German army is ludicrous.


The Saint: The Golden Journey
Episode 10, Season 1

Simon tours Spain and displays his misogyny along the way
Simon is set to be Best Man for one of his closest friends, Jack. However, he's not very fond of the bride-to-be, Belinda (Erica Rogers). She's a spoiled, selfish, arrogant, entitled brat. Simon decides she needs to be taught a lesson in humility. Through some backhanded doings, Simon forces the ill-equipped Belinda to join him on a 100 mile trek through the mountains of Spain, with the wedding location as their destination.

Obviously, I'm not much of a fan of The Golden Journey. Because of the misogyny on display and the beyond ridiculous, but ultimately predictable plot, this episode doesn't work for me. First, to call Simon's treatment of Belinda cheavanistic and cruel would be a gross understatement. When he's not putting her over his knee to spank her (yes, spank her), he's either pushing or pulling her, yelling at her, and forcibly kissing her. Sure, she's a horrible human being, but no one deserves to be treated like that. Nice going, Simon. Second, I don't care how good of a friend the unseen Jack is, why would Simon want to go through all this trouble and bother? He gives up seven or so days of his life for an uncomfortably long journey with a woman he can't stand. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

One of the few highlights I'll mention is Erica Rogers. This is her second appearance in The Saint. While I didn't care for either of her characters, as an actress, she's outstanding. Even with the mistreatment her character suffers in The Golden Journey, she and Roger Moore have an undeniable screen chemistry.


The Saint: The Effete Angler
Episode 9, Season 1

"Waiter! Bring me a double scotch and a large glass of milk . . . mixed!"
Simon heads to Miami for a fishing vacation. In no time, he meets Gloria Uckrose (Shirley Eaton). Gloria tells Simon that, like him, she and her husband are in Miami to fish. However, after meeting Mr Uckrose, Simon becomes suspicious. And, he's proven right when an attempt is made on his life. Gloria comes to Simon and asks him to run away with her, but can she be trusted?

I was going to call The Effete Angler an average, routine, 5/10-type episode, but then came the twist. Was I ever caught off guard! I'm sure some viewers will have seen it coming, but I didn't. It's nothing that will change your life, but it's still a nice twist. The plot is okay, but nothing to write home about. What the Uckrose's are actually up to is far less important than Simon figuring it all out. Other highlights for me include: (1) Shirley Eaton, obviously. This was her second appearance in The Saint and I always appreciate seeing her in anything. For me, she is the epitome of the 60s/early-70s. (2) Moore's acting during the scenes where Gloria tries to get Simon to run away with her. The doubt on his face is perfectly subtle, but gets the point across. Nice job.

One last thing, even as a much younger, pre-James Bond man, Roger Moore looks awkward in fight scenes. I think he's just too tall and refined looking to realistically pull it off.


The Outpost

"Loose ends come back to haunt you."
A group of government scientists working in an abandoned bunker in the middle of the desert fortuitously come across a wounded man on the brink of death. I say "fortuitously" because not only are they miles from civilization, but they just happen to be working on an experiment to reanimate the dead (or some such nonsense) when a test subject miraculously falls into their laps. As expected, the man regains consciousness and goes on a killing rampage, knocking-off the scientists one-by-one. The man-creature, who they've ridiculously named THOR, needs some sort of substance that can only be found in the human brain (it kind of reminded me of all those movies from the 50s where the monster needed pineal juice). Anyway, our heroes are of course trapped in the bunker with no way out. And that's pretty much it . . well, except for the phallic-like thing that comes out of THOR's mouth that he uses to do his mind ripping.

Mind Ripper proves the point that Wes Craven would attach his name to any old garbage for a paycheck. I admit that there are a couple of nice, creepy moments, but overall, this one's not very good. The film gets off to such a slow start that it just about put me to sleep. The first 20 or so minutes are excruciatingly dull with people you don't know doing this you don't understand in a bunker that has all the visual appeal of the inside of a trash can. The acting is a mixed bag. I thought Lance Heriksen and Claire Stansfield were fine, but then you have Natasha Wagner's often laugh-out-loud line delivery. She's not helped at all by the script which gives every character clunky, silly dialogue. As for THOR, I thought Dan Blom was fine as long as he was scuttling about on all fours, but he's really not much of an actor. And his creature make-up was mostly laughable. Finally, the ending is uber-predictable. Who didn't see bad son Scott suddenly making a 180 turn to save the day? And who couldn't have predicted THOR's unwillingness to just die so the movie could (mercifully) end?


Chinatown at Midnight

A pretty poor script
Thug and thief Clifford Ward (Hurd Hatfield) knocks-off a shop in Chinatown to get his hands on a valuable jade vase. In the process, he kills two innocent store employees. The police start going through clues and Ward feels the heat.

Overall, I wasn't overly impressed with Chintown at Midnight. The acting is fine, the San Francisco locations add a nice touch of reality, Ward is an appropriately ruthless killer, and the final chase is nicely filmed. But there are so many "silly" moments, that I found myself laughing a time or two - not what you want out of a noirish police procedural. Here's a list of some of what I'm talking about, but please note - SPOILER WARNING:

1. Why say anything into the phone? You've just killed two people, why put the cops on your tail so quickly? Just hang-up the phone or, better yet, run away.

2. There's one scene where the police have Ward trapped in a dark building, This leads to a fairly intense shootout. Ward runs into an alley, ditches his gun and overcoat, and joins a nearby bread-line. The cops enter the same alley and don't so much as glance at the four or five guys getting dinner. What incompetence!

3. There are at least three (and maybe four) instances where the cops might have captured Ward without incident if they didn't rush into every situation like bulls in a china shop. Example - thinking they might catch Ward returning to his rooming house, the police decide to stake-out the place. Instead of quietly assuming their positions, three police cars come barreling from different directions and park directly in front of the house, all but blocking the street. Real subtle work. (This is the moment I actually found myself laughing.)

4. In the final shootout, Ward runs up some stairs toward the roof. A policeman is waiting for him. Ward tries to shoot but his gun is obviously empty. Instead of taking the now unarmed Ward into custody, the cop on the roof unloads on him with a tommy-gun. Talk about unnecessary force. But I suppose the writer and director wanted Ward to go out in a hail of bullets regardless of how ridiculous the circumstances.

There are more examples I could cite, but you get the idea. These "silly" moments really undo what was otherwise a tight, tense thriller. It was never going to be a great movie, but Chinatown at Midnight never had a chance with this script.


The Circus Queen Murder

"It's a well known fact that cannibals differ from the rest of us in their dietary customs."
Police commissioner Thatcher Colt (Adolphe Menjou) has had it up to here with New York crime. Wanting to get away and recharge the batteries, he sets off with his secretary for a vacation in the middle-of-nowhere upstate New York. There, Colt runs into a traveling circus and murder. Not much of a vacation.

It's unfortunate that The Circus Queen Murder suffers from such a poor storyline, becuase there's a lot here to like. The film looks absolutely fantastic and the acting is as strong as you'll find in a "B" from this era, but there's not much to work with when it comes to the story. First, the film's title gives away far too much, destroying any hope of suspense. Second, the killer's identity is a given throughout the film, destroying any hope of mystery. Third, the film's pacing is a mess. I'm convinced that director Roy William Neill did the best he could, but without much to work with, the film tends to bog down from time-to-time (who am I kidding - parts of the film are downright boring). Fourth, our hero, Thatcher Colt, doesn't really do much. He knows who the killer is and he knows who the intended victim is, but does nothing about it. He pretty much sits back and lets the murder happen. Which leads to - fifth, the ending is complete bananas.

In the end, the best I can rate The Circus Queen Murder is a very average (and maybe even generous) 5/10.

Finally, I'm not an expert on pre-code films, but I generally get a kick out of them. It's amazing to me what filmmakers could do and get away with in 1933 that they couldn't just a couple years later. Marital infidelity, blood, risque wardrobes, and even something as innocent as Colt and his secretary traveling together would have most likely been axed by the Code. Interesting stuff.


The Saint: The Element of Doubt
Episode 8, Season 1

Where's The Saint?
Simon isn't very happy with a hoodlum getting off free or his win-at-all-costs attorney. So, Simon decides to take matters into his own hands in the name of justice.

There's nothing really wrong with The Element of Doubt, but (and I'm starting to sound like a broken record) it doesn't feel like an episode of The Saint. In this case, Roger Moore's Simon Templar isn't even involved until there are only about 15 minutes left. There are at least 30 minutes of runtime where I all but forgot Moore was even in the show. The courtroom drama is fine and reasonably entertaining, but without Simon, it's not really The Saint.

A couple other things that bothered me: (1) Everyone seems upset by defence attorney Carlton Rood's (a nice performance from David Bauer, by the way) courtroom tactics. I don't get it. He doesn't do anything any other competent attorney wouldn't do. His role is to represent his client to the best of his ability and, if possible, get the charges dropped against, And at that, he's successful. Does he do anything illegal? No. Does he do anything unethical? Maybe, but it's up to the prosecuting attorney to object and deal with. Rood shouldn't be blamed because he out-foxed and out-maneuvered the prosecuting attorney while he sat on his hands. (2) Once Simon finally does make an appearance, his plan to seek justice is so obvious and so juvenile that there's no way it should have worked. A smart guy like Rood would have seen through Simon's plan and that ridiculous accent straight away. I just wasn't impressed with anything The Saint did in this episode.


Laser Mission

"You see, with the Varbeek diamond and my laser, I can create a nuclear weapon."
Like a lot of people, I stumbled across Laser Mission in a $1 DVD bin at a discount store several years ago. I finally got around to watching it recently and what a total bonkers, but fairly enjoyable experience. The plot is a hot mess, but here goes: A CIA mercenary (as the theme song reminds us over and over and over), Michael Gold (Brandon Lee), is hired to (a) rescue a world renowned laser scientist and (b) retrieve one of the world's largest diamonds. It seems that said scientist can somehow use the diamond and his knowledge of lasers to create a nuclear weapon (I think).

Laser Mission is another of those movies that further proves my ratings are based on entertainment value and not the quality of the production. In all honesty, Laser Mission is a total mess and pretty much a dumpster fire. In addition to the confusing plot (for example, just try to figure out what country these people are supposed to be in - go ahead - I dare you), the movie features some incredibly poor editing, ridiculous dialogue, dodgy acting (those ever-changing accents are a hoot), lame special effects, amateurish action sequences, groan-inducing attempts at comedy, lead actress Debi Monahan's screechy voice, and, despite the title, nary a laster in sight. However, regardless of this list of negatives, I found Laser Mission not just watchable, but mostly entertaining. I think all of the craziness I've listed, when combined, created something that's just good fun.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but I was amazed to see Ernest Borgnine pop up in a dog like Laser Mission. I've enjoyed Borgnine as an actor since I first saw McHale's Navy in reruns as a child. Despite the ridiculous script, he gives it his all. He easily outacts everyone in the cast.


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