Forgotten Films: The Amazing Mr. Williams (1939)

The Amazing Mr. Williams is fun clone of The Thin Man.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 181sth in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Police and detective films of the ’30s and ’40s can be a wonderful thing. Recently, while scrolling through the guide on my television, I saw one listed that I had never heard of. Billed as a “breezy Thin Man clone,” The Amazing Mr. Williams starred Melvyn Douglas and Joan Blondell, two stalwarts of this period. I gave it a chance.

Lieutenant Kenny Williams (Douglas) is a homicide detective who has amazing insights in solving cases. Maxine Carroll (Blondell) is the mayor’s secretary and Kenny’s fiancé. But Maxine does not like that Kenny works a job with hours beyond 9 to 5. Their dates are frequently interrupted by murder. Maxine hates that Kenny is a policeman and threatens regularly to leave him unless he quits.

In the opening moments of the film, Kenny is late in arriving to a date and Maxine is furious. He gets there in time to drink her Old Fashioned and apologize. Before he can order, he is dragged away for a locked-room murder involving a woman, midgets and a snake. (And it did not involve the Harry Stephen Keeler solution of a midget hanging from a rope from a helicopter).

Kenny tries to apologize to Maxine and solemnly swears to be there for her. His boss, Captain McGovern (Clarence Kolb), overhears the plans and decides to send Kenny to take convicted murderer Texas Buck Moseby (Edward Brophy) to prison for 40 years. Rather than explain the situation to Maxine (who does not want to hear any more excuses), Kenny takes Buck in tow as he takes Maxine to the Beach Casino for an evening of dinner and dancing. Maxine does not believe that Buck is an old college friend and blows the whistle on Kenny, getting him suspended for 60 days without pay.

Except of course there is another job that needs to be done. The Phantom Slugger has been preying on women on the streets, hitting them with a baseball bat. Seven women have died. Kenny has the idea of sending one of the male cops out in drag to attract the Slugger. But, because of the screw-up with Moseby, Kenny is told he will be the decoy. Maxine fed the idea to the mayor to make Kenny get fed up and resign, but it never works out the way she wants.

In another episode, Kenny resigns but is drug back into service by McGovern, leaving Maxine waiting at the altar. And a final incident which involves an innocent man captured by Kenny who is convicted of murder. While taking him to prison, Kenny realizes that a mistake has been made and that he must remove the man from the train and prove him innocent before the police capture Kenny and send him away for 10 years.

It is light hearted and breezy and episodic. The supporting cast with favorite Donald MacBride as Lieutenant Bixler and Ruth Donnelly and Effie Perkins, Maxine’s roommate and work assistant, is also quite good.

A lot happens in The Amazing Mr. Williams’ 80 minutes, and there are no real dull sections. I really like both Melvyn Douglas and Joan Blondell. They made three films together in 1938 and 1939, as well as one in 1964. This was the second of the three.

Melvyn Douglas also starred in Fast Company, a bibliomystery I reviewed last year which I really enjoyed. He was one of three actors to play book dealer/sleuth Joel Sloan. All three of those films also qualify as The Thin Man clones and are worth watching.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: Swamp Thing (1982)

Swamp Thing Movie

Great comic, great poster… um… not so great movie.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 180th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

One of the things that I enjoy in my life is comic books. I got my first in 1959. I collected comics for several years and in 1962, the family moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Texas. My comic books at the time included early Green Lantern, Justice League of America, Thor, Hulk and Fantastic Four issues.

The comics were shipped in the family station wagon to Seattle, where we met up with it and discovered two items missing. One was a fire extinguisher; the second my stack of comics. I was devastated. We were about to embark upon a family trip, driving from Seattle to Dallas over a two-and-a-half-week period. We went to the Seattle World’s Fair, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and more. We got to see some military bases, including a naval station and a nuclear sub! Wow!

But two and half weeks in a station wagon with my parents, smoking two packs a day each, without comics was going to be hell, so pretty much every time we stopped I picked up more. This started a comic collection that lasted until 1968. My parents said they were not moving the comics anymore and that I had to rid myself of the collection, which I did a two cents apiece. I was crushed again.

But, soon, in college, I found my niche and friends who loved the illustrated page as much as I did. Among the titles starting to come out was Swamp Thing. (Hey, you knew the story was going somewhere.) Swamp Thing was a DC comic written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. It became a favorite comic because it was intelligently written and impeccably illustrated. The team worked together for only ten issues before they went in different directions. But Swamp Thing remained a classic.

So, you can guess my reaction in 1982 when this film (as you should remember, this column is about films) was announced and released. The track record of comic films at that time was not very good (except for Superman 1 and 2). And I was not familiar with the director at the time. His name was Wes Craven. Somehow I had missed his earlier directing stints, including The Hills Have Eyes.

So, I went to the theater and sat through the film. It was a mess. The story of Dr. Alec Holland and his botanic research in the swamp was there. The vicious attack by thugs and the horrific death suffered by Holland and his wife was there. The villain Arcane was there. Beyond that, things were muddled.

Dr. Alec Holland (played by the inimitable Ray Wise) has a shop in the swamp with his wife Linda (Nannette Brown). One of his security people has left and is replaced by Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau). As Cable arrives, some of the security network starts to malfunction and Alec and Alice investigate to find that wiring has been cut. When they return to the lab, some serendipity happens and the formula he’s creating starts to work in a fantastic manner.

Then the bad guys of Arcane (Louis Jordan) begin to arrive. Notebooks full of Alec’s research are taken, Linda is shot and Alec is doused in his formula and lit on fire. He runs screaming into the swamp, where he dies. Cable is hiding during some of this and has found the final notebook with the truly relevant information.

Now, the film falls off the rails. We get lots of shots of inept mercenaries trying to find Cable and we get the first appearance of the title character. Hollywood actor/stuntman Dick Durock wears the rubber suit and tries to make something out of the mess. Somehow he learns to speak, which the Swamp Thing in the comics did not regularly do.

There is some comic relief with a young black man running a gas station who is there when Alice runs in trying to escape Arcane. Reggie Batts plays Jude and is only in the film a few minutes. Soon, the film turns into a rubber-suit monster fight with broadswords in the swamp. Then it mercifully ends. But, like the seven year itch, the character returned in 1989 in The Return of the Swamp Thing.

As I watched this the other day, I cannot believe I watched both films back when they were released and had fairly decent memories of them. All I can say is, “I was young! So very young!” And I was starved for good comics-related films.

Pretty sure I will not be re-watching this one or the sequel any time soon. Or ever again. However, your mileage may vary.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: The Magnetic Monster (1953)

The thing that comes alive in The Magnetic Monster isn’t a giant radiated bug but a killer isotope.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 179th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Boy, have I been loving May at Turner Classic Movies, where they have been showing some wonderful monster and horror movies of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s with Dennis Miller hosting. It has been tempting to review only these movies for a while. I broke with that last week when I looked at Arsene Lupin and the Barrymores.

But here we are again with The Magnetic Monster, a ’50s science-horror movie.

Following the development of the atomic bomb, science as most Americans knew it changed drastically. Science became something terrifying and unfamiliar. And Hollywood was ready to move into this unexplored land.

The Magnetic Monster starts simply enough. The workers at Simon’s Department Store find that all their clocks have stopped. Mr. Simon (character actor favorite Byron Foulgar) begins berating Albert (Bowery Boy William “Billy” Benedict), who vows that he had wound all the clocks. Other appliances are also affected by some mysterious magnetic force which seems to have originated in the apartment above the store. The nearby Office of Scientific Investigation (OSI) is contacted and it dispatches two agents, Dr. Jeffrey Stewart (Richard Carlson) and Dr. Dan Forbes (King Donovan). They find evidence of radioactivity and massive magnetism from a lab above the store. The lab belongs to Dr. Denker (Leonard Mudie), who is carrying a dangerous isotope aboard an airplane. Denker dies from radiation poisoning. He had been bombarding this radioactive isotope with alpha particles, initiating all sorts of weird happenings.

The isotope suddenly began to defy all laws of physics by converting energy into mass, which doubles every 12 hours. While the sample size on hand is small at a quadrupling every 24 hours, it was going to become a huge threat within a few days. At 10 days, the mass would have grown by more than one million times its original size. Five more days would be a billion times. Imagine how much energy that would consume. The OSI began to speculate about how long it would take before the earth was thrown off its orbit.

The MANIAC, a giant card fed computer, taking up about a city block, runs the calculations. There’s lots of footage of the computer working, which means tape moving and cards being moved around. MANIAC finally determines that bombarding the sample within 24 hours with 900 million volts of electricity might do the trick. The experimental power station in Nova Scotia is the only possible place this might happen, even though the unit has a top rating of 600 million volts.

Tensions reach a height as the material is being bombarded and the generator’s creator does not want to see it destroyed.

The film gets tense, and aside from the faulty hand wavy science, I found myself fairly engaged. It was not a giant bug or monster film, though a giant isotope runs wild. Curt Siodmak, who gave us many fine films over the years, provided the screenplay. My favorite of his works was Donovan’s Brain, a 1942 novel which was filmed in 1954 with Nancy Davis and Lew Ayres. Siodmak also directed The Magnetic Monster. The film’s producer was Ivan Tors, in his second production, and Richard Carlson was in the prime of his career with It Came From Outer Space and Creature From the Black Lagoon appearing in 1954. According to Wikipedia this was the first in a three film series featuring the OSI, It was followed by Riders to the Stars and Gog, both in 1954.

This wasn’t a spectacular production but an OK way to enjoy an evening. Give it a try if you have the chance.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Film: Arsene Lupin (1932) 

Two Barrymores star in this 1930s film about the gentleman thief.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 178th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

It was a tough choice this week selecting a Forgotten Film. On one hand, I had more of TCM’s giant creature movies on the DVR and I watched The Deadly Mantis in preparation for the review. But doing two similar films in a row was not how I really wanted to go. So, I glanced through the DVR and ran across Arsene Lupin, a mystery/thriller from 1932. I love older mysteries and the character of Arsene Lupin, so this film won out.

The character of Arsene Lupin, gentleman thief, was first introduced by Maurice Le Blanc in a series of short stories in 1905. By the time this film was made, Lupin had appeared in at least ten films and several plays as well as a number of short stories and novels. Wikipedia shows 19 volumes before the release of this film.

Aside from the subject matter, the film is also notable for being a team-up of John and Lionel Barrymore, two massive stars of the silver screen.  John gets the role of Arsene Lupin and the Duke of Charmerace, a broke aristocrat who runs a robbery ring as the gentleman burglar Arsene Lupin. The film opens with a trussed up servant of Gourney-Martin knocking a telephone off the table and calling the police. He says the house is being robbed by someone approximately six feet tall with a limp. The call goes to the dispatch, where it is identified as possibly being by Arsene Lupin. The call is given to Guerchard (Lionel Barrymore) who is one of the best in the Paris police.

As the police approach the house, the thief flees, but Guerchard follows. When they find the fleeing vehicle, it is abandoned except for a bound, well-dressed figure. The captive identifies himself as the Duke of Charmerace (John Barrymore). Guerchard says that’s a lie. The banter between the mysterious man and the officer continues back and forth continues until Gourney-Martin (Tully Marshall) arrives from the opera and identifies Charmerace to the police. Guerchard believes that Charmerac is still Lupin and was after Gourney-Martin’s famous emerald necklace and other jewels.  Gourney-Martin explains to Guerchard that Lupin would have been disappointed because the jewels are in the Gourney-Martin villa in the countryside. Charmerace hears this at the same time.

Gourney-Martin plans to head out to the countryside to make sure the jewels are OK. Charmerace has a party to host the next evening for his birthday. Guerchard is planning on having men at the party to keep an eye on him. At the party, Charmerace finds a naked woman in his bed. Her name is Countess Sonia (Karen Morley), and the strap on her gown has broken and is being repaired by some of the servants in the next room. Banter and innuendo ensues between the two.

Also at the party are collectors looking for more than a half million francs, which Charmerace promises to pay on the morrow. When the lights are turned out, women’s jewelry goes missing. The police search everyone, but the jewels are not found.

Gourneey-Martin has been at the party and asks Charmerace to come with him to the villa. He agrees and decides to bring Sonia along with him.  Guerchard is interested in this development, as Sonia notifies him about the trip, since she is working for the police.

Gourney-Martin shows Charmerace his safe which has no keyhole or combination. He asks Charmerace to open the door, but when he grasps the handle, he is shocked by the electric current which paralyzes his grip and he cannot let go of the door. Gourney-Martin laughs at the situation until Charmerace uses his free hand to grab Gourney-Martin who also is shocked. Gourney-Martin uses his free hand to flip the switch that turns off the current. He tells Charmerace about the jewels and bonds in the box. The bonds were obtained in a less than legal manner.

The rest of the film deals with Lupin taunting Guerchard and threatening to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre on the following day, in front of the police and Guerchard.

It is a pretty decent film. The two Barrymores show why they were among the most noted actors of their time. Many have played Lupin over the years and John Barrymore was among the best. So, if you have the chance, it is worth spending the 84 minutes with this one. A classic film featuring classic actors in classic roles.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: The Giant Claw (1957)

The Giant Claw

If only the creature in The Giant Claw was the one advertised on the poster.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 177th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

The other day on Facebook someone put up a picture that brought back interesting memories. The picture was a still from The Giant Claw.

I remember the events leading up to my seeing this film. I don’t remember the exact year. I know it was the summer of 1964 or 1965. My family was vacationing at the military park on Lake Texoma. We were visiting with my uncle Johnny and his family in the evenings and spending the day swimming at the lake. I am not a great swimmer and this may have been a reason why.

About ten in the morning, we were wading around in the water when my sister screamed bloody murder. She had stepped on a broken beer bottle and gashed open the sole of her foot. My mom grabbed a towel and wrapped up the foot. We got our stuff together and made the drive over to Perrin Field and the hospital. About an hour and a couple of stitches later, she was better.

We went back to the lake and had our lunch. In the afternoon, we went back into the lake (except my sister, who had a bandage on her foot). About 2 p.m. my brother stepped on a broken beer bottle and sliced open the bottom of his foot. Again, we grabbed up our stuff and headed back to town. I got dropped off at my uncle’s house, as sitting in the emergency room for the second time that day did not appeal to me. My cousin Ronnie was there. We were about the same age but of totally different temperaments.

While the family was at the hospital, Ronnie and I watched The Giant Claw. The family came back for me after about an hour and a half later and asked if I wanted to go back to the lake. I looked at my pale, flat and unscarred feet and said I thought I would stay at the house and finish the movie.

If you’ve ever seen The Giant Claw, you know what a hard choice that was.

Aeronautic Engineer Mitch McAfee (Jeff Morrow) is performing some tests in a jet when he witnesses a large shape coming toward his jet. He cannot make out the details but it is big and moving very rapidly. He narrowly avoids a collision and returns to the ground. Here, as he recounts his encounter, he is greeted with skepticism as the ground radar has not reported anything else in the sky. The military officer in charge threatens him over his prank. Even Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday), his girlfriend/mathematician, does not believe him.

Major Bergen (Clark Howat) is about to fight him when a call comes in about another sighting of a UFO and a missing commercial plane. Again, nothing else was seen on the radar, and the pilot had called in the sighting. Suddenly, Mitch and Sally are on their way to Washington. On their flight, the plane is attacked by the UFO and they end up in the area of the U.S./French Canadian border, where they are rescued by Pierre (Louis Merrill). When the authorities arrive, Pierre is outside and screams. He has seen la Carcagne, a French Canadian mythic creature, part woman, part giant bird.

In New York, the pair meet up with Generals Considine and Buslirk (Morris Ankrum and last week’s star of The Neanderthal Man, Robert Shayne). Mitch has found a pattern in the bird’s attacks, based on a giant spiral. More attacks are happening and they fit the pattern.

Up to this point, the The Giant Claw is a decent little B film. Then, we get to see the bird. Oh, my Lord! According to IMDB, Jeff Morrow stated that, up until the premier, no one in the cast had seen the creature. Morrow saw the film in his hometown and when the crowd started laughing, he got up and left, rather than be recognized for being in the film.

The producer ran out of money and contracted with a special effects group in Mexico. Their monster is one of the great laughing stocks in B movie history. The giant bird is a puppet with a deformed face. You can see the strings in a few scenes. It is unconvincing and horrid-looking and ruined what might have been a decent film.

Humanity wins against this extra-terrestrial being with an anti-matter screen which is bent on destruction. The method doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but by then, you don’t care. It’s a sad finish to a ruined film that had potential.

It had been more than 50 years since I saw The Giant Claw the first time. I had hoped my memories were incorrect or hazy. They were but not in a good way. It will be at least that long before I attempt it again. Unless I have to show it to someone as a lesson.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: The Neanderthal Man (1953) 

The poster should clue you in that The Neanderthal Man is standard B-movie fare.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 176th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Sometime over the last year, I DVR’d a bunch of old movies I had never seen. I do this frequently. Sometimes I watch the films, other times I decide that my initial interest has faded and pass them up.

This last week, I was skinning through the recorded shows and I saw the title The Neanderthal Man and thought, “Why the heck not?”

It begins with Professor Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne, mistakenly credited as Robert Shane) living in the mountains of California, where he conducts experiments and formulates theories about Man’s ascent up the evolutionary ladder. He is working at home when he hears a loud noise and a crash. Something has happened in his laboratory.

Local hunter Wheeler is out looking for game and he runs across a saber toothed tiger, which he calls a “big cat,” even though it’s three times the size of a mountain lion and has tusks. Even though he is armed, Wheeler elects not to take a shot. Instead he goes down to Webb’s café and tells his story. No one believes him. Nola the waitress (Beverly Garland) is sympathetic but that doesn’t help. The local game warden George Oakes (Robert Long) decides to investigate and finds the spoor of something big. He makes a plaster cast of it. He takes the cast to Dr. Ross Harkness (Richard Crane), the zoologist at the local university. Harkness thinks it is a manufactured piece, rather than something authentic.

Professor Groves’ evolutionary chart shows Cro-Magnon man prior to Neanderthal and has the hoaxed Piltdown Man on the list. No wonder the local scientists group at the Naturalist’s Club thinks he is loony. And a mad scientist in the California woods is not to be fooled with.

Harkness is aware of some of Groves’ theories, having disputed with them in the past. He has a confrontation with him at Groves’ house when he brings the Professor’s fiancé, Ruth Marshall (Doris Merrick), up from the café where her car has broken down. Harkness is looking for Oakes, who parks his car at the Professor’s house since the roads end there. Groves throws Harkness and Oakes out when he confronts them. The two go out looking for the saber toothed tiger and find it. They kill the beast and go to get Groves so they can have another person verify the kill. They have to wait for Groves to emerge from his lab and when they take him to the spot, the dead body has disappeared. The Professor loses his temper over the wasted time and throws them out again.

Ruth notices changes between the man she fell in love with and the current Professor. And, no wonder! The Professor has run out of test subjects other than a small cat which he injects with an experimental fluid. We can now guess where the tiger has come from.

With his big cat dead, the Professor does what any sane man would do. He injects the serum into his own body. Within minutes he has grown lots of hair and bad teeth. He runs out into the woods and attacks Nola who is posing for photos with her boyfriend. The boyfriend dies in the scuffle.

I don’t think I need to tell you much more of the plot. You know the drill.

The Neanderthal Man is standard B picture fare, nothing startling, nothing revelatory. The acting is OK to poor. The special effects budget was somewhere between $5 and $20. The saber toothed tiger looks amazingly like a real tiger (occasionally on a not-unseen leash) though the tusks are only seen in close up shots. In other words, the saber toothed tiger walking looks like a tiger walking without the saber teeth. The Neanderthal make-up looks like it’s from a bad werewolf movie, replete with the time lapse fur-growing scenes.

But for 1953 drive-in fare, the movie is palatable. Robert Shayne overacts the mad scientist part quite well and slings erudite insults at his Naturalist Club members with ease. And, Beverly Garland is a young Beverly Garland and well worth the attention.

This is not a film to make great effort to see, but if you have 78 minutes with nothing better to do, you could do worse.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: Reaper, Episode 1 (2005)

Reaper is a short-lived CW series you may have missed.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 175th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

During Spring Break and late March, my friends Ed and Sam came out to Alpine to visit.  During the four days (unlike dead fish, they did not stink after three) they were here, we watched a large number of films and TV shows.

Fortunately, I had lots of things they had not seen. In one of the periods when a full-length movie was too much, I pulled the first season of Reaper off the shelf and said, “I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Forty-five minutes later, they agreed. It was odd and irreverent and wonderful.

Reaper’s pilot episode concerns Sam Oliver (Brett Oliver), who’s about to turn 21. He still lives at home with his folks (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) with his younger brother Kyle (Kyle Switzer). Younger brother is an overachiever while Sam is not. He works at a Home depot clone and dropped out of college after two weeks. The dictionary definition of “Loser” has his picture.

On his birthday, his parents are acting weird. His mother starts to cry; his father hugs him. Odd behavior. His best friend Bert “Sock” Wysocki (Tyler Labine) comes over for breakfast as he does every day. Sock is one of those for whom the position of Loser is a monumental promotion. Burnt-out slacker with no plans for anything past tonight’s activities. He also works at the hardware store, where his goal is to make it through his shift without actually doing anything.

On the way to work, vicious dogs seem to want to attack Sam’s car. At work, he is attracted to Andi (Missy Peregrym) a college student who works alongside him. During the day, a pile of air conditioners starts to fall toward her and Sam is, somehow, able to deflect them away. But Sam says he never touched them.

Suddenly evil dogs appear in the store, along with a mysterious white-haired man (the amazing Ray Wise). The man introduced himself as Satan. Confused, Sam goes home, where he learns that as a young couple his father had been really ill. To the point that his parents made a deal with the Devil. In exchange for a cure, the Olivers had to promise that Satan could have their first son on his 21st birthday.

No problem. They had no kids, and Mr. Oliver got a vasectomy. But then Mom showed up pregnant. Seems the doctor had some gambling debts he needed gone, so the Devil asked for one ineffective surgery.

Here’s the twist in Sam’s dilemma: the Devil doesn’t want his soul. He’s got plenty of those. What he needs is someone to help capture the souls that have escaped Hell. It’s a simple deal. Sam is shown the soul in its current manifestation. He is given a specialized tool to capture the soul, which he then has to deliver to a portal that is literally Hell on Earth. For this mission, the soul collector is a dust buster hand vac. And the portal is the local DMV, where a minion is disguised as a clerk, though she does have tiny horns hidden under her bangs.

Oh, and the soul is an arsonist working as a local firefighter who looks like a MMA champion who could smash Sam with this eyelashes. Needless to say, the first mission does not go well. Sam and Sock go after the firefighter and miss, expending the energy in the dust buster.

They need to find a way to recharge their special tool and a plan to figure out where the soul will be.

They eventually succeed and the deal is done. Or so Sam thinks. Satan has other ideas. There are more souls to be captured. And the deal isn’t done until he says it is.

The ensemble works well together and the fun is clearly present. Life at the hardware store is certainly Hell and Sam and Sock still have to try and survive there. Ray Wise is so well cast as Satan, debonair and not be fooled with.

Reaper survived for two seasons on the CW. I missed it when it was on. The amazing Kimm Antell introduced me to the show later and I loved it. Just as K. D, Wentworth had introduced me to Wonderfalls and Point Pleasant, I have to try to pass the love on. Give it a try. The episodes vary in quality. The pilot was directed by Kevin Smith of Clerks and Comic Book Men fame, who knows quirky humor.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: The Night of the Lepus aka Rabbits! (1972)

The original poster of Night of the Lepus actually makes it look scary.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 174th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Hey, let’s try for two weeks in a row on the Forgotten Film. What a concept!

And speaking of concepts, this week’s film has one. Well, maybe half a concept: Ecology tampered with by man runs a little wild in the Southwest.

Since we just finished Easter, I thought Night of the Lepus might be a suitable tie-in film.

I remember when Night of the Lepus came out. I was a very broke college student who could do an occasional film and I thought about this one. For about two days anyway, which was when I got the report back from friends. As one put it, “This dog won’t hunt.” It was bad. For a horror film, it was not scary — a kiss of death.

And, until this weekend, I had kept that nearly 45 year streak alive.

So the plot involves rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) whose property is being overrun with rabbits. He loses one of his best horses when it steps into a rabbit hole and breaks a leg while he is riding it. He wants the varmints gone, but he did not like previous pest control efforts which utilized poisons.

Hillman contacts the president of the local university, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley), for assistance. Since Hillman is a big-time contributor to the university, Clark wants to help. So he contacts Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh) who have been working with bats but respect Hillman’s request not to use poisons. They have an experimental serum which they hope will disrupt the animals’ hormones and mating habits. They also have a precocious daughter, Amanda (Melanie Fullerton), who has become attached to the rabbit given the injection. She secretly switches it out with another rabbit. Then, being precocious, she takes this infected rabbit to Hillman’s ranch, where it escapes and joins the rabbit population. Bunny breeding and mutations occur with astounding rapidity. Giant mutant rabbits begin attacking the animals and local population.

The film had good stars — some of my favorites. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley and Paul Fix all had major roles, along with a million or so rabbits. But the human actors seem to have seen how the film was going to turn out. Their hearts must not have been in it, because their acting is marginal at best.

The screenplay, based on the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon, a 1964 comic horror novel set in Australia, was written by Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney. Kearney did some TV work and was nominated for an Emmy. Holliday appears to have this one credit and nothing else. The dialogue for the film is dreadful. But it’s better than the special effects. Being 1972, we have no CGI or computer assists. So we see lots of regular-size bunnies running rampant over miniature sets while costumed actors got the job of trying to appear to be giant mutant rabbits killing regular folk.

I had trouble staying with the film. I got distracted by solitaire games or pretty much anything. So, sorry for this one. Maybe I will have a better film next week. I know some people like this one for a camp effect or some such reason. I’m not going to be one of them.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: Paul (2011)

Don’t expect Paul to match The Day the Earth Stood Still, but do expect fun.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 173rd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

It is about time I got back to watching films and inflicting my opinion of them on you. It’s been nine months and I have gone through a new job, a relocation, and the wonderfulness that is packing up a large library for months, having it transported and then trying to get it back in some semblance of normality.

Fortunately, I have learned to live with serendipity as my filing system. This simply means that if I want to watch a film, the film I am meant to see will present itself. If I want to see something else, it will hide until I have seen the other film.

I recently had some friends in to visit for four days. One of the fun things that happens in these events is that I try to show them films they should have seen but, for one reason or another, may have missed. During this time we watched The Rutles, Ex Machina, The Night Watch, Hellboy, the pilot for Reaper, several episodes of Troll Hunters… and Paul.

I had seen Paul on its original release and had enjoyed it so I picked up the DVD used when the opportunity presented itself. I had intended to watch Cold in July, the wonderful film based on Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, but it hid from me and Paul stuck out.

Paul is a science fiction film wherein Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, respectively. They are science fiction nerds. Graeme is an illustrator and Clive is a Nebulon Award-winning author. They are in San Diego to attend Comic Con and to meet Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor), a major science fiction writer and one of their idols. Shadowchild is a dick to people at the convention but they ignore his bad behavior. Graeme and Clive are planning on touring the western U.S. visiting UFO sites. They have a rented fifth wheel. Along the way they offend some shotgun-carrying rednecks by denting their truck. In their escape, they run into Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an ET trying to escape experimentation at Area 51. He has cool powers like turning invisible, transferring all of his knowledge to you and other things. And, being voiced by Seth Rogen, he’s remarkably crude and vulgar.

The government is chasing Paul, using a variety of agents including Special Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and rookies Haggard and O’Reilly (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) who all report to “the Big Guy” (a surprise guest not mentioned here because it might be considered a spoiler). There are adventures along the way, including encounters with Tara Walton (Blythe Danner) and Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig). Wiig is particularly fun, as she evolves from a fundamentalist young woman with one eye blind into a swearing, drinking, wild woman who acquires Paul’s knowledge of the universe.

Now, Paul is not quality sf along the lines of The Day the Earth Stood Still or Forbidden Planet. What it is is a film that takes nothing seriously. The hunt for Paul is a blast. The discussions about Life, the Universe, and Everything between Graeme, Clive and Paul are interesting. And, overall, the film itself is fun.

I am not a Seth Rogen fan. But, his irreverence and overall demeanor worked well for an alien about to be dissected. His outlook powers the film.

The final half hour should have lots of resonance with fans of classic sf movies. It did for me, but I am easily amused and all my taste is in my mouth.

I still say “Check it out!”

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The bizarre sets of the silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari make for a skewed viewing experience.

The bizarre sets of the silent film Cabinet of Dr. Caligari make for a skewed viewing experience.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 172nd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is hardly an unknown film to this crowd, but it was to me. I know that I saw it, but it must have been in the 70’s and much of that time is lost to my fuzzy memory. And, no, it wasn’t drugs. It’s been a long fun road since then and plenty of memories.

I picked up a nice DVD of the film at least 15 years ago but never got around to watching it. Always too many other, newer things to see. But today, I needed to watch and review something since my move is upcoming and I will be missing some weeks. I had watched a Marvel animated thing called Hulk Vs. which featured the Hulk in fights with Wolverine and Thor. But it was awful and I couldn’t justify writing about it other than to say “don’t bother with it.” Pretty mindless stuff there with passable animation but no real plot.

And, since I have been away from home for a couple of months and my selection of films is limited to DVDs only. (Even though I have some wonderful Blu-Ray films with me, I don’t have a useable Blu-Ray player. I have one, just not a TV to connect it to.)

I looked through the stack of films (about 30 or so) and Caligari called out to me, so here we are.

The film is a short, silent German expressionistic horror film, told primarily in flashbacks. Young Francis (Frederick Feher) is speaking to an old man when a young woman named Jane (Lili Dagover) walks by in a trance. He explains that she is his fiancé and that they have been involved in an odd ordeal.

In the town of Holstenwall, Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowsky) are rivals for Jane’s hand. Alan suggests that they all go to the fair. At the fair, Dr. Caligari (Werner Kraus) is setting up a somnambulist show. When he applies for a permit, he is insulted by the town clerk. The clerk is mysteriously murdered that night. When Alan and Francis visit the show, Francis asks the somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt), how long he will live. He is told that he will die at dawn.

That night Cesare visits Alan and kills him in his bed. Suddenly the town has two violent unsolved murders. Francis fears that it is Caligari and Cesare, so he brings his suspicions to the police. As they are investigating, an old woman is attacked by a man and he is arrested for the three murders. He confesses to the one attempt but says that he hoped his killing would be lumped with the other two.

There is further investigation and Jane is abducted at night by Cesare and a crowd follows the monster. Jane is rescued Cesare escapes, only to die out on his own.

The police were watching Caligari and it is reported that no one left. But when they investigate the cabinet where Cesare is housed, they find a dummy with a wig. Francis investigates a mad house looking for a patient named Caligari and does not find one, but sees that the head of the institution has that name. He finds a ledger which details a mad 11th century mountebank who tried to use a somnambulist to commit murders. The flashback shows the doctor succumbing to the idea of using the sleep walker as an experiment to see if it would commit crimes that he might not otherwise do. But these are delusions in Francis’ mind and he is the insane one.

The main thing you notice in watching this are the sets and images. The sets have few right angles or perpendicular walls. Even the windows are skewed. The images are wonderful and bizarre. The actors are have heavily mascara’d eyes, almost modern Goths before their time. The camera work is frequently less than full scene and often not in a rectangular format. Shots are done is circles and zoom in and out.

It was wonderfully odd and wild and I really enjoyed seeing it for the second time. I had totally forgotten everything since my last likely experience. If you too have not seen it in quite a while, I recommend watching it again. Being silent, you will have to read the film to enjoy it.

Of course, your mileage may vary. For a film 96 years old, it holds up well for me.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.