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Flight from Destiny

Not Art for Art's Sake
Not even Art for Art's sake can make a philosophy professor change his mind about doing something most people would think more than thirty times about before they pulled a trigger. Thomas Mitchell, one of America's greatest character actors here plays the lead and it is most definitely the role of a lifetime and any other actors of his time would have been pleased to play it. Mitchell, who often played drunks, here plays a very sober professor of philosophy who is absolutely convinced, for the greatest good, he must take another's life. There are a few other entanglements, but this man must convince several others there was a very excellent reason for committing his "crime of the century".

This beautiful "B" movie from 1941 is one of the most unusual in theme I have ever seen. It deals with subject matter I was very surprised a small film from a major Hollywood studio would be allowed to deal with. I dare not give anything more away except to say, if it comes anywhere near your viewing area, do not hesitate to watch it. It is that superb!

Harbor of Missing Men

No Such Thing as No Such Thing
"Harbor of Missing Men" is one of those small films that are no longer made, but many of us wish they were. Directed by R.G.Springsteen, no relation to the Boss as far as I know, it is tight, tidy and has no useless trim. It tells the tale of a hard knuckle guy, who's used to dealing with gun runners, but this time his load of illicit firearms is stolen so what's a sort of hero to do? He "takes it on the lam, Lefty" as they used to say way back in the day. That guy is "Brooklyn" Gannon ably played by B movie stalwart Richard Denning. Gannon ends up hiding with a family of Greek fishermen and sponge divers down the Floridian coast. The family is headed by Steven Geray who played every possible nationality even though he was from Hungary. This fisherman's daughter is played by Barbara Fuller who was once married to cowboy actor Lash LaRue and the main nasty is ably played by George Zucco who was one of the screen's meanest. The movie is filled with some of Republic's best "B" players and it gives the viewer what they want and does it as only many of the 60 minute companion features could. Nobody said "There's no such thing as no such thing", but this is the kind of flick that could and get away with it.

The Devil's Agent

On the Other Side of Hades
This flick is a passable representation of what one can call an "economical espionager". Something like what Sean Connery's wayward son Jason might have made if he beat his dad to the punch. It was co-produced by any number of countries, but mostly friendly ones, after-all, it was the early 1960's. Directed by John Paddy Carstairs of British B movie fame who did films like George Sanders "The Saint in London" which was a rarity for the time because it was shot on location. Its all about a Viennese wine merchant becoming a double agent for the United States. The agent is ably played by German and/or Dutch actor Peter Van Eyck, I've never been able to tell what his true nationality was. He gets suckered into the profession by Russian brutes and in those years they were the biggest and baddest of the bads. The cast is good for the time and offered it some good scenery chewing. Macdonald Carey, Mr. Stone Face as usual, Christopher Lee, minus fangs, Billie Whitelaw, a sweetener for certain and Marius Goring doing a dance with numerous demons. "The Devil's Agent" holds up OK though its past is definitely passed.

Blind Alibi

Life's Not like that, is It?
Ostensibly, a programmer, but I thought a semi-interesting one. How can I say that? Probably, because I am a sucker for Ace, the Wonder Dog. He wasn't just another poochie with a languid kisser, but a trained thespian who could take down a bad guy or gal with consummate aplomb. In all his scenes he made Richard Dix look almost human or at least as spry as a petrified stick.

The story was more than a bit convoluted, but then it was written by three different writers and that barely gave each of them twenty minutes to tell their inclusion. Also, working in an art museum filled with rare antiques is not the kind of thing that can be readily spared a fanciful story. Say what you may, blindness is not easily explained at any story pitch,even if you have a wonder dog to introduce to the world.

Not a common story arc and filled with dread at every corner; these are just a few of the excitements of a mostly forgotten B-movie. Pull your chair closer to the screen lest you become blinder than the stooge Mr. Dix played.


Asleep at the Radio Switch
Dynamic reciprocity nor nude dancing could save this one. It was, though, at least semi-entertaining. Allan "Rocky" Lane and Robert Barrat were stalwart cowboy stars most of their careers in "B" movies, but on occasion they escaped the dusty trails for the spotlight in many other endeavors. This one has them in a Land of Convoluted Escapes and Escapades in a place that may or may not be pre war Germany or Spain. In fact, it could also be Italy. At least, I think we can be sure it is a fascist regime with none of them able to burst into a song like "Springtime for Hitler" or "Home on the Range".

Yes, the camera work was above the usual "B" status and the director, one, good old "B" movie master Lew Landers who made everything from pot boilers to brain numbing rubbish here shows he had a fairly deft hand when dealing with " rah, rah, zis-boom-bah" get yer blood pumping and flag waving arms up in the air! He knew how to make audiences believe the Fascisties were the bad guys they really were. And in the end, when the audience thought all was right with the world, he made us know there are those who would be free and those who would stay behind to continue the fight.

There was a huge, glaring error though, in all this folderol; namely, there were two short scenes with the terrific character actor Dwight Frye, but he does not speak a word and just seems to nod to a radio. Yet he is dressed as one of the miscreants. Why is he even shown when he says nothing and does nothing? What is the point of including him? Of course, there is no answer and we are just made to wonder.

Yeah, its an OK time waster, but not much else. And now, I leave you.

Big Town

Big Dump
While wandering down the dark streets trying to find something of value to pick up out of the gutter, I chanced to come upon a piece of detritus that was as lacklustre as one could ever hope to find sailing into any sewer drain in any "Big Town".

What we see in the opening is a mess of stock footage, balsa wood and cardboard sets and camera setups where the camera is as stationary as any 1950's TV show. It is as if the camera was nailed to the floor pointing straight ahead. Actually, it was nailed to the floor. However, there are a few familiar faces including the handsome mug of Phillip Reed, Hillary Brook and Robert Lowery. Reed plays the head of a great metropolitan newspaper, but he does it like he was auditioning for an ironing board commercial, completely wooden. I wonder why Bob Lowery wasn't given the lead as he was more than capable as a leading man. He once played Batman and was also the manager of a circus company in "Circus Boy". Hillary is the goto gal correspondent who co-starred in many mellers including, but not limited to, Universal's horror flicks and the Abbot and Costello TV show.

After the exciting opening comes a plot in which four different tales are trotted out, only one of which I shall talk about here, primarily because they are worthless. That story delineates the tale of something called "Vampire Murders". Since this flick revolves around a big town newspaper's stories and not a horror movie's segments, don't let anyone suspect blood drooling excitements; instead, expect a reporting team tracking down the story told as ineptly as possible. A young man is released from a mental hospital, but he seems completely innocent of hoary crimes. With nasties popping out of the woodwork to dog his every step, he decides the only way out is his suicide. When he is rearrested he takes that way out, but all of it is told lacking any kind of finesse or even mystery even though this thing is supposed to be a film noir.

Suffice it to say, if this ever turns up on your very early local cable outlet and you choose to watch it, it could only be for one of two possible reasons: one, you need something to view because you are a fanatic complete-ist or two, you need something to put you back to sleep. With me, it is a sure fire method of inducing coma.

Forbidden Island

Underwater Logged
Jon Hall was a leading man in many adventure films and he freelanced for several American studios during his lengthy career. When he first started in the 1930's he used his birth name Charles Hall Locher, as his father was Felix Locher, a sometimes character actor in silent films. His cousin was the award winning cinematographer Conrad Hall. Jon's first film using his screen name was John Ford's "The Hurricane" with Dorothy Lamour in 1937.

He made six films with Maria Montez at Universal in the 1940's all of which were made in Technicolor and were very popular. But by 1959, he had definitely slowed down. After the TV show he did, "Ramar of the Jungle", he got into the manufacture of housings for underwater cameras. It was because of this that "Forbidden Island" came to be made.

The movie was primarily noted for its underwater photography and its music by the composer of exotic soundscapes, Martin Denny. In storyline it is actually a rather tired crime drama dealing with the usual band of miscreants trying to retrieve a priceless emerald from a sunken ship. Hall heads up the divers, who mysteriously start to die off after one of them discovers an underwater skeleton. The mayhem continues until the decidedly sunken conclusion.

This picture was his next to the last and that last one has become something of a cult item, "The Beach Girls and the Monster" which tried to cash-in on the beach blanket craze of the 1960's.

Jon Hall will always have a place, actually two places, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for his movies and the other for television. His memory will not fade for those who enjoy his brand of colorful adventure.

The House in the Woods

Lost in the Forest of Filch
"House in the Woods" could very well be subtitled "When Wooden Heads Last in the Dooryard Bloomed"; it is somewhat like an episode of Boris Karloff's sorely missed American television show "Thriller", but this British stinker has no thrills. A 60+ minute melodrama so talky it would drive all the bats from the belfry in one fell swoop. Not only that, but if there were some spirits of the living dead wandering in the wood, they, too, would once again wish to die! All about a mad artist, in other words, one who never sold a painting, who ensnares two of the dumbest people ever to wander through a classified ad section looking for a cottage to rent in the proverbial "middle of nowhere", but smack dab in the middle of "a tight little island". This artist claims he never paints anymore, but when he gazes upon Patricia Roc's glowing countenance and broken nose, he must paint her immediately. After more strokes than it took to paint the Sistine chapel, he burns the painting of his "dearest wife" and put's Roc's masterwork in its place. Be well assured her likeness is no "Portrait of Jennie". Several other machinations follow like many trips ten feet out of the cottage into the wood to pick up sinister cigarette butts.But what is the artist really trying to say? What is the husband of Roc's character really trying to find? The solemnity of the entire business is almost without circumference, or is it? The enterprise comes to a screeching halt with one of the most ill timed fist fights in the history of cinema, but it is hugely unintentionally funny. All the viewer can do is keep watching until the bitter, but not better end! Michael Gough, the stilted husband here of Patricia Roc, made some astounding stinkers in his lengthy career, but thankfully he was "resurrected" this same year,1957, in Terence Fisher's much finer "Horror of Dracula". Perhaps, a soft shoe or mellow tap dance would have helped lift "House in the Woods" out of its swamp of dreck; it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

Don Ricardo Returns

The Curse of El Stupido
Producers Releasing Corporation made this very unintentionally humorous "Zorro" ripoff, supposedly based on a story by Johnston McCulley, author of Zorro. If McCulley did write the story he evidently never met a real Mexican let alone a Spaniard. The dialog in this, is spoken by a mostly non Latino cast in typical stilted Americano Spanglish. Every fifth or sixth word is an "authentic" word. The acting, if it can be called that, veers from wildly florid to nonsensical hilarity. The actress playing Dorothea, says her lines like she learned them while working the pickup window at her local Jack In the Box. The main nasty guy, Anthony Warde, screams every line like a commandant of a Nazi death camp. And, Fred Coby, who? is about as authentic a Spanish land owner as PRC could get. Yeah, sure. "Address me as Don Recardo, Dog Swine!" I wonder just what kind of animal that could possibly be? Perhaps, the ultimate question this thing asks might be, if Don Ricardo did indeed return, where did he go to begin with?

When this originally played on the bottom of a double bill many years ago, it is doubtful many in the audience paid much attention to it. Today,only insomniacs, reviewers in training and/or lovers of mindless drivel would watch. As Anthony Warde intoned in so heartfelt a manner, "Be gone, vermin!"

The Pretender

Pretending the Night has No Eyes
What would it have been like if David Lynch were sitting in the director's chair in the golden age of film noir? This picture might give a hint of what it may have looked like. The thing is populated with phantoms inhabiting the bodies of some of the screen's most dastardly character types. There goes Charles Middleton posing as a butler from the nether regions. And here comes a young doctor in the guise of Charles Drake. I wonder what else he cuts up when he slithers out the door in the evening? And then there's the film's handsome, middle aged, Albert Dekker, in a bravura performance as an embezzler. He continually wrings his hands and worries about other fantasies that are too diseased for the light of night. He becomes obsessed and woefully paranoid about "those who are coming" to get him. He locks himself into his "fine and private" room there to gorge himself on a worthless diet of potted meats and stale crackers. His self perpetuated madness takes on epic proportions as he tries to get away from his internal horror and this makes for the ultimate bad choice in causing him to forfeit his life in a most chilling manner.

This is truly a low budget nightmare noir filmed with consummate skill and gusto by the German cinematographer John Alton before his career with the terrific director Anthony Mann. The two of them made some of the finest film noirs to grace the screen. Also, this particular picture uses forced perspective and scrunched miniatures to add to its otherworldly view. In the end, it is probably W.Lee Wilder, Billy's older brother's best attempt behind the camera. He wouldn't manage to trod any meaner streets than these again.

Sabu and the Magic Ring

A Tarnished Ring, Indeed!
As a child I looked forward to watching the movies Sabu made. In the earliest years of his career he made his classics and many of those have more than stood the tests of time.

Many don't know that during World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Corps and did so with distinction having won several awards for service above and beyond the call of normal duty. Being of a diminutive size he easily could fit in bomber aircraft tail and belly gun positions. When the war was over and he was discharged from the service, he wanted to return to the motion picture industry. Unfortunately, except for one superb film, Michael Powell's "Black Narcissus", most of the offerings were paltry. Audiences after the war, weren't very interested in his kind of escapism; jungle adventures were not so fascinating anymore. Still, Sabu pushed on and where he got the verve to do so, I cannot fathom except, perhaps, he felt there's got to be something more.

Eventually, he was approached by George Blair the producer/director who had made George Reeves "Adventures of Superman". He wanted Sabu to star in a television series that took place in a kind of Baghdad setting. Two pilots were shot for that series and this is what became "Sabu and the Magic Ring" when the TV show failed to become a series. Like the Superman series this one was also shot in color. The costar of it was William Marshall, he of the rich baritone voice who breathed life into the vampiric "Blacula". Here he played the genie who owned the titular "magic ring".

The plot was a kind of cheap Arabian pantaloon adventure, but it could in no way capture the days of Sabu's majestic 1940 masterpiece "The Thief of Baghdad". It amounted to a lot of running around in cardboard sets culminating in tired rehash. The movie made of this pastiche leaves much to be desired. Actually, it is a hair width's better than the other poorly pieced together Sabu flicks of this time, "Jungle Boy/Jungle Hell" which is two separate films sewn together from one picture.

After this time, Sabu only made a handful of films and died at the very young age of 39. For me, though, he will always be that smiling boy sailing through the azure skies on his flying carpet seeking ever greater adventures.

La vendetta dei Tughs

Jiving Jungle Jerk in Darker India!
Once again, dubbed in English loin gown wearing muscle guy swings through the trees, this time banyan bushes, Lex Barker, in the guise of the great adventurer Tramal Naik, Indian Hunter. He's always looking for ways to curb native savagery. The titular bad guys are the Tughs, religious fanatics who prey upon Europeans cuz they are the tastiest. Tramal goes in search of a kidnapped white woman with his faithful companions Kammamurie, played to the hilt by the ever tightening Franco Ballanuri, Agher done simply by Jack Rex and the hilarious Raf Pindi as Urti. Don't forget the tiger friend of all righteous jungle fighters, Flooti the Fabulous. All of them are seasoned safari saps! Big cardboard fun ensues as our hero tries to penetrate the fantastical mystery surrounding the mega banyan bush. As it turns out, the bush is the entrance to the solid gold temple where the Tughs are holding the white woman who is an unwilling high priestess for Black Kali, the multi-armed goddess of massive sadistic savagery. It sounds like a serial made many years before. Lex does what Lex did best, mumbles some idiot verbiage and beats the hordes of miscreants into mounds of pulverized blackish flesh.

The "Black Devils of Kali" is what is known as a "Peblum", an Italian/Germanic loin cloth adventure. Its all rubbish, really and no better or no worse than hundreds of other silly dubbed "B" movies that were sort of popular back in those days. This played on the bottom bill of some other thing nobody remembers the name of. If you remember then you're a fan beyond compare. Enjoy it for that.

Night Train to Paris

Night Train to Nowhere
Long before Leslie Neilsen flew the funny skies of "Airplane" or packed heat as Det. Frank Drebben, he rode the rails of one of the dullest railroads on this planet. Yes, he appeared in an ultra cheap spy versus spy melodrama that took place on a train bound from London to Paris filled with New Year's eve revelers. One of the other spy guys, the main one, was an enormous fat freak who eventually dons a grizzly bear costume instead of the usual fright wig and Groucho glasses. Nielsen spends a good part of the 64 minute running time bolting in and out of 3 or 4 sleeping compartments on the anything, but convincing cardboard cutout train trying to recover a packet of a tape recording the French Sortie deem priceless. We're never told what's on the tape, but ultimately, so what, right? We do get to hear the refrains of a couple of nauseating and fake early 1960's tunes while the party goers dance the night away.

Another fine train drama comes to mind which could gave been a big influence on this, the immortal "Night Train to Munde Fine". Surely, the baritone inflections of its theme song, proudly sung by John Carradine, might have influenced the party songs here. Both films deal with the adventures of the spy trade and, as such, are certain hallmarks of what came to be known as "the Swinging 60's".

As the London to Paris Night Train winds its way to conclusion, Leslie Nielsen and his attractive co-star, Miss Israel of 1960, learn what true love can mean. Suffice it to say, the likes of this enchanting train ride will not come this direction again!

Broken Journey

Not the Missing Chapter from Pan Am
"Broken Journey" 1948, but made the year before, is a kind of Airship of Fools and all of that is clearly manifest in the skies above. One of the first things we see is a male passenger being given a magazine to entertain him while he's on his flight to destiny. The magazine is momentarily shown and much to my surprise was a nudist mag! I've heard of flying the friendly skies, but this was only 1948! The Europeans have been ahead of the Americans in this regard, but I had no idea how far ahead they were in those halcyon post war years. Anyway, on the side of the flying crate can be seen the name of the airline --"Fox Airways"; are we to think this far back that anything even remotely connected with Rupert Murdoch is doomed to failure? I know, there is no connection, but thinking might make it so.

High opera also plays a part so very high in the European Alps and a single cracked 78 rpm record of an unknown opera whenever played can drive this viewer to some small chuckle. That chuckle turns to guffaw when the crescendo of a certain dark haired woman passenger sheds tears every time its played. And then that guffaw issues forth in rails of derisive laughter as the shrieks become ever more ghastly and forced! Guy Rolfe, later a horror player, is the pilot and like a good ship's captain does everything he can to soothe and save his charges, not exactly a barrel of monkeys, but not exactly a Noah's ark of losers, either.

James Donald, also a horror star of some old style renown, plays the co-pilot and the man who saves Pyllis Calvert the only stewardess from a fate worse than her own worse fate could imagine.

"Broken Journey" sits in-between "Five Came Back", 1939 and "Alive", much later at 1993. All three stories are about being lost and then saved. Two of these tales take place in mountain snows while the third is a jungle adventure. One is based on fact and the others not, but all three deal with the wilderness within the human psyche. By far, the best of the three is the first "5 Came Back" flying on a fictive high, but so much better than the frozen fakery of a "Broken Journey".

Just Off Broadway

Those Fabulous, Fake 1940's!
Fast and furious "B" courtesy of Lloyd Nolan's unstoppable for very long Mike Shayne, private, I guess, detective. Murder abounds most foul, but you can be readily assured in this instance the butler didn't do it. Courtroom highjinks are just the beginning of the fun as Mike bothered by brunette reporter with occasional appearances by photographer buddy played by Phil Silvers in early "Sargent Bilco" mode, investigates in the wings of the local Ed Sullivan theater searching for a knife throwing contingency. After 2 or 3 conks on the head, sped up fist fights, being saved by bruised brunette more times than was needed, Mike is finally free to hunt down the master maniac. Imagine the surprise when we find out courtrooms are often like outhouses, full of stuff we'd rather not see, let alone smell.

The adventures of Mike Shayne weren't huge moneymakers for 20th Century Fox, in the detecting arena that role was filled by the ever scrutable Charlie Chan. Suffice it to say, this caper "Just Off Broadway" wasn't the best sparkler in the series, but an OK time waster in the 60 minute market. The method of death here can not be expected to be any "knife in the water".

Bomba and the Hidden City

Life, But Not with the Lions
"Bomba and the Hidden City" is a slipshod chapter of a very cut rate series of adventure sagas. It was directed, however, by a master of the serial form, Forde Beebe. This kiddie clunker was the kind of thing Beebe could direct in his sleep and judging from what follows the title, that's where he spent most of his time, jungle hammock style, collecting a cool $150 salary while waiting for the bus to another part of the forest.

The storyline follows our semi-intrepid jungle boy, by now really filling out his French cut Tarzan loin wrap. He galumphs and swings through the eucalyptus trees of the Santa Anita Racetrack Botanic Gardens, searching for some supposed hidden city. This "city" more of a couple of shacks with a forlorn palm-tree and a few added stumps,seems to be known by everyone especially the Arab suits, read villains. The plot is something like "Tarzan's Desert Mystery" or "Tarzan's Nazi Adventure" or "The Return of Somebody with a Name like Schnarzan". Forgive me, sometimes I get carried away with all the excitement. The city, hidden or not, has the sister of another member of the cast who may or may not have been there before. Nobody knows for sure. Also, in the village is somebody called "Ferengi", perhaps an escapee from a space opera, though that is probably doubtful. As can be expected, Bomba makes everything right while hardly having to fling his spear.The bad guys get their well deserved drenching and just when we are sitting on the edge of our thrones with the possibility of the jungle boy getting his first lady friend, the end comes. But one big thing we can be sure of, in the next outing of our titular hero, he still won't have any body hair, a true "child" until all the film runs out!

Spectres of the Spectrum

The Wonderful World of Science,Not!
"Spectres of the Spectrum" is one nut job of a movie, which purports to tell how the future can be told through the noise of the past. It is made up of every possible and impossible clip of old movies that deal with both real science and fake science. All of it is jammed together with an insane narration by three voices who go on babbling for nearly 91 minutes thus making an effort to tell the tabloid story of "secret rays coming from outer space"; these secret rays are actually electromagnetic ones and as we all know so well they contain minute amounts of mysterious formulas only true advocates of the space brothers would know. Now, some of this is fun, but after a half hour it begins to wane. Some may say more is better, but for this reviewer I can get more of a thrill from listening to Corla Pandit's ruptured organ music on my own while I thumb through the pages of a thrift store copy of Dianetics. Those who have a tendency to receive messages from wind blowing out of their TV sets will certainly have a great time watching this. Others will definitely want at least 8 or 9 martinis to make the adventure worthwhile.

Tank Force!

Tanks a Million!
"Tank Force!" is an American paid for WWII programmer starring an aging Victor Mature and a supporting cast of of British stalwarts lead by Leo Genn the kind of English character actor who made many B movies that much more watchable.

The plot revolves around a prisoner of war camp in the Libyan desert populated by the usual stereotypes including the young, at the time, song and dance man, Anthony Newley. Five members of the camp belong to a tank battalion who at this juncture are obviously tankless,but being typical and jovial beyond reproach, break out and go wandering through the dunes looking for a safe place to crash. They find it in an old oasis hotel filled to overflowing with the usual churlish Nazi horde. And would you believe, an old girlfriend of Mr. Mature. She gives them food and water and is bumped off in a shorter order than it would have taken the kitchen to order up. Poor Luciana Paluzzo is kissed on the forehead, covered up with a blanket and left to find a job in a better flick than this one.

The five sand fleas wander off into the Libyan night pursued by Nazis and a nasty Arab chieftain. Everything deserty you can think of happens to them until they are caught. Old Vic endures the torture of a thousand knives until a nice German flings a map of dune country at them along with a loaded pistol.The kraut then turns and shoots himself undoubtedly disturbed by the insane torture perpetrated on Mr. Vic.

It all ends with a B movie finale as the proto Rat Patrol steals a German tank and kills everybody in sight.

A serviceable time waster, then, with opening and closing tank battles in 1958 widescreen and color. Hail Columbia! The movie company that is.

Jungle Siren

Far from Green Hell
"Jungle Siren" is the kind of flick kids would thrill to at matinées in the 1940's. It plays like the missing chapter from a serial like "Nyoka and the Lost Secret of Hippocrates" or "Batmen of Africa" or even "U238 and the Witchdoctor". For this Buster Crabbe traded in his blonde Flash Gordon hair dye in this ultra cheap Sam Newfield production for the PRC studio glowering in Hollywood's Gower gulch. His character is the forerunner of his "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion" TV show as a schmuck who's supposed to be attached to the Free French during WWII. He even has a sidekick faithful companion who could be called "faithful companion" man, but isn't. Anyway, they go off in search of nothing in particular and find it in the guise of a hot babe who knows how to shoot arrows at jungle Nazis, shamefully played by one, Ann Corio. She is the titular "Jungle Siren" and she has a faithful companion,too, but this one isn't human -- a moth eaten Cheetah chimp stand-in that has very little time to cheer us.

Buster and friend and Siren wander around the Santa Anita Park Race Track Botanic Gardens looking for likely spots to ambush the one Nazi and his very "authentic" witchdoctor henchman buddy. Of course, they are victorious. Another B movie jungle adventure comes to its inevitable conclusion as Buster runs off with the chimp and leaves the Siren to set up housekeeping as a wheezy fire house siren with still other moth eaten native stand-ins.

No, I jest, but this ending wouldn't be any more illogical or silly than the actual one.

Golden Ivory

The Message of the African Outback
"Displaced Australians roaming the range of the east Kenyan outback, their noble brumbies riding hard" this could have been the headline of this flick's advertisement appearing in any country's 1950's newspaper. Richard Urquhart, a Scotish actor and presenter of civil defense bulletins, in real life, finds himself hitching up the oxen of actress Susan Stephen, whose best supporting role came as the once wife of Brit film director Nicholas Roeg. They and a stumbling band of covered wagoners wander across the Kenyan hinterlands. This is Masai country and they make a serviceable stand-in for Apaches as this is a transported Western. Instead of a cattle drive, they are searching for the Blood Butte, a kind of netherworld of dead Masai warriors. Why is never made clear. The countryside is filled with the usual animal terrors including snakes, hyenas and fights between various beasties. This is a tough place, unfit for a white woman, let alone a white huntress, which is nowhere to be found. The one young white gal keeps wandering off into the bush for various reasons none of which are entertaining or meaningful.

"The white man is master" as one of the men utters, is the true message of the African outback: everything must be tamed, made safe for future family outings on Sunday afternoons. The natives, naturally, don't like this message, but as we all know too well, this land is ours for the taking.

"White Huntress" is a tired rip off of the "King Solomon's Mines" routine and a mumble fest of multinational accents. Perhaps, a tad better than swimming in a barrel of hammer head sharks, but not by much.

Naked Evil

Hoodoo Bathos in Hostel Hell
For the most part, this is a black and white cheapie lensed in 1965 in England and based on a tired play "The Obi" by Jon Manchip White. A more exploitive title was tacked on "Naked Evil", but don't expect any nudity here. The story revolves around an English hamlet populated with several Jamaicans, some of whom are the usual ruffians you'd find at your local 7 - 11 mini mart while the others are an atypical crowd of Jamaican science students who live at the voodoo infested school hostel. Somehow, never very well explained, these two groups are at war with each other. Trapped in the middle of all this, is a stuffy school hostel headmaster who is almost always drunk. Also skulking through the badly lit hallways is an ancient Jamaican janitor who may or may not be making the dread "Obi" -- death objects made of old bottles stuffed with graveyard dirt and chicken feathers. As one can imagine, the goings on in this nest of unsavory types are breathtaking in their complexity. And for 75 of its 85 minute running time, nothing actually happens. In the last 10 minutes something actually does take place and those last 10 minutes are almost worth staying awake for.

After doing nothing at the box office, this stinker was picked up by an American releasing outfit and was pastiched together with a color opening, mid section and conclusion starring the immortal screen legend Lawrence Tierney. The rest of the British film with a few minutes excised and strangely tinted were stuck together and re-released upon a public who in its wisdom still refused to watch. Now the thing was retitled and probably did some business in Texas where B movies go to die.

In conclusion, I must say, this is the finest film of the long and cherished career of Jamaican thespian Brylo Forde; without him this pastiche would have been intolerable, indeed. As it stands now, it is merely worthless.

The New Adventures of China Smith

Perhaps TV's First Anti-hero
"The New Adventures of China Smith" was a black and white television series and a brew steeped in the nostalgia of the early 1950's. It was conjured into existence by director Gene Fowler, Jr. who had a long career in farming the furrows of video fiction counting "The Waltons" among his many successes. He was joined by the writer Robert C. Dennis who was another TV stalwart who concocted many of TV's best loved detective shows from "Kojack" to "Mannix" and many others as well. These two along with many of the character actors of the era including Dan Duryea returned as the titular character, China Smith.

This go round featured more adventures in the not so mysterious Orient, usually placed on the island of Singapore. This second series was filmed in San Francisco which has the serviceable background of one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. Easier to go there than the actual place, obviously.

The villains, while the usual rapscallions of these semi-authentic climes, also featured encounters with verminous Communists, the ultra nasties of the 1950's.

Seldom did China Smith smudge his white linen suit, but he provided a few thrills for the as yet non-jaded television audience in those halcyon days of American detective TV shows.

Idol of Paris

A Harlot High and Low
"Idol of Paris" is a forgotten film based on a long out of print historical fiction entitled "Paiva, Queen of Love" by one Alfred Schirokauer, a semi-credulous Austrian biographer/novelist of real and imagined people.

The film itself as directed by Leslie Arliss, a distant cousin of George Arliss, takes place in the time of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, slouching in the frame of actor Kenneth Kent. It details the escapades of a female street urchin named Theresa adequately played by Beryl Baxter as she sleeps her way to the top of the Parisian courtesans pile.

As she flits around the stately palaces of the mid-19th century, she decides that even she is too grand for Napoleon, especially with the handsome hunks like Hertz, Michael Rennie, lurking in the shadows. Hertz is also more than ready to lift her underskirts in wild abandon.

If this is your idea of scintillating entertainment, you'll have a difficult time locating a copy of it. It was available awhile back, but now seems to have vanished. As far as this reviewer is concerned, there's a reason it has been forgotten. Better look for fast action in perfumed pantaloons elsewhere. Or give Arliss far better 1945 film "The Wicked Lady" an eyeballing.

Night Editor

When the Beauty is the Beast
Columbia Pictures, the home of the Three Stooges shorts,"Batman" serials,"Crime Doctor", "Boston Blackie" and many other programmers, was also the place where many B movies were hatched including this very low budget crime yarn based on the radio program "Night Editor" by Hal Burdick and the short story "Inside Story" by Scott Littleton.

This film version, very tightly directed by Henry Levin, and starring the then aging and rumpled William Gargan, is a definite Noir artifact of the late 1940's.

There's little pity in this compact story of sex and brutality. Unusual for a film of this time period, the femme fatale is depicted as a woman who feeds on cruelty and takes gleeful joy in looking at the battered corpse of one of her previous friends. Murder and perversion seem to function as the only things she truly loves. They are what she demands others give her so she may feed the bottomless emptiness within.

Originally fashioned as a pilot episode for a new continuing series like its radio show progenitor, the film was a failure upon release, but succeeds as a stand alone example of the close ties between sex and sadism in the continuing Noir cycle.


Los Angeles Plays the Straight Man Yet Again
Perhaps not the best of film Noir, but more than serviceable with a fine cast and a haunting performance by Viveca Lindfors. What a babe when young and quite exotic in this role. "Backfire" may well have been written with the matinée crowd in mind as it has many weaknesses, but the director, Vincent Sherman, was efficient in the sequences of action and brutality. Gordon McCrae was a little flat, but I think the studio was trying to give this singer the benefit of the doubt. That has always been the way of things in the movies: give the popular singers of the day a chance to become known in some other milieu. It might have worked better if Edmund O'Brian had played the lead, but such was not the case. Anyway, a slightly better than average trip down the darkened alleyways of Noir's mean streets.

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