mrb1980

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Reviews

The Morning After
(1974)

Harrowing account of an alcoholic's decline
By 1974 Dick Van Dyke was anxious to shed his happy Rob Petrie stereotype so he began performing in much more serious roles, including the lead in "The Morning After". Most of the talented Van Dyke's comedy films in the 1960s and early 1970s had bombed badly (see the horrible "Some Kind of a Nut" for an example) so it appears he attempted to branch out and diversify his career.

"The Morning After" is a very straightforward tale of respected middle-aged businessman Charlie Lester, who begins to drink to the point that it is affecting his work and his family life. Lester makes several half-hearted attempts to seek help, but continues his downward spiral and finally ends up in a mental hospital after a frightening episode of DTs. He escapes from the hospital, tearfully calls his wife to say goodbye, and begins drinking heavily again, finally ending up on a deserted beach with a bottle in a brown paper bag. By this time, Lester has lost his job, his wife, his children, and his self-respect but he does have his alcohol, which appears the only thing he really cares about. The final scene is very depressing and downbeat, but it was designed that way.

I recently saw this film for the first time in 46 years and it still packs a punch. Van Dyke is very convincing as the alcoholic, and is capably supported by Lynn Carlin as his wife, Don Porter as his boss, and Richard Derr as a sympathetic doctor. It's wonderfully acted, realistic, and very frank. You won't feel happy after watching it but you'll see what has happened many times to many people. It's a powerful film, different from but equal to "The Lost Weekend".

This Week: Death in the West
(1976)

Brilliant documentary was long suppressed by tobacco companies
Even though "Death in the West" was first aired 44 years ago, it has only recently become available again. British reporter Peter Taylor interviewed tobacco company executives and several western U.S. ranch hands who were long-time smokers and who were seriously ill with lung cancer and emphysema. The cowboys' doctors were also interviewed. The film's effects are devastating: the tobacco executives come off as flippant and dismissive while talking about all the money cigarettes generate, while the old, sick cowboys describe how they always thought cigarettes were safe. Several vintage Marlboro TV commercials are included, and watching those just increases the film's impact.

After one showing in 1976, Philip Morris filed suit against the filmmakers, stating that they were misled and never knew cigarettes would be portrayed in an unfavorable light. An out-of-court settlement locked the film away for years and "Death in the West" has only recently been available for viewing, after many decades of suppression.

If you're a young person thinking about starting smoking, you really should watch this film before you make a decision. Besides potentially saving your life, you can see how casually tobacco companies often treat the health effects of cigarettes. Those health effects are now far better known and documented than in 1976, so "Death in the West" should be required viewing for all teenagers and young adults.

The Man in Hiding
(1915)

THE MAN IN HIDING
THE MAN IN HIDING (Special-Two Parts-Oct. 20).-The cast: Harry Millarde, Alice Hollister, Nell Farrin, William McNulty, James B. Ross.

Tom Ingraham (Harry Millarde), who has been rescued from the clutches of Lina (Nell Farrin), a siren, meets Ruth (Alice Hollister). Knowing the marriage would please his wealthy uncle Macy (James B. Ross), Tom makes the girl his wife. Ruth soon discovers the marriage to be a loveless one. Tom's hopes of inheriting a fortune are blasted when Macy is ruined. The boy meets Lina and is persuaded to desert his wife. Ruth subsequently obtains a divorce, her freedom coming shortly before her daughter's birth.

Several years later, Ruth accepts a position in the home of Marston (William McNulty), a widower, as governess. When Marston urges her to marry him, Ruth declines, telling him her story. She further declares that she knows Tom will need her some day. Tom and Lina quarrel. The adventuress seizes her pistol to defend herself. The weapon is accidentally discharged and Lina falls in a faint. Under the impression that he has killed her, Tom Flees. He is pursued by officers who have heard the shot. In an effort to escape, the fugitive ducks into the Marston home-and comes face to face with Ruth.

Heeding the wretch's pleas, Ruth hides him in a closet and then throws the police off the track. Marston returns home before Tom can emerge. His suspicions aroused by Ruth's conduct, Marston investigates and discovers the man in hiding. Ruth then reveals the circumstances, telling the widower of Tom's identity. His heart touched, Marston allows the man to leave the house. Tom, however, walks right into the hands of an officer outside. Taking Ruth in his arms, Marston again asks her to marry him. - Moving Picture World, 16 October 1915.

The Money Gulf
(1915)

EMPIRE THEATER
How a notorious gambler finally makes good and is accepted in marriage by the girl he adores is the theme of "The Money Gulf", a masterful three-act modern drama starring Harry Millarde and Alice Hollister, that comes today only to the Empire Theater. This great film asks a powerful question of womankind: "What would you do, if, on the day of your marriage, you discovered that the man whose name you were about to take was the gambler in whose establishment hundreds of lives had been blasted?" This is the terrible situation in which Ruth Mason finds herself. But the girl renounces Jasper King and informs him that not until he has donated every penny of his ill-gotten wealth to charity, will she ever wed him. Jasper tries hard to carry out the wishes of the girl he adores, but a chain of circumstances almost frustrates his efforts to do good. How he succeeds is a revelation. - Hartford (Conn.) Courant, 7 December 1915

Honor Thy Father
(1915)

"Honor Thy Father" Kalem--Three Reels
In this production the Vignola and Hobart combination has scored another triumph. A more interesting story, or a plot with great heart interest would be hard to find. And in addition we have an excellent cast that lives up to the respective roles, perfect photography, and settings both interior and exterior, that are realistic to the smallest detail.

The story deals with a lonely couple who have sacrificed their all, that their ingrate son might have a college education. How their home is finally lost to them by the neglect of the son; how the latter in his new position of district attorney sends his father to prison to gratify his own personal vanity; how the son is ensnared by an adventuress (Alice Hollister) only to be finally rescued by his mother; these are only a few of the passages in this most interesting photo play.

There is a good moral in this play, and the beholder is not conscious of the passage of time, so absorbing is the plot. There is action in every foot of the film and not a dull moment.

Harry Millarde plays the part of the ungrateful son, but the honors are due Helen Lindroth, who in the role of his mother gives a wonderful presentation. Henry Hallam is also good in his interpretation of the father.

All together this production is one of the best of the month. It will fit on any program, and is equally suitable to a large theatre or church benefit performance. - Motion Picture News, June 26, 1915.

Griffin & Phoenix
(2006)

Doesn't Match the 1976 Original
The original 1976 TV movie "Griffin and Phoenix" was an example of excellence in film making for the small screen: good script, top-drawer actors, and decent production values. It had (and still has) a believable story and a warm although tragic message. I never had that same feeling with this remake. Oh, Amanda Peet (Sarah Phoenix) and Dermot Mulroney (Henry Griffin) are both good actors, but the script and direction let them down.

The story is the same: two people with terminal illnesses meet and fall in love, unaware that the other has a short time to live. Only this time the movie is set in New York instead of Los Angeles, and the music score has wailing and inappropriate vocals at the wrong times. Peet never really looks sick and doesn't convey the hesitation to get involved that Jill Clayburgh had done so well, and Mulroney just doesn't quite capture the world-weary performance that Peter Falk had given 30 years before. The scene with a woman and her young children who is accosted and verbally abused by Phoenix is just all wrong, and the final sequence with the Christmas tree is so improbable that it almost ruins the entire film.

The 2006 version of "Griffin and Phoenix" is watchable and tries very hard to capture the sadness and resignation of the two main characters, but it never really approaches the original's feeling and mood. The shrill vocal music interludes are more irritating than emotional, and the whole thing is pretty much lifeless (no pun intended) during the final 15 minutes. Peet, whose character is supposedly near death, looks radiantly beautiful while in her hospital bed, and Mulroney never really conveys the emotion that his role requires. While this film isn't bad, do yourself a favor and watch the 1976 original instead.

Airport 1975
(1974)

Just place your brain in neutral and you'll enjoy this film
Most 1970s disaster movies follow a familiar pattern. Everything is fine until something really bad happens, then ordinary people must do heroic deeds to save themselves. "Airport 1975" is no exception, and the plot is so far-fetched that the film provides some (unintentionally) funny moments.

Al Murdock (Charlton Heston) is an airline executive who is so busy with his job that he badly neglects his flight attendant girlfriend Nancy (Karen Black), who as a result seems resentful all the time. A jumbo jet takes off with the usual characters: a movie star (Gloria Swanson), an elderly alcoholic (Myrna Loy), a hack actor (Sid Caesar), the flight crew (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Erik Estrada), a young patient desperately in need of a kidney transplant (Linda Blair), a pretty blonde flight attendant (Christopher Norris), three obnoxious drunk guys (including Norman Fell), a singing nun (Helen Reddy), and...well, that's enough.

Naturally, the pilot of a private plane (Dana Andrews) has a heart attack, crashes his plane into the jumbo jet's cockpit, and pretty soon Nancy the flight attendant is flying the airliner. With the crew disabled or dead, Murdock and Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) try to lower a pilot (Ed Nelson) from a helicopter into the damaged cockpit, which results in the pilot guy falling to his death. So, steel-jawed Murdock is lowered into the crippled plane's cockpit next to Nancy, he encounters several crises ("we're losing brake pressure!") before successfully landing the plane. Whew!

In addition to everyone else, familiar faces such as Larry Storch, Sharon Gless, Beverly Garland, Martha Scott (another nun), and Irene Tsu appear. If you like a big-budget "watch the stars" disaster film with a nonsense plot, please watch "Airport 1975". I just threw logic out the window before I saw it, and I really enjoyed the experience.

Sneak Previews
(1975)

Best Film Review Show Ever
I first saw this show in late 1980 when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were reviewing the worst movies of 1980. I was immediately impressed by their chemistry and charm and by their approach to reviewing films. I grew up reading Pauline Kael's reviews, and I'm certain that she hated every movie she ever saw. However, Siskel and Ebert were willing to watch and review movies in a different light and even though they often disagreed, they were always entertaining and refreshing. The team sadly came to an end with Gene Siskel's untimely death in 1999, but Roger Ebert continued with his insightful reviews until his passing about 12 years later. In retrospect, I took this show and its charming leads for granted back in the 1980s and 1990s, since no film review show since has even come close.

Class of '44
(1973)

Mild Sequel to "Summer of '42"
Anyone who was around in 1971 remembers the sensation that "Summer of '42" caused back then. In a more proper time, the story of a young war bride and an innocent teenager was a smash hit with audiences. So...an inevitable sequel with most of the original cast was released in 1973.

"Class of '44" should have been titled "Hermie and Oscy Go to College" since that's about all the sequel is about. Hermie (Gary Grimes), Oscy (Jerry Hauser), and Benjie (Oliver Conant) graduate from high school, after which Hermie and Oscy attend college while Benjie joins the service. Hermie becomes involved with rich Julie (Deborah Winters) and Oscy is thrown out of school, leading to the nondescript end of the movie in a train station with Julie and Hermie confirming their love.

"Class of '44" isn't a bad movie, it just can't possibly compete with "Summer of '42" on any level. There's no real momentum to this film, we don't care much about the characters, and the basic plot simply meanders all over the place. Christopher Norris and Jennifer O'Neill are sadly missing from this movie, and their absence really makes a difference. John Candy has a brief role after the high school graduation sequence but it's not much.

Grimes disappeared from movies after a couple of years, Winters had a very short acting career, and Houser and O'Neill went on to establish themselves as solid actors in movies and on television. "Class of '44" isn't nearly as profound or entertaining as the original film, but it's certainly acceptable for an undemanding evening if you can locate the DVD.

Catlow
(1971)

Incoherent but Entertaining Western with an Outrageously Funny Yul Brynner
We all know that Yul Brynner movies are serious dramas with stern and dominating performances by Brynner. Well, usually they are. In "Catlow" Brynner laughs and jokes his way through this entertaining comedy-western, supported by a fine cast.

Outlaw Catlow (Brynner) and marshal Cowan (Richard Crenna) are former Civil War buddies but now Cowan is trying to arrest Catlow for cattle rustling. Ultra-bad guy Orville Miller (Leonard Nimoy!) has been hired by local ranchers to hang Catlow. A lot of the rambling plot isn't very linear and is often hard to follow. Some characters disappear for extended periods before unexpectedly reappearing, and there's little continuity between scenes. Outlaws, evil ranchers, Indians, Mexican soldiers, bounty hunters, and fiery ladies are thrown into the mix with entertaining (and confusing) results. The sudden switch between comedy and violence is sometimes pretty jarring, and there are lots of cartoonish gunfights. Anyway, Miller is so mean that you know he'll be dead by the end of the movie, and Catlow decides to take up law enforcement at the end of the film...after stealing $2 million in gold.

Brynner has so many funny lines that I lost count, and his banter with Crenna is most entertaining. Nimoy's turn as a villain is good, except his character abruptly disappears for most of the movie before reappearing at the end to die, and he has a nude scene that I certainly could have done without. Jeff Corey adds humorous support as an old member of Catlow's gang. Daliah Lavi plays Catlow's fiery Mexican girlfriend Rosita, but much of what she does makes no sense at all. It's very hard to get used to seeing Nimoy wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse, all the while speaking with Mr. Spock's voice. This is one Yul Brynner movie that's so uncharacteristic of his usual work that even with its obvious flaws it's certainly worth catching, and it's funny as well.

Goldengirl
(1979)

Passable Movie About Training for the Olympics
"Goldengirl" was one of many attempts during 1979 to transform Susan Anton into a major star. She was everywhere during that year, including television, movies, and magazines. The star-making exercise was unsuccessful, but this film is fairly good despite its obviously intended star-vehicle status.

Goldine (Anton) is raised her entire life by her father Serafin (Curt Jurgens) to be an elite athlete through intensive training and medications. Now that she's an adult, Serafin invites a group of investors to put up big money so she can compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. There's an endless amount of training, talk, and maneuvering leading up to the big race, but will Goldine win?

The investors feature several recognizable faces, including James Coburn, Harry Guardino, Robert Culp, and others. Leslie Caron appears as a sympathetic doctor who tries to keep Goldine from going batty from all the attention. The film is acceptable entertainment...even though the U.S. boycotted the Moscow games! Anyway, Anton is very beautiful (and her acting is good as well) and it's fun to watch so many famous actors in a movie whose plot line is not very demanding.

Chest of Fortune
(1914)

Good Silent Film, Well Directed and Acted
The Kalem Company produced over 1,700 silent films between 1907 and 1917, most of them around 10-15 minutes in length. We are fortunate that many of these films are still extant and can be enjoyed today. Copies of "Chest of Fortune" still exist, although the one I saw had title cards in Dutch.

The film tells the story of a family during the Civil War who, fearful of the approaching Morgan's Raiders, sends their servants and their very young son away in a boat with a chest full of the family's fortune. The boat sinks, and the treasure is lost for many decades although the young boy Jack is saved by strangers. Years later Jack Wellington (Guy Coombs) is the manager of a dredging operation that happens to find the chest, whereupon Jack opens it and finds his photo among his parents' prized possessions. He shows the objects to his friend Harry Manning (Harry F. Millarde). Jack starts spending much time with his girlfriend Kate Ward (Marguerite Courtort), which enrages Harry with jealousy. When Kate chooses Jack, Harry knocks Jack unconscious, throws him in the dredge bucket, and tries to kill him by submerging him in deep water. Jack's co-workers arrive just in time, apprehend Harry, and Kate and Jack can be married and spend their lives together.

This short movie is very well made, with good (for the time) cinematography and acting. In particular, Harry's jealousy is well demonstrated by Millarde and the scenes of Harry's detainment are very good. The film is worth watching to see Millarde and actress Courtot during their silent film days with Kalem.

Millarde later became a prominent director at Fox Studios, married actress June Caprice (who he directed in several films) and died at just 45 of heart problems in New York City, only 17 years after making this film. (Millarde's widow Caprice died just five years later at age 40.) More happily the beautiful Courtot retired in 1924, married fellow silent actor Raymond McKee, and lived many years until her death in 1986 at age 88. It's interesting to see these old-time actors at the beginning of their careers, in a very watchable film.

In Walked Mary
(1920)

One of the Few Surviving June Caprice Films
I haven't seen this film and I can't actually review it. However, I originally believed that all of June Caprice's films had been lost in the 1937 Fox vault fire. Caprice made this film for Pathe instead of Fox, and according to the Library of Congress a complete print survives. Let's hope that some day this movie will be available so that we can see Caprice, whose career spanned only five years and who died at the young age of 40.

The Arrangement
(1969)

Mostly Incomprehensible Film
I guess "The Arrangement" has some merit-after all, it showcases late 1960s southern California quite well-but overall the movie is an all-star disaster due to its confusing structure and its incredibly muddled story.

Los Angeles advertising executive Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas) has a nervous breakdown and tries to commit suicide by driving his sports car under a semi. The rest of the film flashes back to Anderson's childhood, his relationship with his dying father (Richard Boone, who was actually YOUNGER than Douglas), his deteriorating marriage with his wife (Deborah Kerr), and his torrid affair with a co-worker (Faye Dunaway). Along the way the flashbacks were very difficult to track and even harder to understand. Boone's character doesn't do much besides lie in bed, and Deborah Kerr chews the scenery as the cheated wife.

I lost track of how many times the story flashed back, and I never did understand what the point of the movie was. The late 1960s time period touches were great, but otherwise I didn't really gain any understanding of the characters. Hume Cronyn, as Anderson's attorney, had about the only decent role in the whole film. If you decide to watch this mess of a film, be prepared for a lesson in confusion and expect to feel pretty empty afterward.

Slave Girls
(1967)

(Unintentionally) Hilarious Lost Female Tribe Saga
I'm not really sure what the filmmakers were thinking when they made "Prehistoric Women". Was it a latter-day male fantasy movie? Was it intended as a feminist drama? Did the screenwriter like brunettes more than blondes? Whatever the motivation, you really must watch the film to believe what I'm about to write.

A great white hunter in Africa (David, played by Michael Latimer) gets lost and blunders into a female civilization in which brunettes have enslaved blondes. I mean, they really have. The brunette queen Kari is none other than Martine Beswick. When David rejects her advances, he's thrown into a dungeon with enslaved and shackled males who perform menial chores. While there, David meets an old slave (Dido Plumb) who shows him the ropes while being mercilessly beaten by sadistic male guards. There are lots of ceremonial native dances, a bizarre marriage ritual involving a white rhinoceros, and much inane dialogue before the men are fed up and finally decide to revolt. After much cartoonish violence (none of it very convincing) the evil queen is impaled on the white rhino's horn, after which David eventually returns to his hunting party and experiences a very predictable twist ending.

The interactions between Latimer and Beswick, and especially between Latimer and Plumb are the highlights of the movie. Some of the most laughable scenes ever committed to film occur in the dungeon and during the female tribe's rituals. One of the best lines: David (after watching a dungeon guard beat the old slave): "He hates you! Why?" Old slave: "The man he used to hate died last week." The scene in which the old slave's shackles are removed after 50 years are especially amusing, since Plumb asks "Are we free?" several times before dropping dead. It's impossible not to laugh when you hear dialogue like that.

Depending on your taste for bad cinema, "Prehistoric Women" will either leave you shaking your head or make you laugh during the entire movie. I laughed like a hyena, and I think you will too.

Fail Safe
(1964)

Scary-and I Mean SCARY-Cold War Yarn
Fine performances and excellent direction make the difference in this 1964 film set during the Cold War. A U.S. bomber with nuclear weapons is mistakenly ordered to bomb Moscow, plunging both countries' militaries and political leaders into a frantic battle against time to avert an accidental nuclear attack. Henry Fonda as the U.S. president, Larry Hagman as Buck his translator, Ed Binns as the pilot of the attack plane, Walter Matthau as an ultra-hawkish professor, along with a great supporting cast will have you on the edge of your seat during the entire film. Dom DeLuise even appears in a serious role as a computer technician.

The ending is downbeat but it's quite a rollercoaster ride to arrive there, and after the film is over you'll wonder if this could really happen. Only 19 years later in 1983 it almost DID happen, as a false alarm nearly caused the exact thing that this movie depicted in fiction. Only a brave and decisive Soviet officer decided that the incoming U.S. "missile" was likely a computer error, which it was. When you think about that incident and the events shown in this movie, the scenario seems very real and very scary. The film will make you feel uneasy, but that's the whole point.

Brainstorm
(1965)

Engrossing and Creepy Drama
I've always liked Jeffrey Hunter's work, especially in "No Down Payment" but also in a lot of other 1950s and 1960s films. His death at an early age in 1969 ensured that he never reached the older-age parts for actors in their 50s and 60s, but his body of work is very good nonetheless. "Brainstorm" is a very, very good drama from 1965 and Hunter is excellent.

Young, brilliant, and rather nerdy systems analyst Jim Grayam (Hunter) leaves work one night to find a woman (Anne Francis) asleep in a car astride railroad tracks. After a frantic rescue, Grayam discovers that the woman is Lorrie Benson, wife of his company's CEO Cort Benson (Dana Andrews). Lorrie Benson and Grayam start an affair, much to the displeasure of Cort Benson, who tries everything to discredit and destroy Grayam. After murdering Cort Benson, Grayam ends up in a mental institution, which he planned so he can be released early to be with Lorrie. The only problem is that Lorrie leaves him, and after an escape from captivity, Grayam is recaptured, now really crazy due to his experience in the hospital.

Efficiently directed by William Conrad, "Brainstorm" showcases Francis and Hunter quite well. Hunter's performance is top-notch, Francis is nearly as good, while Dana Andrews does his evil rich guy character a good turn. Viveca Lindfors is very convincing as a psychiatrist, as well. Maybe the best performance is provided by Stacy Harris, who does a wonderful job as Grayam's dedicated and honest boss. This B&W film isn't for everyone's tastes, but you must tune in for the railroad crossing scene at the film's beginning...it'll give you butterflies and white knuckles.

Quicksand
(1950)

Enjoyable Suspense/Noir Film; Mickey Rooney is excellent
In older films we all expect to see Mickey Rooney dancing and singing with Judy Garland or engaging in juvenile roles in the Andy Hardy series. Rooney was 30 and too old for those roles when "Quicksand" was released in 1950, and he made the most of his opportunity to shine playing an undesirable and desperate character.

Dan Brady (Rooney) is an auto mechanic with no money and very little future, but he does have devoted and sensitive girlfriend Helen (Barbara Bates). Brady meets B-girl Vera Novak (well played by Jeanne Cagney) and predictably falls hard for her. To impress her with his money, he "borrows" $20 from his boss' cash drawer, leading to more borrowing, trouble with a private investigator, armed robbery, blackmail by slimy arcade owner Nick (well played by Peter Lorre), burglary, a gunfight, a stolen car, the attempted murder of Brady's boss, carjacking, and flight to avoid police. The police arrive to bust Vera (who bought a fur coat with her ill-gotten gains), and Brady takes off as a fugitive. While running, he and Helen meet kindly attorney Harvey (bland Taylor Holmes), leading to a gunfight at the Santa Monica Pier and Brady's arrest.

Watching Brady's life spin out of control because of the $20 is fascinating to watch, primarily because it's happening to wholesome Mickey Rooney. It's great fun, and you can hear the rare use of the word "geetus" (money) by Rooney. "Quicksand" is a pretty good semi-film noir with Rooney, James Cagney's sister, and the ill-fated Barbara Bates.

Hot Rod Gang
(1958)

Better Than You Might Think
Okay, this movie is titled "Hot Rod Gang" and it was released in 1958, so a person's first instinct is that it's a horrible teen movie with little plot and atrocious acting. In reality, the film is pretty good, with decent music, good acting and some good touches of humor.

John Ashley plays John Abernathy III, who will inherit his grandfather's entire estate if he lives a virtuous life and stays out of trouble. Naturally, Abernathy wants to race fast cars, chase girls, sing with his "combo" and fight with his enemies. The film moves quickly to Abernathy's rock stardom, lots of music by Gene Vincent, several fistfights, and a final defeat of the bad guys, who want to ruin Ashley's dreams.

Ashley acquits himself well in the lead role, and croons several songs anonymously as "Jackson Dalrymple", who is disguised with a fake beard. He's supported by the wholesome Jody Fair, with comic relief by numerous adult actors, who of course behave like idiots. The movie's a notch above the usual late 1950s teen movies, with good photography, lots of action, the music of Gene Vincent, and some very good work by Ashley. It's not a bad way to spend your evening if you're feeling nostalgic.

Girl Gang
(1954)

Recycling of the "Reefer Madness" Plot Results in Cheap and Very Sad Movie
When I saw the title "Girl Gang", I assumed I'd see a Mamie Van Doren movie imitation, with lots of dumb situations, ridiculous dialogue, and a laughable script. This movie about drug addiction in the early 50s is incredibly cheap and not funny at all.

A group of high schoolers looking for fun unwisely become involved with "Joe" (Timothy Farrell) and "Doc" (Harry Keaton), a drug pusher and his doctor supplier, respectively. A few puffs of "weed" lead to addiction, robbery, murder, blackmail, prostitution, bankruptcy and just about everything else. The kids graduate from "weed" to heroin, becoming so addicted that their lives are ruined. The acting is horrible and the situations unbelievable, but for some reason the proceedings just aren't funny.

I did learn a lot: a heroin injection is a "joy pop", heroin withdrawal is "the jumpin jives", a person can overdose almost fatally on "weed", and 10-minute piano solos seem to be a lot of fun. Instead of being unintentionally funny like "Reefer Madness" however, "Girl Gang" is really pretty depressing. Its frank (though poorly acted) treatment of heroin addiction is just sad. Most of the actors never appeared in another film, which tells me something. If you want to laugh, watch "Untamed Youth" or "Girls Town", but be warned that "Girl Gang" is depressing and not funny. Maybe it was meant to be that way.

Girls Town
(1959)

Priceless Cast and Very Amusing Dialogue
Take a look a this film's cast: Mamie Van Doren, Mel Torme, Paul Anka, Gigi Perreau, Gloria Talbott, Elinor Donahue, Ray Anthony, James Mitchum, and other late 1950s luminaries. Add some of the most ridiculous dialogue ever, numerous Paul Anka songs, and a laughably dumb script, and you have the delicious and campy "Girls Town".

Silver Morgan (Van Doren) is framed for a death and railroaded into a disciplinary place called Girls Town, which is inhabited by orphans and problem girls and run by nuns(!). She is immediately put in her place by dorm boss Vida (a very tough Gloria Talbott), resulting in all kinds of problems when Morgan misbehaves and breaks the rules. Along the way we see a laughable gang rumble, teen idol Jimmy Parlow (a very young Paul Anka) sings innumerable songs, bad-guy Fred (Mel Torme) abducts Silver's innocent kid sister Mary Lee (Donahue) and tries to sell her for profit in Mexico, there's a wild drag race and a drug overdose, and eventually Jimmy, Vida, Silver, and the nuns triumph over Fred. Silver has learned her lesson and emerges from Girls Town as a fine young woman, and also as a woman in her late 20s playing a high school senior.

Van Doren's dialogue is unintentionally ludicrous. She says "daddy-o" more times than I could count, she calls the head nun's phone an "Alexander Graham", she refers to another girl as a "baby chick", and...well, you get the idea. I found myself laughing out loud at the ridiculous words that came out of her mouth. Still, "Girls Town" has a certain weird appeal to it. It's hokey, but it's a lot more innocent than anything you'll see today, and it's a chance to see Paul Anka at the beginning of his stardom (strangely, Torme doesn't sing at all). It's over an hour of silly entertainment, and the music's not bad, either.

Shampoo
(1975)

Interesting Satire of Southern California Life
"Shampoo" is a well-known 1975 film with a big-name cast and which was a huge box office hit, centered around the 1968 presidential election. George Roundy (Warren Beatty) is a superficial Beverly Hills hairdresser with lots of wealthy clients, many of whom he engages in affairs with, including Felicia (Lee Grant) and Jackie (Julie Christie). He even has a brief fling with Felicia's daughter Lorna (Carrie Fisher, who looks awfully young). Lester Karpf (Jack Warden, in a great performance) is married to Felicia but keeps Jackie as his mistress. George's neglected girlfriend Jill (Goldie Hawn) can only watch helplessly as George conducts his various affairs. There are a couple of good party scenes and a conclusion in which Lester leaves Felicia to be with Jackie, and Jill leaves George for good. The final scene has George all alone, friendless, on top of a mountain in LA.

The film has real flashes of brilliance, especially when it's satirizing life in Los Angeles. Many scenes are draggy and talky, though. It's good for nostalgia, although everything looks a lot more like 1975 than 1968. Beatty seems to mumble most of his lines, but Lee Grant and Jack Warden steal the show as Felicia and Lester Karpf. Carrie Fisher is also great as the teenager Lorna who drags George back to her bedroom. The movie is worth watching, but it's nowhere near the classic that many reviewers thought of it back in 1975. Instead it's an above-average time filler with lots of good stars.

Cause for Alarm!
(1951)

Underrated Little Suspense Gem
Loretta Young was wonderful whenever she appeared on screen, and "Cause for Alarm!" is just another example of her appeal and versatility. George Jones (Barry Sullivan) is an invalid confined to bed who believes that his wife Ellen (Young) is trying to kill him. George writes a letter to the police describing his suspicions, and Ellen spends most of the film trying to retrieve the letter. Although that sounds pretty innocuous, this film is very suspenseful and will keep your attention throughout. There's a very unexpected twist ending that no one can anticipate.

Sullivan understandably seems pretty upset and crazy all the time, and Young is at her radiant (and neurotic) best. Also appearing are Bruce Cowling as Sullivan's doctor (who makes house calls!) and Irving Bacon as a talkative letter carrier. Although the plot sounds trite on the surface, it's a wonderfully suspenseful movie whose ending is brilliant and unexpected. Vintage early 1950s atmosphere is also a big plus. Well worth your time.

Teenage Cave Man
(1958)

Intriguing Corman Quickie is Worth Watching
Early Roger Corman movies can be very good ("The Little Shop of Horrors", "Not of This Earth"), very bad ("The Viking Women and the Sea Serpent"), or somewhere in between ("It Conquered the World", Attack of the Crab Monsters"). "Teenage Cave Man" falls somewhere in the middle, with an impoverished budget but a good cast and intelligent story.

A restless teenage cave man (Robert Vaughn) has an urge to travel to the forbidden land "beyond the river", where a fabled monster can kill with just a touch. The first journey ends with an unfortunate death (B actor Beach Dickerson) in some quicksand (The "Sucking Sands"), so there's lots of discussion about the status quo, which the tribe elders say must be maintained.

Eventually the teenager journeys again to the forbidden land, there's a bear attack (Dickerson in a bear suit), an attack by wild dogs (no doubt liberated from the local pound), and a final confrontation with the dreaded beast. The beast is nothing but an old man in a radiation suit who represents the last survivor of a long-ago nuclear war.

Beach Dickerson used to tell hilarious stories about this movie, including a description of his four roles (he dies in three of them, and attends his own funeral). Vaughn adds some credibility to the proceedings, and the luscious Barboura Morris appears in a small part. Okay, it's really cheap, but it's also fun, and Vaughn is pretty good under the circumstances.

M*A*S*H
(1972)

Typical and Inexplicably Ultra-Popular 1970s Sitcom
Because M*A*S*H is some kind of bizarrely sacrosanct American institution, I'm sure people will hate my opinion. I have a lot of reasons to despise the show, mainly because it's so unrealistic and preachy. I'll share those reasons with everyone.

1. Alan Alda is always the hero. Alda has made a living out of superficial and bland good-guy roles, and he of course is always the heroic character in every episode. 2. The authority roles of MacLean Stevenson and Harry Morgan are incredibly unrealistic. No 1950s army officer would ever act like that or tolerate that kind of behavior and disrespect under his command. 3. Apparently working on horribly wounded soldiers is funny, because Alda and company are always (incongruously) cracking jokes during surgery. 4. No 1950s army outfit would tolerate a soldier (Klinger) who wears women's clothes. The others would beat him mercilessly until he straightened up. This plot device is particularly stupid. 5. Although set the in early 1950s, all characters have 1970s hairstyles and use 1970s slang. 6. The Winchester/Burns/Houlihan characters are supposed to be stuffy and intolerant, but instead they come off as convenient caricatures to be ridiculed by Alda and company. 7. Finally, the show is self-important and preaches and preaches and preaches to its audience about behaviors and attitudes we should have. I'm able to make up my own mind, thanks.

You have a right to hate my opinion, which I respect. However, lots of people on IMDb liked "Welcome Back Kotter", "The Dukes of Hazzard", and "Laverne and Shirley" as well. M*A*S*H was typical of the endless line of stupid sitcoms that aired during the 1970s. I celebrate 1983 every year because that's when this show finally left the air after overstaying its welcome by about 11 years.

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