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Number One

An obscure Heston movie unearthed.
"Number One" must be one of the most obscure movies from the varied career of Charlton Heston. The film was never released on video back in the day, as far as I'm aware. TV showings were few and far between, so it appeared the film had dropped out of sight. Then in 2015, "Number One" was given a DVD release to my surprise. I wasn't sure how convincing Heston was going to be, cast as a football player at the age of 46. However, he does do well to be fair. His character isn't a particularly likeable one, he's full of his own arrogance and ego. Even as Heston realises that his footballing career is nearly over and that he struggles to cope with this, doesn't really endear him to the audience. His performance is the best in the film by far. Bruce Dern is completely wasted in an insignificant supporting role. He is billed third in the cast but isn't incorporated properly into the screenplay. The football game scenes are very good and they are blended into the footage of real life games effectively. Plot-wise, I found it rather annoying how the film kept chopping and changing between what was happening in the present and in those flashbacks. Confusion soon set in and the narrative was weakened as a result. The pace is ok but the script isn't exactly worthy of an Academy Award, the dialogue being corny and predictable. The acting from the supporting cast ranged from tolerable to downright terrible! I felt somewhat cheated by the ridiculous ending but others may feel differently. This film is worth a look but don't expect a masterpiece.

Will Penny

Heston as an aging cowhand.
"Will Penny" surprised me slightly when the script turned out to be better than average. I refer to a quote from Charlton Heston, who claimed the dialogue was amongst the best he had read. Cast in the title role, Heston rises to the challenge of playing a more in-depth character and one who's more thoughtful. In the Western genre, that doesn't happen too often. He is strongly supported by a stellar cast: Donald Pleasence, Bruce Dern, Lee Majors, Anthony Zerbe amongst others. You know you are in good company when watching seasoned character actors. I understand it's been said that "Will Penny" could have been a box office success if the ending had been more upbeat and conventional. Well, in my opinion the ending that was filmed, doesn't affect the movie at all. Heston is a slightly tragic character in this one. Penny has spent his entire life being alone, working odd jobs, living like a nomad and having no roots of any kind. Then one day, he experiences something resembling a domesticated life when he befriends a single mother and her young son. Charlton Heston wasn't always given a well developed character to play and so I felt he was merely cruising along in fairly low gear in most of his films. The above one is different. Donald Pleasence is his usual sinister self and does well as the main villain. Bruce Dern scores as some psychopathic hillbilly son to Pleasence and Joan Hackett does ok. There are a couple of quite graphic moments when it comes to the violence but this doesn't intrude upon the film unnecessarily. The action scenes are very good, especially the climax. A film that deserves to be viewed and enjoyed.


Dreary and forgettable.
"Busting" is the kind of movie that came along on the heels of "Dirty Harry" and "The French Connection." Sadly, it has none of the creativity or entertainment value of those two films. The plot reeks of Dullsville and predictability, no point in trying to discover anything new. Elliott Gould was a fairly big star in his day and a capable actor. He made better movies than this. Robert Blake was merely the star who never was and whose career would decline rapidly by the end of the decade. It's strange how a theatrical trailer can be presented in such a way, that one might feel compelled to believe the film has some merit! Loads of noise, graphic violence and sleazy-looking photography can't disguise a lousy script and uninspired direction. The ending was pretty downbeat but I didn't give a fast buck, quite honestly.

Super Fly

An overwhelming bore.
I can't understand how this film has acquired any kind of cult status over the years. "Super Fly" has a lame plot, little in the way of dramatic incident, a poor narrative and rather average acting. Yes, the theme tune by Curtis Mayfield is pretty good but a film can hardly sustain itself by this alone. I could only see the cast engaging in endless talk and this quickly grew tiresome. As if one wasn't enough, a second movie - titled "Super Fly T.N.T," was unleashed in 1973. "Shaft" and "Across 110th Street" are far better.

Violent Saturday

Violent Saturday? Make that Boring Saturday!
I had fairly high hopes for this film, given the cast and the director. Unfortunately, my expectations weren't met. The plot is far too preoccupied with focusing on the boring, humdrum lives of the local characters in the film. We are lumbered with this nonsense for about 35 minutes or more. There's no sense of suspense or excitement, just tedium in sizeable doses! The actual bank robbery scene was quite effective, a few shots fired to help keep everyone on their toes. The siege scene was also pretty good and rather violent for 1955 - look out for Ernest Borgnine with his pitchfork. We are seeing some good actors here but they could have been given better material to work with. Lee Marvin is his usual charming self when in villain mode and J. Carrol Naish is on hand as another of the bank robbers. Personally, I thought he was a bit miscast. Victor Mature performs his usual bout of heroics and saves the day. A disappointing viewing experience for me.

Down Among the Z Men

Not as bad as one might think.
"Down Among the Z Men" is a film that's slightly rough round the edges, due to it being shot on a budget that's about as modest as you could get and that the footage looks grainy and scratchy. However, there are some highlights along the way. Nothing much in the way of a story but it is a unique opportunity to see all four Goons in action and as a team. The film certainly has the feel of being variety theatre caught on film with a single, stationary camera. This applies to when Peter Sellers performs those different impersonations of military persona. Released in 1952, it would be another few years before Sellers finally settled into the film medium. An interesting curiosity and worth seeing for those who enjoy "The Goon Show."

The Black Cat

Appalling nonsense in every way!
Any reference between the 1934 classic of the same name and the above travesty, is an insult to the legacy of the former. Heaven knows why "Universal" felt compelled to make this load of rubbish, there is nothing of value. Basil Rathbone lowered himself as an actor (and not for the last time) by appearing in movies not worthy of his talent. He is side-lined by those cringe-worthy idiots who try and fail miserably at being amusing. Hugh Herbert is THE unfunniest person I have ever clapped eyes upon! Broderick Crawford - totally forgotten today - is no better. Together, they make the Three Stooges look sophisticated and likable. Bela Lugosi had little choice but to accept any and all offers of work at this point in his career. A short time after the release of the above film, he would be fired from "Universal" and struggle even more to remain employed as an actor. I'm not going to try describing the story because it has all been done before, the same tired ideas. It's best to avoid this film, unless there is absolutely nothing else on offer!

Night Monster

A better than average "Universal" chiller.
"Night Monster" wasn't destined to be recognised for the effective horror piece that it is, when released in 1942. It was issued as the lower half of a double feature and didn't make much of an impact at the box office. One thing that hampered the film, was the lack of an established leading man in the genre. Bela Lugosi received top billing but became reduced to "supporting actor" status, cast in the thankless role of the butler of the household involved in the story. Lionel Atwill - an underrated leading man in his own right - also ended up being wasted in a role with limited screen time. Regardless, there is plenty to enjoy with "Night Monster." Unlike other horror films from "Universal," there is a genuine sense of mystery and intrigue. The villain isn't revealed until the end and there are a few red herrings included into the bargain. The explanation that's provided with regards to the killer's movements, isn't down to the usual bogus reasons - like an escaped lunatic from the local asylum who indulges in disguises. The writers of the screenplay provide a more weird and eerie conclusion and this works to the films advantage. We are witness to the usual recycling of sets that were used for other films by the studio at the time: the Basil Rathbone "Sherlock Holmes" films amongst others. In my opinion, none of that matters. I simply enjoyed the film before me and the running time whizzes by. "Night Monster" deserves to be better known than it is but the timing was perhaps rather unfortunate. The 1940s saw a steady decline in Hollywood for horror films, as the demand wasn't as great as it had been during the first half of the 1930s.

The Chamber

Sloppy, contrived but saved by one performance.
"The Chamber" is a drawn out yarn with no proper sense of narrative or continuity. Potentially, the film could have been terrific but the final results are less than satisfactory. Long before the finishing credits, I could tell how the plot was going to end and it made for grim viewing. It seemed a complete waste of the efforts of Chris O' Donnell's attorney character in attempting to gain a temporary reprieve for his estranged uncle, who is a convict on Death Row. The usual secret political agendas were in force, courtesy of the very law firm O'Donnell works for. The sense of doom and hopelessness is overwhelming and that doesn't benefit the film one bit. The one redeeming feature about "The Chamber" can be summed up in two words: Gene Hackman. His performance is what makes this sloppy film bearable. He looks and acts quite differently here, with his scruffy, unkempt appearance and his broad Deep South accent. I would describe his acting as being a masterclass and his young leading man can not hold a candle to it. Faye Dunaway is completely wasted, I have no idea why her character was involved. She serves no purpose. The photography highlights the countryside of Mississippi very effectively and is quite imaginative. The scenes shot at night add some genuine tension at times. I would wager that fans of John Grisham are better off reading the novel instead.

Prime Cut

Routine and truly underdone film!
Gene Hackman has proven how he is worth FAR more than appearing in silly nonsense like "Prime Cut." The film wouldn't have done much for his career and the same applies to Lee Marvin. Marvin is an actor who deserves more credit and was a very capable leading man. However, he never got the chance to play more meaningful, fully developed characters and that is where Hackman has the better of him. If performances in this film are anything to go by, then Marvin is practically acted off the screen by his fellow leading man. The plot is about as routine as you could expect. The only slight difference, is that a slaughterhouse takes centre stage for a change but it makes little difference. Even the few bits of action fail to enliven the proceedings. There is nothing in the way of creativity about "Prime Cut," it's just a case of everyone going through the motions. Only fans of Gene Hackman and Lee Marvin might tolerate this film.

Zandy's Bride

An interesting obscurity.
One of my favourite actors - Gene Hackman - takes the lead as a farmer of the Old West who takes out an advert in search of a mail order bride. The lady in question, is nothing more than a mere possession in Hackman's eyes. Following the most cheerless wedding I have ever seen on film, the newly pronounced wife is subjected to all kinds of harsh treatment from her brutish and seemingly unfeeling husband. The limited and low key story, maintains its focus upon the character development of the two leads. As time elapses, the husband learns to treat his good lady with more in the way of respect, courtesy and love. The music tends to grate upon my nerves after a while and I wished for something else to be played! The direction tends to slow everything down until the narrative moves at a snail's pace. Gene Hackman puts his dramatic acting chops to excellent use in "Zandy's Bride." For me, he has never been about wearing different costumes or putting on different accents (good at the latter when he does). Hackman is an actor who is effective by his realism and by his various facial expressions and body language. That is how he creates a performance and does so in this film. I can't say I'm surprised that "Zandy's Bride" is a more obscure film but it is an interesting curiosity all the same.


Dreary and forgettable.
"Busting" is the kind of movie that came along on the heels of "Dirty Harry" and "The French Connection." Sadly, it has none of the creativity or entertainment value of those two films. The plot reeks of Dullsville and predictability, no point in trying to discover anything new. Elliott Gould was a fairly big star in his day and a capable actor. He made better movies than this. Robert Blake was merely the star who never was and whose career would decline rapidly by the end of the decade. It's strange how a theatrical trailer can be presented in such a way, that one might feel compelled to believe the film has some merit! Loads of noise, graphic violence and sleazy-looking photography can't disguise a lousy script and uninspired direction. The ending was pretty downbeat but I didn't give a fast buck, quite honestly.

The Mind of Mr. J.G. Reeder

Rather inspid and lacking imagination.
I had fairly high hopes for this TV series, based upon stories by Edgar Wallace. Unfortunately, my expectations weren't met. I find most episodes to be dull, slow-moving and with hardly a spark of imagination or intrigue. It is little wonder to me that the programme is barely remembered in today's world. In all, I tolerated 2 episodes but none of the others. The only reason I care to glance at this rubbish, is Hugh Burden. He is a great casting choice and fits into the leading role effectively. He plays J.G Reeder with the right balance of insight, intelligence and low key gritty determination.

The Phantom of the Opera

Quite a respectable adaptation.
This TV film of the novel by Gaston Leroux won't win any awards but it's still worth seeing. Maximillan Schell is good but he tends to ham it up a little, especially when he becomes the Phantom. The makeup job is pretty scary. I shalln't divulge any details but it's worth waiting for. A number of changes to the original story: the setting being that of Budapest instead of Paris; the Phantom being married before fate intervenes and the title role being about as unsympathetic as can be. The scale of the production is actually quite small. There aren't many expansive camera shots on location and the sets look a bit cramped (apart from the ones for the Opera house and the Phantom's lair). I am not a fan of either Jane Seymour or Michael York, they bloody well irritate me! The former comes across as aloof and arrogant. The latter seems boorish and rigid. I can't understand why Seymour was cast in two roles which are practically identical. There is nothing in the way of differentiating between the two. Jeremy Kemp is effective as the sleazy, devious Opera house manager. A great performance. The climax isn't too bad, if somewhat depressing. This version isn't in the same league of greatness as the 1925 film.

Interpol Calling

Better than I expected.
"Interpol Calling" is a more obscure series from "ITC." Nevertheless it is pretty good and deserves to be better known. The stories are quite simple. A man from Interpol is summoned to investigate various crimes which are committed throughout Europe. It works to the shows advantage to have a running time of 30 minutes. Otherwise, the plots might have become overstretched. Altogether, good value for money.

The Sentimental Agent

Decidedly uninspired.
This obscure series from "ITC" was never going to be in the league of greatness like "The Saint" or "Danger Man." The premise for "The Sentimental Agent" is thin on the ground and largely uninspired. The leading man is completely obscure and that music quickly gets on my nerves! The writing shows no imagination or creativity of any kind.

Superman III

A bit of a come down.
You can't help but notice a considerable gap in quality between Superman movies 2 and 3. The latter film doesn't have much in its favour. Robert Vaughn - not a bad actor - was the wrong choice for the role of main villain. Where was Gene Hackman when he was needed? There was too much emphasis on Richard Pryor (he looks as high as Superman whilst in flight most of the time) and the humour was largely misplaced. The one scene that works from beginning to end, is when Superman engages in a one-on-one battle with his evil alter ego. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them duking it out. A bonus that the fight sequence was filmed in London! The climax is so bloody stupid! Superman coming up against a sophisticated computer! I ask you, why couldn't the writers have been a bit more imaginative?? I quite liked the scenes that were based in Smallville. They added a tiny bit of interest. I read that Christopher Reeve wasn't enthusiastic about the plot and wasn't happy with the final results. I'm not bloody surprised!

The Terror

Quite watchable.
"The Terror" is another very loose adaptation of an Edgar Wallace novel. This film is only a minor B production but is fairly entertaining, regardless. The cast members who had any kind of success, would be Wilfred Lawson, Bernard Lee and Alastair Sim. I'm not sure why Richard Murdoch was included as this film isn't his sort of thing and he's wasted anyway. The plot is a creaky one and there is nothing creative in the story department at all. We get the usual: long corridors, secret passageways, a whole group of suspects and a house that's deep into the countryside. Having said that, the climax is actually a bit sinister and well done. Wilfred Lawson has been granted top billing but he doesn't come into the film until near the end. His performance is typically "larger than life" but given that his character is a criminal lunatic, all is forgiven! Apart from Lee and Sim, the rest of the cast are a dull and wooden bunch. No wonder they are totally forgotten. The dialogue is nothing to marvel at but it serves its purpose. There is a sense of atmosphere, via the use of fog for some of the location shots. Not a classic film but certainly not terrible.

Poison Pen

An effective minor B movie.
A film such as "Poison Pen" would never have been made for much money, considering the running time, the plot and the fact it's a British film. The final results though are interesting. The peace and civility of an English village is shattered by a spate of poison pen letters which are in circulation. There soon begins a wave of bigotry, ignorance, prejudice attitudes and paranoia, amongst the residents. Those on the receiving end, are portrayed as vulnerable and frightened. The malicious gossip mongers are out in force, as they hail accusations at one or two of the locals. Soon, the situation reaches crisis point and all hell is let loose... This film doesn't pull its punches, storywise. We bear witness to scenes where so-called human beings are acting as judge and jury. Flora Robson gives an effective performance but she goes a bit far toward the end. The DVD sleeve of this movie shows Robert Newton billed second in the cast. This is not the case as he is very much a supporting character. He is actually placed about seventh amongst the actors. Regardless, Newton does well with the limited screen time he has. The pace rattles along effectively enough and there are one or two quite disturbing moments. Worth watching.


Perfectly watchable.
This is a watchable yarn which isn't very distinguishable from other similar films. Robert Newton plays a jealous husband who's convinced his wife is having an affair - she isn't. Newton still plots the abduction and murder of the alleged lothario and then the clock is ticking... The plot isn't gripping but it shuffles along quite agreeably.

Odd Man Out

Vastly overrated and taxes the patience.
"Odd Man Out" is one of these films which tends to be praised to the heavens. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that this was directed by the same man who went to make that everlasting classic, "The Third Man." In the above movie, James Mason is the official leading man. Yet, he has little to offer. Most of his dialogue comes from the opening scene, before the failed armed robbery. For the remainder of the plot, he simply lurches from one hiding place to another. Plus, Mason only mumbles and mutters what little dialogue he has left. An absolute waste. I've never been a huge fan of him anyway. He makes Hulk Hogan's acting attempts look subtle and exciting by comparison! It's a good job that the supporting cast are up to par. Robert Newton, William Hartnell, Robert Beatty, Eddie Byrne are amongst those who are able to carry the film between them. Newton takes the acting honours, as the tormented and disillusioned artist. Although billed second, he doesn't make his appearance until late but he sure makes the most of it. Perhaps Robert Newton should have been Oscar nominated for his performance? In his scene with James Mason, the latter is practically acted off the entire studio! The lack of scale tends to hamper the film. Why on earth the studio backlot had to be used do much, I've no idea. Surely any city of the times could have doubled for Belfast? The film just rambles along as the story is utterly lifeless. A waste of the hard work put in from Carol Reed and Robert Newton.

Night Boat to Dublin

Not much intrigue but still watchable.
"Night Boat to Dublin" should have been a lot better. The storyline is an interesting one on the written page and Robert Newton is an underrated leading man. The plot is thin when it comes to sustaining any kind of narrative and the pace tends to drag its own feet. Some scenes feel as though they have been merely cobbled together. Even so, there is plenty to like. Robert Newton does well as the Government operative who goes undercover as hired help for the villains of the film. The classical theatre actor, Marius Goring, is completely wasted in his one scene appearance. His screen time amounts to about three minutes, if that. There is some good photography and this creates some tension, especially when Robert Newton and his colleagues are searching for incriminating evidence. You won't find a lot of action but the ending is still good.

Dead Men Are Dangerous

Totally obscure, apart from the leading man.
Robert Newton was an up and coming actor when this obscure "B" movie came out in 1939. He is the only reason to glance upon this rather confusing and contrived production. Apparently, the story has something to do with Newton faking his own death after failing to succeed as a writer. He gives a more restrained performance and that works. It all becomes too difficult to follow but the climax is quite effective.

The Beachcomber

Cut price film saved by one performance.
"The Beachcomber" isn't exactly the most extravagant of British films. The background projection which supposedly represents real locations, becomes painfully obvious from the start. The interior sets look tolerable but the murky colour is a disappointment. At least the film has a good pace, a fair degree of incident, some humourous moments and another unforgettable performance from Robert Newton! On more than one occasion, this unfairly neglected actor managed to salvage the most tedious of movies with his acting and personality. So he does here. It is rather unfortunate that Robert Newton would live only another two years after "The Beachcomber" came out in 1954. He had been largely reduced to playing caricatures of his real self. In my opinion, he is easily the equal of Olivier, Guinness, Richardson and Gielgud. The supporting cast are a dull bunch and look as though they qualify for being bank clerks! Donald Pleasence does ok in the limited screen time he has. I enjoyed the scenes where Newton and his leading lady, Glynis Johns are having to spend the night together on the same island. Very amusing interplay between them.

The Criminal

Watchable and interesting but rather fanciful.
"The Criminal" was a collaboration between Stanley Baker and American director Joseph Losey. Working with Losey was a considerable feather in Baker's cap. The director helped to explore and produce performances of further depth from the actor. "The Criminal" is one such example. The plot comes across as being a bit too fanciful at times and that is irritating. There is some tension that's well sustained and the dialogue is pretty good. I like the Irish accent that Stanley Baker uses. He is an underworld boss who finds himself under considerable pressure to reveal the hiding place of stolen money. The supporting cast is outstanding as there were talented actors in those days.

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