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Reviews

Garbo: El espía
(2009)

Garbo Docs Offers Insights, but in a Different Presentation
This was a disappointing film for me to watch. I had viewed other films about Garbo that I enjoyed more. It started out as a 1940s newsreel so that fooled me and my wife if this was a film or newsreel history or what. Then they rattle off a bunch of partial clips of 2 or 3 interviews with people only saying much later who they are. Nigel West appears and sheds light on how he found Garbo after the war. The WW2 cartoons of Private Snafu with the German spy woman are pretty cheap to get off the public domain and repetitive to watch. Why American cartoons? No German cartoons of English spy woman footage around? I liked how they talked about how stupid the German's were from a rational sense, believing many superstitious things, feuling Garbo's imagination to make agents. They do joke about an English sense of humor (and lack of German humor) that may offer deep insight on why Garbo was so successful so I will credit it for that, 6 of 10 stars. I would recommend watching this as a supplementary film to the other productions about Garbo, they are more coherent and entertaining.

You're Darn Tootin'
(1928)

One of Their Best, Silent Or Sound!
I thought this was the funniest Laurel and Hardy silent short I've ever watched. I would also include it as being one of their funniest against their best sound films. Like all of the shorts, it's two stories joined together. In this case the boys are in a orchestra that they destroy, then they are poor in the streets and destroy society. It's the second half that I found unexpectedly funny to the point that I was worried I may mess up some stiches I have currently on my face! It's on Prime video. The Blackhawk print they show has a synchronized soundtrack that is used to exceptional effect at the end when society is torn apart! Edgar Kennedy directed. 10 of 10.

Jackboots on Whitehall
(2010)

Excellent Comedy/Adventure For History Buffs
I was reading about alternate history outcomes of WW2 and wanted to enjoy a film about it. I had seen and really enjoyed "It Happened Here" and almost watched it again but decided to look for another title. Many were unavailable but this one was, I'm happy I decided to watch. A puppet war comedy film, in my opinion, will have a small target audience. I believe that this audience would mainly be males. Now the puppet aspect may limit it further as not many people will watch a full length puppet film. I know about Team America and its success, so I take it that it was the inspiration for making the film. Being a British film makes a lot of sense. The Brits are known for all of the Anderson's productions which I grew up on in the 1960s to present. I actually showed my wife an episode of Stingray last week by coincidence and she enjoyed it, it was not only cool to watch but fun to crack jokes to. I completely understand why so many hate this film, times have changed since the 1960s. Back then (in the USA) males would watch war shows that glorified heroics. Then the Korean War and Vietnam War happened and views about the military's status changed in USA society. To serve was glorified prior to the 1970s. Then gradually, military service was considered not glamorous and for people that could not cut it in the non-military economic world. In the UK which has had to use its military on its own soil, I suspect that today their is more "patriotism" for military service then in the USA, despairingly labeled as the world's policeman. I don't fit the USA mold as I am a veteran, and a proud citizen. Since I enjoy puppet films this is a natural choice for me, but I doubt my wife would want to watch it. This movie was made for males who love alternative history, puppets and escapism.

Woman of Straw
(1964)

Doesn't Make Sense, Typical TV Ending
I was expecting some more excitement from this thriller. Gina must had been trying to enlarge her acting roles and is made to look very modest through most of the film. Connery has many close ups and he looks different then when I remember watching him before, growing up watching Bond. He has some serious lines in his face, must have had too much make up on. The difference probably also lies in the televisions and video quality I had in the past compared to today. The actors are all good but the story is way over the top and too unbelievable for me. The ending played out like a Quinn-Martin Production to me. 6 of 10 for the high production values (albeit the writing) and scenery. Probably was filmed on an estate about to go under in the 1960s. As a film to watch with a date it played out well as she was entertained and into it, but I found it a disappointment overall.

Baseball Bugs
(1946)

One Of My Personal Bugs Favorites
Like another reviewer wrote, this is the Bugs cartoon you still remember from watching again and again on TV as a kid (another one is Daffy blowing himself up onstage with Bugs). This is a legendary cartoon and one of the best comedic sports films ever, IMHO. How do you know it's so good? You can't find it on Youtube, but you can find dozens of other Loony Toons online easily. I was able to find it eventually online (archive org) and it was again after 30 years, still awesome. I had a lot of it memorized (like Bugs' hilarious pitching) but parts seemed new and were also really funny. For me, possibly out of nostalgia of my 1970s childhood memories watching TV, this rates a 10 out of 10!

They Raid by Night
(1942)

Watchable PRC War Film
This film is based on the British Commando raids on Norwegian ports (Operation Archery, Operation Anklet) that took place in December 1941. It uses footage from that operations newsreels. This is PRC made so you will see some really fake looking backgrounds from blown up photos but in the year 2020 you may be amused at this. Surprisingly, I watched most of this film only skipping the idiotic middle padding. It has a pretty cool turn of events that reminded me of a scene in The Guns of Navarone. Lyle Talbot fans will like this one and the story is not played childishly so I give it a 5, it's perhaps higher when rated against the rest of the PRC catalog.

Countdown to War
(1989)

Fascinating History Reenactment
As a WWII history buff, I really enjoyed Countdown to War. You can see it is a high budget television production. It has scenes of the diplomacy involved up to the start of the war that include diplomats from Germany, Italy, England, France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia and the USA. The production is done very literally with a minimum of artistic interpretation. This will probably come off as very dry to the average viewer but for a history buff it was hard to stop watching. My criticisms of the film is that all the characters are English so it may be a bit hard at times to know what country is being presented. Some titles for the various diplomats introductions may have helped as even I was a bit confused who's side was talking at times (Polish?) but I recognized the major players although the average viewer will probably be lost. I noticed that David Irving was a historical contributor to the film which also caught my attention as I thought he had been discredited in the public eye by 1989 (he was). For history buffs this is an excellent TV production that I rate a high score of 9 out of 10. For the average viewer, it's possibly unwatchable as there are many different characters involved that are hard to differentiate due to all being English actors and accents playing different countries.

The Avengers: The Hidden Tiger
(1967)
Episode 8, Season 5

For Cat Lovers (and Cat Haters)
I'm probably being generous with a 7 rating as I really was not that entertained and this episode seems to take forever to finish. For the record, I have several cats, I am a cat lover. I watched this in memory of Diana Riggs' passing this September 2020 and spotted this on line. I watched it with my wife and she seemed to be mildly entertained but I was hoping for some laughter or enthusiasm which was lacking on her part. It's not the worst Avengers episode I've seen but it's not my favorite. That repetitious music when the killer attacks really is a drag after the second time and yet we get it many more times throughout the episode. 7 out of 10 mainly for the kitty cats. Cat haters may also like it as a "see I told you so" to their cat lover friends. I've read that this season was not to be taken seriously and this episode is a great example of that.

Star Trek: By Any Other Name
(1968)
Episode 22, Season 2

Update Review
Scotties line when asked by the alien what the fourth bottle of booze was, drunkenly says after sniffing it, "Well, it's green!" Thats classic! An average overall Trek episode, thats not a put down because an average rating to me means very good compared to other sci fi shows which seem to be very very dull. Another reviewer here (I am assuming a young or somewhat young one), slams this episode for too much Scottie, excuse me? You are joking correct? The scene with Scottie getting the alien drunk under the table is all time best Trek material. Hello, this was made in the 60's.... miniskirts are worn by the female crew, Kirk is tagging as@ throughout the galaxy.... and Scottie has some booze stashed onboard without the preaching of a ex junkie liberal bartender (as in STTNG) to make you make you feel guilty that you want to kick some alien as@! This is what sets TOS apart from all the rest, its that they could GET away with it! And lets look at that Scottie point anyway, the ship was a DRY ship, just like a modern day US Navy ship is (McCoy had some booze just like a US Navy ship (1960-1980's) had for a pick me up shot if you fell overboard (saw a guy that got one), they don't even have that anymore). I love that TOS took the concept that these were starSHIPS, mostly because I am a Navy vet, but I mean not to stir up inter-service stuff, but if this was like a Army/Air Force gig, it wouldn't hold the charm of these rouge personalities like a Scottie in my humble opinion. Shore leave with the Army or Air Force, boring, lets go Navy! Anyway, this episode is cool, they kill the redshirt crewman in the beginning and they didn't pick the black male but the white female, I thought that was genius writing. Putting the black male (who had a few lines also, kudos's) in that role was awesome but hey, that was late 60's TV, Trek was very supportive of minorities in the future and nurtured my social liberal ideals. I could delve more into this episode but it is a good episode and holds up great to season two's standards. 7 of 10 (even after repeated viewings).

Update 13 years later: I watched this again, after a 13-year hiatus, this time with my wife and not alone as the many times before either on DVD or commercial TV with commercials in the 70s and 80s. She enjoyed it and laughed at the back shots of the Kelvan woman, Kelinda. I told my wife this was made in the swinging 60s and the reason why I would love to watch it as a teenage kid; it was my favorite show after school while growing up! The ending is over simplistic and we never see them go back across the great space barrier that had infected three Federation crewmen in Where No Man Has Gone Before, nor did any of the crew get it in this episode either as they go across; despite happening at least two times before in Star Trek history (the USS Enterprise 2 persons and the USS Valient, 1 infected). So, not to be taken too dramatically (except the early killing scene) and more of a humorous episode that's memorable almost as much as The Trouble with Tribbles, 7 of 10.

Star Trek: By Any Other Name
(1968)
Episode 22, Season 2

Update Review
Scotties line when asked by the alien what the fourth bottle of booze was, drunkenly says after sniffing it, "Well, it's green!" Thats classic! An average overall Trek episode, thats not a put down because an average rating to me means very good compared to other sci fi shows which seem to be very very dull. Another reviewer here (I am assuming a young or somewhat young one), slams this episode for too much Scottie, excuse me? You are joking correct? The scene with Scottie getting the alien drunk under the table is all time best Trek material. Hello, this was made in the 60's.... miniskirts are worn by the female crew, Kirk is tagging as@ throughout the galaxy.... and Scottie has some booze stashed onboard without the preaching of a ex junkie liberal bartender (as in STTNG) to make you make you feel guilty that you want to kick some alien as@! This is what sets TOS apart from all the rest, its that they could GET away with it! And lets look at that Scottie point anyway, the ship was a DRY ship, just like a modern day US Navy ship is (McCoy had some booze just like a US Navy ship (1960-1980's) had for a pick me up shot if you fell overboard (saw a guy that got one), they don't even have that anymore). I love that TOS took the concept that these were starSHIPS, mostly because I am a Navy vet, but I mean not to stir up inter-service stuff, but if this was like a Army/Air Force gig, it wouldn't hold the charm of these rouge personalities like a Scottie in my humble opinion. Shore leave with the Army or Air Force, boring, lets go Navy! Anyway, this episode is cool, they kill the redshirt crewman in the beginning and they didn't pick the black male but the white female, I thought that was genius writing. Putting the black male (who had a few lines also, kudos's) in that role was awesome but hey, that was late 60's TV, Trek was very supportive of minorities in the future and nurtured my social liberal ideals. I could delve more into this episode but it is a good episode and holds up great to season two's standards. 7 of 10 (even after repeated viewings).

Update 13 years later: I watched this again, after a 13-year hiatus, this time with my wife and not alone as the many times before either on DVD or commercial TV with commercials in the 70s and 80s. She enjoyed it and laughed at the back shots of the Kelvan woman, Kelinda. I told my wife this was made in the swinging 60s and the reason why I would love to watch it as a teenage kid; it was my favorite show after school while growing up! The ending is over simplistic and we never see them go back across the great space barrier that had infected three Federation crewmen in Where No Man Has Gone Before, nor did any of the crew get it in this episode either as they go across; despite happening at least two times before in Star Trek history (the USS Enterprise 2 persons and the USS Valient, 1 infected). So, not to be taken too dramatically (except the early killing scene) and more of a humorous episode that's memorable almost as much as The Trouble with Tribbles, 7 of 10.

The Lighthouse
(2019)

Tall Sea Tales mixed with Real Lighthouse Stories
I consider Willem Dafoe one of my all-time favorite actors, I love his intense characters (mostly bad guys, the best roles to play). So, when I saw Dafoe promoting this film on late night TV I was interested, but it looked really dark in its nature, so I didn't think it would make any box office. The interview mainly talked about working with sea gulls! When I saw that this was something so recently made and on Prime, I had to check it out. I watched it with my wife in the morning while we ate breakfast and I quickly lost interest 30 minutes in, it was very dark and sadistic and not good morning fair. Later on in the day I picked it back up and I'm really happy I did, it was very interesting! Not 5 stars because my wife hated it (lol) and I also didn't like that they presented it in 4x3 old time film and TV ratio. I get the black and white thing, this would be really gruesome to watch in color but to present it in that screen width makes no sense and cheapens the film, IMO. The music is listed in the ending credits and I plan on getting them to drive my wife crazy (not really, she likes them). This is a very salty film and not to be taken too literally, but rather as an amalgamation of true-life lighthouse stories mixed with tall sea tales. 8 stars.

In My Mind
(2017)

Best Prisoner Special I Ever Watched!
I have watched The Prisoner many times since it first aired on American TV in the late 60s. It aired often on PBS during the 1970s and 80s and I purchased the complete A&E DVD set over 10 years ago. Besides the show itself, there is a plethora of background information done that I have watched, such as a Canadian TV interview of McGoohan in the 1970s (also referenced in this special) and many other specials that aired on UK TV such as the show's music and filming locations (which are now posted on Youtube). With all of the familiarity I have about the show, this 2017 special still blew me away when I watched it! The whole process of the multiple interviews is the best part (along with reflections from McGoohan's daughter), complete with original show footage in HDTV that is much clearer than my older DVD set. Besides that, the less you know before viewing, the more entertaining it will be. McGoohan is an eccentric (which is part of his charm). 10 stars for all The Prisoner show fans! Be seeing you. Number 6

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return: The Time Travelers
(2017)
Episode 3, Season 1

Good MST3KTR Episode, also The Film Was Made With 2 Different Endings
I watched this film (unriffed) two days ago on Amazon Prime. I enjoyed it so much that when I found out it was recently "riffed" on the Netflix Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Return show, I watched that as well. What I realized was the version on Amazon has a dark ending while the one riffed on Netflix has a happy ending. So, the film was made with two endings. The version used on MST3KTR is also cut short in dramatic scenes, I'm not sure if that was edited by the comedy show or if the nice ending version was also presented that way. Besides the very different endings, the scene with the rocket ship is also much shorter and less dramatic in the happy version. There are other scenes that seemed different as well. I rate the dark ending version that I watched a 9. It's full of very dramatic scenes, I was really surprised. One reason may be it was filmed by later famous cinematographers, Vilmos Zsigmond and László Kovács. Another reason why I enjoyed this film is it has Playboy centerfold model, Delores Wells (hot!). It's cheesy at the start but gets pretty good later and the dark ending version is memorable. As far as riffing goes, this was the funniest MST3K TR episode I watched, but then again its not that hard to make fun of Danny.

The Time Travelers
(1964)

The Time Travelers has Two Different Endings Filmed
I watched this film two days ago on Amazon Prime. I enjoyed it so much that when I found out it was recently "riffed" on the Netflix Mystery Science Theater 3000 show, I watched that as well. What I realized was the version on Amazon has a dark ending while the one riffed on Netflix has a happy ending. So, the film was made with two endings. The version used on MST3K is also cut short in dramatic scenes, I'm not sure if that was edited by the comedy show or if the nice ending version was also presented that way. Besides the very different endings, the scene with the rocket ship is also much shorter and less dramatic in the happy version. There are other scenes that seemed different as well. I rate the dark ending version that I watched a 9. It's full of very dramatic scenes, I was really surprised. One reason may be it was filmed by later famous cinematographers, Vilmos Zsigmond and László Kovács. Another reason why I enjoyed this film is it has Playboy centerfold model, Delores Wells (hot!). It's cheesy at the start but gets pretty good later and the dark ending version is memorable. 9 of 10 as far as low budget 60s sci-fi films go. The happy ending version is not as good.

Beyond the Time Barrier
(1960)

Journey to Triangle Land!
Beyond The Triangle Zone. Things I liked included footage of a 1960 Air Force base, especially the scene of the F-102 Delta Dagger jet fighter! That thing is massive for a single seat fighter, I was really shocked! I also like the space version of the jet, pretty smart the way they did that with the wings. The wiki page for this film has a lot of fun facts. Its backers were from Texas and demanded it be filmed in Texas. It was filmed on an actual Air Force base with their support. I like all the triangles in the sets! Its like we are in triangle land! Those sets were from a fairground. I like the explanation of time travel, sounded pretty plausible that a fighter jet rocket can go the speed of light! Otherwise, the plot of this film is pretty bad, but there are many films from this era that are much worse. The mutants in the movie poster are all green but look the same skin color in black and white as the others, also pretty cheesy bald mutant head effects. They mixed in footage from another film when the mutants are running out. The ruler's deaf-mute ESP daughter role would be repeated in the 1961 film "Phantom Planet". Don't watch these two together, they are very similar! Great ending, reminded me of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. I rate Beyond the Time Barrier a 6. I watched it on Amazon Prime which also has "The Time Travelers" which was done in 1964, is in color, has tons of attractive women and is similar with time travel, apocalypse and the mutant thing but was much more exciting.

Gang Busters
(1952)

Highly Recommended For Early TV Action Fans!
Gangbusters, as I write this review, is currently shown on the Decades cable TV channel which shows old CBS/Viacom catalog shows. I don't know how CBS got this NBC show so it's possible they are public domain now but shows are frequently sold around to others. It's shown in the 5AM EST timeslot. I have watched two episodes so far and loved each one! The first one I watched starred two actors from the Grapes of Wrath, Russell Simpson (the old man who dies in GOW) and John Carradine, just 13 or so years after Grapes of Wrath, both are in a fight to the death in Gangbusters! The other episode was about a family gang of some really tough bank robbers. The show starts with titles showing masses of police marching in formation with a scene of a jail break. With the video intro you get what I assume is the radio show introduction saying "Gangbusters!" along with radio show sound effects of a slide whistle for a police siren! The radio show was still going on in 1952 and would last until 1957, lasting about 20 years. Unfortunately, the TV show only lasted about 1 and a half seasons. The stated reason was that this was a filler program while they were making more Dragnet episodes. I don't really buy that because this was a top 10 show when it got cancelled. The reason why I think it got cancelled was because unlike Dragnet and most other TV shows of the time that focused on the cops and good guys, Gangbusters focused on the bad guys. There are murders shown (not wounds, dead) and the bad guys are very despicable, my guess is NBC having many shows already in the top 10 cut this bad guy show so it wouldn't tarnish its reputation. The show would not go away in 1952 though being brought back in rerun syndication in 1955 with some unaired episodes shown as well. Unlike most TV from 1952, this one seems to be filmed versus kinescoped so that part holds up OK. If you are looking for something that holds up better than the usual drama or variety show from 1952, you can't go wrong with Gangbusters. I plan on watching all the episodes that the Decades channel shows! 8 of 10.

Mack & Myer for Hire
(1963)

Advice to the Kids, Don't Hire These Clowns!
I originally wrote a critical review of this show but has since grown on me and I have raised it to a 7 (from a 5). It grows on you. This show is infrequently now on the cable channel Decades which is CBS's old catalog. They are showing short lived and forgotten shows at the 5-6AM time slot like Boston Blackie and Mack and Myer for Hire. As a nostalgia fan I like to watch TV shows I never heard of before at least to become familiar with them. I also think its available in the public domain at Internet Archive. I was born around the same time this was first aired but I don't recall ever watching it on NYC's TV in the 60s (although Wikipedia says it was shown there) and I watched a lot of TV, but in all likelyhood I did watch it but have no memories of it, its very light comedy designed for kids. So what do I think after watching this for the first time in 2020 as a middle aged adult who still loves watching The Abbott and Costello Show and Laurel and Hardy? I think it's a lot of the same humor without the adult themes of Abbott and Costello like with Abbott chain smoking and the boys not paying their bills and chasing after dates, and also lacks violence between the two no matter how much Myer hurts Mack like in L&H. Interesting that Myer wears a hat like Lou Costello and has similiar facial expressions, so I assume this is a kids version of that show. I read the bios of the two comedians and now recognize Mack was on Three's Company and it is interesting that Myer has connections to Phil Silvers, Sydney Fields and Abbott and Costello skits (and the 3 Stooges)! So I may watch some more if they are shown again on Decades. 7 of 10, its very light children's fare but not bad for adults either.

The Astro-Zombies
(1968)

Z Grade 1968 Theater Material, Good if a Riffed Version
Probably the best thing to say about "The Astro Zombies" is that it has some scantily clad, large breasted women in it. Besides that, this cult horror murder-porn flick is really awful. It definitely is a so bad its funny film (notice I didn't say "so bad, it's good"?). It follows an all too familiar routine of a nonsense story mixed with footage of women in underwear, being killed by a monster (the self-titled Astro Zombie). For 1968 it even shows a painted naked striptease woman for the young adult males (teens?) who were definitely the target audience for the film. IMdb states that the budget was under $40K which I can believe, although it makes me wonder how much the credited actors got for being in the film ($5 a day?). Noted Hollywood actors associated with this are Wayne Rogers of MASH fame writing the screenplay. His replacement on MASH, Mike Farrell, was involved in another riffed Z grade sci-fi flick that was shot the same year but not released until later, "The Doomsday Machine." We also have featured billing by well known Z grade film stars Wendell Corey and John Carradine. The version of Astro Zombies I watched was one where the film is being "riffed" (by Rifftrax), I would at this point of my life not watch this type of material without some supporting commentary going on to make it humorous, I recommend you do the same. It's available for free on streaming service Tubi with very few commercials (the non-riffed version is also available uninterrupted on Prime Video). As far as appearing in movies that have been "riffed," Carradine I would guess holds the record of number of appearances in different films done by Mystery Science Theater 3000, Rifftrax and Cinema Insomnia, it has to be over 10 films. My favorite ones he was in that were riffed are "The Unearthly," "Voodoo Man," "Frankenstein Island," "Vampire Hookers" and although he was only a special guest star, "Red Zone Cuba." With that said, he has some good riffing moments in Astro Zombies but is really overshadowed by his hunchback assistant with a leering eye, Franchot (I would have thought Mongo would have been a better character name, but I guess that had been done too much). Wendell Corey may not have been in as many films riffed as John Carradine but he's been in a few of them. In all the films Wendell Corey is in (including his earlier work which another reviewer seemed to enjoy) he is an expressionless robot who seems inebriated and with loose dentures, he doesn't deserve top billing in any film (but he must have been a box office draw because he often is listed as the leading actor). Some enjoyable riffed films, besides Astro Zombies, Wendell Corey was in are "Agent of HARM" and "Women of the Prehistoric Planet." As a straight up film to watch, keep in mind this was made for a grade Z movie theater or a drive in of the late 60s, and its one of the worst even for those types of theaters, I give it a 2 strictly because of the pretty women in it which is the only thing the young male audiance would remember after watching it. Perhaps they would also remember the cool toy robot credits as well which seemed better made then the rest of the film. But, as a bad film to make fun of, it is an 8. The riffed version I saw by Rifftrax is an 8, the hour and a half runtime did not seem like a chore to watch, recommended!

Santa's Christmas Circus
(1966)

Really Bad, But Interesting Time Capsule and Funny If Rifftrax Version
This is a really bad "kiddie" film. It has a TV show clown doing a Christmas special. I watched this as part of a Rifftrax parody where they comment on the film as it plays. It's on Amazon Prime as of Christmas 2019. The short ahead of this, called The Christmas Tree, is much better in that it is really unintentionally funny and a "what were they thinking" type of film depicting Christmas trees as having human personalities all the way up to the trash day where they go to heaven, think about showing that to a little kid, lol. This Wizzo film is really lame but what it has going for it is some shots of mid 1960s America and some really nice Christmas store displays. The film quality is very very clean especially for being a "lost" film before. I grew up in NYC so I was a big Bozo the Clown fan and I'm biased but a clown named Wizzo with big bare feet shoes is pretty creepy even compared to Bozo. 4 out of 10, 8 out of 10 as shown on Rifftrax with The Christmas Tree short.

The Christmas Tree
(1975)

A Classic Christmas Nightmare Film
This is featured on the Rifftrax Christmas special as an introduction for the two reel film called "(Wizzo's) Santa's Christmas Circus (1966)" which is a really bad kiddie film in itself. This film is not bad in the way Wizzo's film is which shows a bunch of 1960s department store Christmas displays (cheap), this is a bad film in that it's horrifying that they depict the trees as humans all the way through to their "death." It is so absurd and demented to show this to an actual kid that it made me laugh out loud without much help from the Rifftrax gang. This is highly recommended to watch and you'll probably fast forward the Wizzo special which is really lame. 9 out of 10 for something in the line of "What were they thinking when they made this?"

Shoot Out
(1971)

Entertaining Low Budget 1970s Western Featuring Several Female Characters
I caught this on the Starz Western network and stopped it half way in thinking my wife would enjoy watching this western, which she really did. It stands out as having an A list star in Peck in a film that seems to be breaking barriers for 1971 as far as female character portrayal in the Old West as well as their illegitimate children. The film has a lot of detailed characters in it, not just for the two male leads but also for those associating with them such as the prostitute women in their lives and a young female child. If you don't like extended young children in films you will not enjoy this film, but I was heartbroken by her tale of hard life and being virtually abandoned to her own devices at age 6. The "they killed my cat" line really tugged at me; she clearly was an abused kid. Likewise, Susan Tyrrell young kidnapped and abused prostitute has equally had an awful life. These two female characters make this film for me (and my wife) above the norm. I thought Tyrell would eventually join with Peck's character and adopt the girl but that is where the film strays and the only part I didn't like because she is treated like dirt not only by the bad guys but also by the screen writers. I guess her character was too tainted to be redeemed? After watching Tyrell, I was interested in seeing er other films and see that she was in more films of a hard life character in films, even by notorious director John Waters. Reading her bio, I think all of these outrageous roles she was in, especially in her youth made her an unhappy person in real life, which is sad. That said, I really enjoyed her role in Shootout. When considering this film, I take into account how interested my wife was, probably more so then most Westerns we have watched together. The bad guy Bobby Ray is wicked through and through and my wife relished his ending. With that in mind it may be best to watch this with your girlfriend, spouse or significant other. It's not a masterpiece (didn't that one town have a sheriff?) but because of its detailed character development I enjoyed Shootout as a great Western to watch with a date. 7 out of 10.

The Two-Headed Spy
(1958)

"Inspired By" Story, Which Means its Fiction
I'm surprised at some reviewers saying this film is based on a real person or true events. Well, it's not. This is, as the credits say, "Inspired by" a British counter intelligence Officer who was never in Germany during the war but did interview many high ranking captured German officers in England. It's easy to verify that this is complete fiction with its ending and how almost all the German General Staff officers in the bunker were ordered to be shot by Hitler, including Gestapo Chief Heinrich Müller, while in reality Müller attempted escape to the West after Hitler died, never to be found and presumed killed. With that said, this is an excellent WW2 spy drama which, while slow in parts, really picks up the suspense in the end. I find films based on 1945 Berlin to be very interesting to watch. This film is one of the earliest made Western films to feature this backdrop and it has all the elements of the Third Reich's last days with a wrecked city and "deserters" strung up on street lights. I thought it was cool to recognize Gia Scala who I remembered well from 1961's war action film "The Guns of Navarone". Having just read her bio, I was surprised to read about her tragic life, dying in her 30s. Hawkins fans will really enjoy this film, he probably shows more range than at any other time I have seen him in a film. He usually reminds me of an English version of Brian Donlevy, displaying only one range of emotions, being stern. Here he shows an insecure side to himself which elevated the film beyond being a simple spy caper. I do have some criticism about the plot. Would a British spy master be working in Berlin without a suicide pill? I think not, yet this does happen here. The resulting firehose torture scene is eye popping for 1958 standards, that scene is based on fact as the Nazi's did do that to people, but in reality, I would think it would never have gotten that far because the man would have poisoned himself before capture. Also, the ending after Berlin is abrupt and very brief which is not uncommon for 1950s British war films but not to my liking, perhaps they didn't want to bring in the rest of the British Army into such a wild story. Still, The Two Headed Spy is an audaciously entertaining war spy film with an exciting ending that most war film buffs will enjoy. 7 out of 10. If you enjoyed this film, for a similar concept check out (available on Youtube) the 1972 Soviet TV mini-series "Seventeen Moments of Spring," if you can get into it, it's outstanding (and although just as wild as TTHS, is based more on reality)! For a comic book war spy action Berlin story there is also the short lived 1966 spy action TV series "Blue Light" starring Robert Goulet. I enjoyed all three stories!

The Devil with Hitler
(1942)

Funny Film, Probably a Great Morale Booster At The Time
This is a film making fun of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. I would imagine in 1942 it was received with lots of laughs in the USA, the UK and where our troops were when they were able to watch a film. I see a ton of lukewarm or outraged reviews that Hollywood would make light of the evil characters in real life. This is probably a newer social phenomenon as Hitler has been caricatured ever since he became dictator. Charlie Chaplin was one of the first I know of, but other memorable Hitler parodies I can think of are Monty Python (John Cleese) in the early 1970s did a hilarious Hitler, 1960s (and later remade in 2000s) Mel Brooks (The Producers), as well as all the Hitler cartoons made during the war by Warner Brothers, Paramount and Disney. While some may have been offended by all of these at the time about making fun of evil people, there was no internet around to vent about it and the majority of viewers found it funny. Likewise, here. A Hal Roach production, there is a lot of slapstick in this one. Luckily the slapstick is much like the 1920s and 30s slapstick which is funny and not the typical slapstick in pictures when this was made in the 1940s and later. Bobby Watson I found very funny, this would be his first Hitler role out of many probably because of this film's quality. My favorite scenes were of the American insurance salesman, a really funny running joke! All in all, if you like to watch a funny Hitler, catch this film. I watched it on Youtube. 8 out of 10 rating as far as short (44-minutes) B comedies go.

The Devil with Hitler
(1942)

Funny Film, Probably a Great Morale Booster At The Time
This is a film making fun of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. I would imagine in 1942 it was received with lots of laughs in the USA, the UK and where our troops were when they were able to watch a film. I see a ton of lukewarm or outraged reviews that Hollywood would make light of the evil characters in real life. This is probably a newer social phenomenon as Hitler has been caricatured ever since he became dictator. Charlie Chaplin was one of the first I know of, but other memorable Hitler parodies I can think of are Monty Python (John Cleese) in the early 1970s did a hilarious Hitler, 1960s (and later remade in 2000s) Mel Brooks (The Producers), as well as all the Hitler cartoons made during the war by Warner Brothers, Paramount and Disney. While some may have been offended by all of these at the time about making fun of evil people, there was no internet around to vent about it and the majority of viewers found it funny. Likewise, here. A Hal Roach production, there is a lot of slapstick in this one. Luckily the slapstick is much like the 1920s and 30s slapstick which is funny and not the typical slapstick in pictures when this was made in the 1940s and later. Bobby Watson I found very funny, this would be his first Hitler role out of many probably because of this film's quality. My favorite scenes were of the American insurance salesman, a really funny running joke! All in all, if you like to watch a funny Hitler, catch this film. I watched it on Youtube. 8 out of 10 rating as far as short (44-minutes) B comedies go.

The Last Wagon
(1956)

Preachy Western with Beautiful Cinematography
I partially enjoyed this Western, it seemed very modern for 1956. Widmark was a firm believer in American social justice and I can see it here to the point that it is preachy. Great photography helps this film a great deal. I'm sure there are some Hollywood film sets here, but it all looks very real. I was especially interested in seeing Nick Adams since he died a tragic young death and knew James Dean, Elvis and others. Here Adams plays a young man, he's entertaining for the role but its nothing special. I give it a 6 because it is overtly preachy about white racism and also because of the damage Widmark's character got in the film, despite his hair staying perfect, seemed silly. Honestly, the guy was killed at least twice in real life if that happened to him.

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