Forgotten Films: The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything (1980)

The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything: Not a very good movie then and not a very good movie now.

This is the 156th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

One of my favorite writers of all time is John D. McDonald. I’ve read a lot of his books; at some point I will read many more. I read all the Travis McGee novels, but my all time favorite John D. McDonald novel is The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything. I’ve read it several times and I reviewed it as one of my Forgotten Books at some point in the past. I’m not sure when, because several of my reviews were lost when the Missions Unknown site succumbed to whatever evil it was that killed it. Some reviews had not been backed up (my very bad) and there are several which are not available in archived versions of the site.

So, when this book was announced as a made-for-TV movie in 1980, I was there waiting. I watched it. I was appalled. Kirby Winter was being played by Robert Hays, a TV actor who had not yet made his big splash in Airplane!, the film which was his next role. Pam Dawber, late of Mork and Mindy, was Bonnie Lee Beaumont, sporting a horrendous South Carolina accent.  My beloved book was being sanitized and bastardized into pabulum for the masses.

I still remember that paperback book cover which claimed “One day with Bonnie Lee was like a three-year lease on a harem.” Not in this version. “Throne Smith meets Mickey Spillane.” Not in this version.

So, for 35 years I have hated this film as the epitome of bad made-for-TV movies. And I was happy with that.

This week, I was going to watch Svengali with John Barrymore, a silent film that I had on VHS. I put the tape in and while the tape was moving, I was not getting the picture. I tried several times but it was just not tracking correctly…

So, suddenly I am looking for something to watch and review. I was sitting in the floor with the DVDs and was trying to decide. Should I do The Point with its wonderful soundtrack and hippy-dippy story? What about Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings? Or Roger Corman’s Forbidden World, an amazing Alien rip-off? All these were on the tapes in front of me. And I remembered that they were not going to last too much longer, as VHS tapes have a half life of 25 years or so (or at least that’s what I have been told). Anyway, The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything popped up and the next thing I knew I was shoving it into the player and watching it.

The movie’s protagonist, Kirby Winter, is a lovable loser, who worked for his uncle Omar Krebs. His uncle, worth $220 million dollars has died and Kirby is anxious as the will is read. Turns out Kirby’s inheritance is a gold-plated watch. And that’s it.

Suddenly the Board of the Krebs Foundation is noting that Omar moved $75 million into a side venture OK Enterprises, which Kirby worked for. The only other employee, the sexually-repressed-and-not-loving-it Miss Wilma Farnham (Zohra Lampert), has burned all the company records according to Omar’s instructions.

As a result, Kirby and Wilma are being hunted for embezzlement. Omar’s competitors Joseph Locordolos (Ed Nelson) and Charla O’Rourke (Jill Ireland!) are trying to unearth Omar’s secrets and are using Kirby to try and find out anything.

This leads Kirby to find a new place to stay. His hotel manager, Hoover (Burton Gilliam, notable in Blazing Saddles, not so much here), finds him a friend’s apartment. While there, Kirby is visited by Bonnie Lee Beaumont, who mistakes him for her boyfriend. This mistake leads to anger and then strangely to attraction. While having a hot dog, Kirby accidentally sets the watch and finds that he can stop time around him. He is able to act while everyone remains frozen in the moment.

So far, the film is OK – not good but OK. But from here, it goes bad. The way to fix things seems to be to undress people or leave them in awkward situations. Dressing hired guns up as Las Vegas showgirls is TV-risqué but not particularly effective.

The film was not as bad as I remembered, but it is still not good. I saw this so you do not have to. Nor do you want to see the sequel, The Girl, the Gold Watch and Dynamite (1981), which thankfully does not feature Hays or Dawber but does not replace them with anyone better.

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


Forgotten Film: Phantom Lady (1944)

Cornell Woolrich's Phantom Lady is an engaging mystery film, just not a great one.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 155th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

I really love the novels of Cornell Woolrich, whether writing under that name or William Irish or George Hopley. For a while, I had a very nice collection of first editions of his work including a beautiful copy of Phantom Lady. But I took the money and ran a long time ago.

Woolrich was a master of suspense and tension, particularly in his novels, though some also comes through in his films. Check out my review of Jacques Tourneau’s The Leopard Man which was based on Woolrich’s novel Black Alibi. It features one of the most terrifying scenes ever put on screen and that scene is straight out of the novel.

But, let’s talk about Phantom Lady. Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) is a successful engineer in a bad marriage. On his anniversary he and his wife have a fight and he storms out of the apartment. He goes to a local bar where he meets a lonely woman with a gaudy hat. They make small talk and he invites her to go to a show. When he asks her name, she demurs, saying that they should enjoy the night with no names and no history. They take a cab to the show where a drummer tries to get her attention and the headliner Monteiro (Aurora) is seen wearing the same hat. Monteiro is obviously furious.

Henderson returns home to find police Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez) waiting. Henderson’s wife has been strangled with one of his neckties. Henderson isn’t worried about being arrested for the crime because he didn’t do it. But when the police question the bartender (Andrew Tombes) he says Henderson was alone. So does the cab driver. And when Monteiro is questioned, she remembers nothing about the Henderson’s companion and the hat the argued about isn’t even among her costumes.

Henderson finds himself on trial for murder and, with no alibi, he is quickly convicted and sentenced to die. The only one convinced he’s innocent is his secretary, Carol “Kansas” Richmond (Ella Raines), who is in love with him. She cannot find any other way to help him, so she shadows the bartender. When he makes a casual slip about being paid, he tries to attack her and ends up getting killed in traffic. At that point, Carol suspects she is on the right trail.

She begins to track down the drummer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who admits that he was paid $500 to forget what he saw. Carol calls Burgess, but by the time he gets there the drummer is dead. At this point, the film gives away the identity of the real killer, something which was not disclosed in the book until the very end.

Scott’s friend, Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone) has been in South America and when he returns he agrees to help Carol solve Scott’s problem. Together they find the Phantom Lady and the hat, but the murderer is still about and Carol is in deep trouble.

This was a good film, just not the great film which might have been made from the book. In glorious black and white, it has many of the features of a good noir film but somehow falls flat. The tense moments just don’t quite come across that way, until the point at which Carol confronts the killer. Part of the problem is the source material. Woolrich novels sometimes rely on coincidence and, as in this case, you have to buy that people are willing to let a man die after being paid to forget something. Somehow I tend to have a better opinion of people than that. Of the four, one should have broken down.

When reading the books, the breakneck pacing gets you through. With the film, that pacing isn’t there and the flaws emerge.

I still like this film, though, and I still love the work of Woolrich. I’m hoping you do to. TCM runs this film fairly regularly and you should check it out when you can. It’s not Out of the Past or Double Indemnity, but it’s still worthwhile.

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


Forgotten Films: Cloud Atlas (2012)

Audiences tend to love or hate Cloud Atlas.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 152nd in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

This week’s film is not very old but I think it is pretty forgotten. There seems to be a sharp divide among the folks who have seen Cloud Atlas. Many of them love the film; the remainder seems to despise it. There’s not a lot of middle ground. Love it or hate it.

And it is pretty easy to see why the divide is there. Cloud Atlas is not an easy, mindless film. It requires work on the part of the viewer. No easy-to-follow caper or adventure film here. And, to top it off, it is long, clocking in at 172 minutes.

So let’s talk about the film and its structure. The story follows six narrative paths with intertwining fates. The basic story lines involve 1849 Pacific Islands and San Francisco, 1936 London/Edinburgh, 1973 San Francisco, 2012 London, 2144 Neo-Seoul and Hawaii 106 years after the big fall (estimated as 2321). The lead actors have the following roles:

  • Tom Hanks plays Dr. Henry Glass, hotel manager, Dr. Isaac Sachs, gangster/author,  Dermott Hoggins, an actor playing Timothy Cavendish (see below) and Zachry.
  • Halle Berry plays a native woman, Jocasta Ayrs; Luisa Rey, an Indian party guest; Ovid and Meronym.
  • Jim Broadbent plays Captain Molyneux, Vyvyan Ayrs, N/A, Timothy Cavendish, a Korean musician and a prescient.
  • Hugo Weaving plays Haskell More, Tadeusz Kesselring, Bill Smoke, Nurse Noakes, Boardman Mephi and Old George.
  • Jim Sturgess plays Adam Ewing; a poor hotel guest; Megan’s Dad; a highlander; Hae Joo Chang and Adam
  • Doona Bae plays Tilda Ewing, N/A, Megan’s Mom and Mexican woman, N/A, Sonmi-451 and N/A
  • Ben Whishaw plays a cabin boy, Robert Frobisher, store clerk, Georgette, N/A and a tribesman.

The primary viewpoint characters are Adam Ewing (Sturgess), Robert Frobisher (Whishaw), Luisa Rey (Berry), Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent), Sonmi-451 (Bae) and Zachry (Hanks). As you can see, each actor had multiple roles and each plays a different part in the overall plot.

The various plots include the awakening of a young rich man to the problems of slavery and a plot to kill him, a young composer trying to get ahead by being the amanuensis to an elderly composer, the quest of a young journalist to find out about a flawed nuclear power plant, the attempts of an elderly publisher to escape danger and a mental hospital, the awakening of a female android (fabricant) and her message to the people of her world and the trials of a middle aged tribesman trying to overcome his shame and fear of the unknown.

The Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) along with Tom Twyker wrote the screenplay based on David Mitchell’s novel and the trio also directed the film. The structure has the six stories running simultaneously, sometimes with dialogue from one era suddenly appearing and applying in another. And there is no rigid flow from one section to another. You may go from the post-apocalyptic final world to the South Pacific to Neo-Seoul to San Francisco and so on. The stories each have their cliffhangers, which are addressed, and there are numerous similarities between the stories. Somni trying to escape on a telescoping bridge matches to a sailor walking along a top sail beam ready to unfurl it.

It’s a complex movie that respects the intelligence of the viewer by not trying to explain everything, Much of the later sections’ dialogue are a patois that you can get the gist of without knowing the exact meaning of each word, since the language and everything else has evolved over time.

The film rewards the careful viewers in many ways, and, for once, the documentaries on the Blu-ray actually have insights that are revealed in later viewings.

If it sounds interesting, give this one a try. And, as I have said many times, your mileage may vary. I loved this film and wish I could describe it better to you. And I really, really wish I had seen it on the big screen.

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


Forgotten Film: Blow Dry (2001)

Not Alan Rickman's best-known film, but certainly worth checking out.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 151st in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

With the unexpected death of Alan Rickman this week, I was reminded of my favorite film of his which, of course, no one mentioned in any of their notices about his career. So I pulled my DVD off the shelf and took another look at it — and I still loved it a lot.

Blow Dry has a pretty stellar cast with Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett and Bill Nighy in the lead roles and lots of great British character actors like Warren Clarke (Dim from A Clockwork Orange), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May Parker from Spider-Man 1, 2, and 3) and David Bradley (Argus Filch from Harry Potter) in supporting roles.

The story starts in the town of Keighley in Western Yorkshire where the prestigious British Hairdressing Championship is coming. Tony (Warren Clarke), the mayor of Keighley, is excited about this but no one else seems to care until people start arriving. Among the contestants are Raymond Robertson (Nighy), the two-time defending champion and his daughter Christina (Cook), who is visiting from America. Their primary competition is seen as the Kilburn Kutters with Heidi Klum as their model and the Style Warriors from London. What Ray does not know is that Keighley is the home to his old nemesis Phil Alan (Rickman) who was also a two-time winner until, on the eve of the final competition, his stylist/wife (Richardson) ran off with his model (Griffiths), leaving him with a young son and no way to compete.

Phil now works as a barber with his son Brian (Hartnett) in Keighley. His ex-wife Shelley and her partner Sandra own a beauty salon in the town called A Cut Above. Phil has ignored them for ten years, never speaking to them.

Shelley wants to enter the competition. She has incurable cancer and has not told anyone. She’s told Sandra it has been cured. Only Daisy (Rosemary Harris), a blind old woman she does the hair of, knows her secret. Shelley wants Brian to help with the men’s timed cut, but he is reluctant to do it for fear of alienating his father.

Robertson makes the mistake of visiting Phil and talking about the competition, and Phil gets mad and agrees to let Brian help. Brian is fascinated by Christina, whom he remembers from the old contests when they were both kids. Robertson really wants the third win and he is not above cheating to get it.

In many ways this is a predictable film. There is anger and hostility from Phil but he eventually comes around. There is a come- from-behind victory and the reuniting of Phil, Shelley, Sandra and Brian as a family. And, yes, here are also some bizarre hairstyles.

One of my favorite bits has Christina trying to improve her hair coloring. Her attempts have not pleased Ray, so Brian offers to help her by taking her to the funeral home where he regularly cuts the hair of the recently deceased. She colors the hair of an old man bright red with Sid Vicious spikes. But, before she can return his hair to its natural color, Christina and Brian get locked out of the funeral home. The old man’s family is not amused when they arrive the next day.

The wonderfully quirky script was written by Simon Beaufoy who was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for The Full Monty. He subsequently won on Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. Warren Clarke delivers a fine performance as the mayor who gets more and more into the competition. It culminates with him lip-syncing over the closing credits to the Elvis Presley song “I Just Can’t Help Believing.” The soundtrack includes Bill Withers, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Roger Whitaker, Santa Esmeralda and Jackie Wilson.

One odd thing I did notice is that the DVD features both Hartnett and Cook on the cover while the movie poster just has a model. If you did not know it, you would not know Rickman was in the movie unless you read the fine print. Poor packaging in my opinion.

According to Wikipedia this film got blasted when it was released and only earned a score of 19% from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not sure what film those critics saw, but I loved this one and the people I have shared it with also loved it. Apparently, it ran in US theaters for 24 days and earned a little more than $600K.

Others will remember Alan Rickman for Die Hard or Harry Potter or Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. I will remember him for those and for Galaxy Quest, too. But I will always remember him with flashing scissors and the amazing tattoos on the soles of his feet in this film.

Check it out. Your mileage and mine may be different but then, so are we. RIP, Alan Rickman. We will all miss you.

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


Forgotten Films: THEM! (1954)

Yes, you've seen it before, but why not revisit those mile-deep catacombs?

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 149th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Welcome to 2016! I wanted to start this installment off on a good note so, when I got up that morning and turned the TV to TCM, what should appear? THEM! was coming on in ten minutes! And, yes, I know this is not a “forgotten” film. It is quite definitely well known, at least among film fans of my age grouping.

And, just like The Thing From Another World from two weeks ago, this one has James Arness in it. Growing up with Gunsmoke on TV as a kid, I have always liked Arness’ easygoing style.

THEM! Has an all star cast, which is amazing for the science fiction/horror film of the day. Along with Arness, you have James Whitmore, an Academy Award nominee in 1949 for Battleground and Edmund Gwenn who won an Oscar in 1947 for Miracle on 34th Street. That’s some star power. But then the supporting cast included soon-to-be-bigger names and character actors like Fess Parker (soon to be Davy Crockett), William Schallert and Olin Howlin as a drunk. Leonard Nimoy has a small part as a radio operator.

Originally set to be in color and 3D, Warner Brothers slotted THEM! back into black and white. And it is wonderful in that format. Two New Mexico State Police troopers, Ben Peterson and Ed Blackburn (Whitmore and Chris Drake, respectively), find a young girl (Sandy Descher) wandering in the desert. She is nearly catatonic. They find her home, a trailer, a few miles away. It has been ripped apart. Her family is missing.

Soon the troopers pass by a general store and find a similar type of destruction, including a shotgun that is mangled and the body of its owner. Strange tracks are found. Peterson leaves with the girl to make a report, leaving Blackburn to guard the store. A bad move for Trooper Blackburn, as he soon is killed by giant ants.

Giant ants have evolved in the New Mexico desert as a result of atomic bomb tests. Scientists Dr. Harold Medford (Gwenn) and his daughter Dr. Pat Medford (Joan Weldon) confirm that the strange tracks belong to ants. The group is joined by FBI agent Robert Graham (Arness) who develops an attachment with Pat Medford.

The crew tracks down a nest of giant ants in the desert and drops cyanide gas into the hole while the insects are inactive. Later the army sends in a crew with Pat and they find that the ants inside the nest are dead. However, Dr. Medford notices that a chamber contains some hatched eggs, but no bodies. The eggs were for queens and Pat is concerned that the queens have hatched and flown away to establish new colonies. Two queen eggs were noted, so a nationwide search is established to look out for unusual activity and reports of flying ants or flying saucers.

This leads to a psycho ward in Brownsville with a small craft pilot (Parker) who saw one of the queens heading into Mexico. And from there to a ship in the Gulf that has ants on board. The next big report comes from Los Angeles where a boxcar with 40 tons of sugar has been ripped apart. Nearby searches find drunk Jensen (Howlin) who has seen the ants from his window at a recovery ward. But, of course, no one believes anything he says. This leads to confrontations in the sewers under LA. Just exactly where I’d want to be fighting giant mutant ants.

THEM! is a wonderful film, well paced with good performances and decent effects. Plus, Bronsilau Kaper provided the movie soundtrack and that is always a plus!

Sure you’ve seen it before! But it’s worth seeing again and it got my year off to a great start. (I later went to see the new Star Wars that evening, so it stayed pretty enjoyable). I hope your New Year’s Day was as good.

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


Forgotten Films: White Pongo (1945)

White Pongo: Sometimes you're in the mood for a one-take ape flick.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 148th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

It’s been a while since we did a good ape film here in the Forgotten Films. (And with this week’s choice, it will still be a while before we have a “good” ape film.) Whenever I am in desperate need of a short, interesting film to review, I go to my collection “Beyond Kong,” which contains eight ape movies. Over the years I think I’ve seen and reviewed four of them, including this one.

White Pongo will never be confused with anything other than a quick B film made cheaply and designed to bring some dollars into the studio coffers. The studio in question being Sigmund Neufeld Productions, headed by Sigmund who produced the film and was the brother to its director, Sam Newfield. Sam is legendary in Hollywood for having turned out somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pictures in a 30-year career. Turn them out fast and cheap was his mantra.

White Pongo fits that mantra quite well. It has a flimsy story, an expedition trying to find an albino gorilla that might be the missing link, as well as a forced love story/triangle. But the one thing it does have is Ray “Crash” Corrigan in the title role.

Ray Corrigan was one of the best of the Hollywood Gorilla Men who worked in all the B flicks and comedies playing apes and gorillas. Corrigan owned his own suits and worked as a gorilla man early in his career, starting with 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man with Johnny Weissmuller. Mark Finn could wax poetic for several pages here on the subtleties of Corrigan’s gorilla work. Let’s just say, he was among the best. When he finally retired from stunt work and the gorillas in 1948, he sold his suits to Steve Calvert. His suits lived on longer than he did.

Back to White Pongo. Captured scientist Gunderson (Milton Kibbee, the brother of actor Guy Kibbee) receives help and escapes from a Congo tribe intent on sacrificing him. Their attention is turned when the White Pongo (apparently Pongo is their word for gorilla) kills some of the tribesmen. Gunderson escapes with some scientific journals and manages to make it back to civilization, but in a bad physical state. He is delirious, but the journals interest Sir Harry Bragdon (Gordon Richards). Sir Harry organizes an expedition with his daughter Pamela (Maris Wrixon), his secretary Clive Carswell (Michael Dyne), a friend Baxter (George Lloyd) and guide Hans Krobert (Al Eben). Kobert has a native guide working for him named Mumbo Jumbo (Joel Fluellen). Among the safari workers is Bishop (Richard Fraser). Pamela takes an interest in Bishop, to the annoyance of Carswell, who has his own plans for Pamela. This leads to a confrontation when Pamela, at one of their rest stops, whips out her fanciest cocktail dress and entices Bishop to kiss her. Of course, this happens just as Carswell enters. One quick punch and Carswell is down, but Sir Harry does not like the help associating with his daughter.

There’s a lot of stock footage of animals and rivers. Apparently much of the film was shot at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The plot meanders with a double cross, a kidnapping, murder, mad monkey kung-fu fighting and more. One of those items may have been a hallucination.

Anyway, if you like gorillas, you want to see this. If you don’t, you should probably stay away. It makes less sense than an episode of Jungle Jim. But there is a fight between a black gorilla and the albino. You get to see the girl slung over the shoulder of Corrigan. Ray shambles through the jungle as only he can.

IMDB points out a weird inconsistency that I noted as the film went on. “Pongo” is apparently the native word for Gorilla. But the natives all say “Ponga,” not “Pongo.” Newfield was noted for being a one-take director so you can guess how many retakes he made here.

Anyway, I had fun. My wife stayed in the other room, so I know how much she would have enjoyed this one. Not. You should check it out, but be aware; mileage on gorilla films has been known to vary widely. And objects in the rear view mirror are really a lot closer than you think.

Have a great new year and we will see you in 2016.

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


Forgotten Films: The Mad Miss Manton (1938)

The Mad Miss Manton — both the movie and the character — are full of wacky hijinks.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 143rd my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

When I was doing the Forgotten Films over at the Missions Unknown blog (RIP!), one of the things I always wanted to do was to expand the films and books I was reviewing to more than just the science fiction, fantasy and horror fields because I read in lots of different areas. I wanted to do some mystery or Western or other types of reviews. However, Missions Unknown was designed to attract readers and fans to the World Science Fiction Convention which was held in San Antonio in 2013.

That’s two years gone now and so is Missions Unknown, so I am going and doing the films and stuff I want to review. Now, that is not to say that I am abandoning the sf/f/h field, because that would be silly. They are an integral part of who I am and what I read and watch. But they are not the only things.

This week, I want to go for a screwball mystery comedy from a bygone era. Barbara Stanwyk was an actress I never really appreciated when she was alive. My first exposure to her was on the TV screen as Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley. She was an imposing presence there, but as a young teen, Linda Evans was much more appealing to me. Later, I discovered her work as a femme fatale in film noir classics such as Double Indemnity. Her comedies came into my scope much later when I found Ball of Fire and The Lady Eve. A very versatile actress, she was never one of my favorites until I first saw The Mad Miss Manton.

This is a screwball comedy that is not quite up to the standards established in Katherine Hepburn’s Bringing Up Baby, but it’s not far off those standards either. Melsa Manton (Stanwyk) is a socialite who has a history with the police involving “pranks.” Early one morning she sees a friend exiting an abandoned home owned by other people she knows. Inside, she finds a diamond pin and a dead body. She leaves the house and calls the police, who are less than pleased when they arrive and find no body. Melsa was dressed for a costume party and has left the pin in her cloak, which was left at the house. And, surprise, it’s not there when she returns.

The incident garners a front page editorial in The Daily Clarion from Peter Ames (Henry Fonda, reteaming with his The Lady Eve co-star). Melsa files a million-dollar libel suit against the paper. Ames, having never met Melsa, finds himself falling for her. Melsa and her cohort of rich, young, single gal pals go to the friend’s home and find the missing pin. They also discover the friend’s dead and stuffed into the refrigerator.

When the police refuse to come, the ladies put the body in Peter’s office and inform the rival newspaper, which makes it the front page story. Ames is clearly falling for Melsa, and she wants nothing to do with it. She’s not really sure if he is truly in love or is trying to get out of the lawsuit. Hijinks ensue and everyone is running around with no concept of due process or anything legal.

Fun is had. Ames is shot. There is deceit and laughter. There are more murders and love abounds. Lunch is had by Pat (one of the gals) who is always hungry.

I watched it again today and absolutely enjoyed it. You might check it out. It shows on TCM fairly often, as they truly adore Barbara Stanwyk and it’s not hard to see why.

Of course, you might think today’s crop of comedians that top the box office are funny. I’m talking Melissa McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Seth Rogen and the like. If that’s the case, there is no hope for you, so you can avoid this one, an actual funny film. Your mileage may vary too.

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




Forgotten Films: Scared to Death (1947)

Scared to Death marks the only time Bela Lugosi appeared in color.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 141st my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Some of the films I watch here I have never seen prior to their magic appearance on my TV or in my DVD player. This week is one of them. (Actually all of them except one since I restarted my columns here were new to me.) I mean, I want to see things I haven’t seen and then tell you about them.

This week’s movie was part of a double film set that I got quite a while back. The film was included with a Boris Karloff film, The Snake People, but I decided to try the Bela Lugosi one first. As with most people of my generation, I first encountered Mr. Lugosi when he wore the cape and ring of Count Dracula on an afternoon movie show which frequently featured Universal horror films. There he was with that accent, talking about the children of the night.

I saw those films when I lived near Wichita Falls, Texas, and the afternoon films were hosted by some local guy called Pinto Bean. The common variety stale jokes and puns were bearable as I got to see The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman and, of course, Dracula. And, in 1981, when I attended the World Science Fiction Convention in Denver I met Mr. Science Fiction, Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned the Dracula crest ring. And, since he was wearing it, I got to see it. I didn’t get to wear it, but I stared at it up close and contemplated removing his finger and making a run for it. I was wearing a badge around my neck with my name on it in 36 point type, however, so I didn’t think I could get away with it. Saner thoughts prevailed.

Lugosi was not a great selector of roles. He had a few good roles, but nothing ever equaled that initial role. And, as the films Plan 9 From Outer Space and Ed Wood showed us, Lugosi lived much of his life in drug-addicted poverty.

So, on to Scared to Death. Lugosi was entering the final phase of his career when this was made. The film was from 1947 and Lugosi only made one more of any quality (1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). He was soon headed to the Ed Wood stable for film internment.

Scared to Death features Molly Lamont as Laura Van Ee/Laurette La Valle. A beautiful young woman, she narrates this tale from a slab at the morgue where she is the subject of an autopsy. Laura is in an unhappy marriage with Ward Van Ee (Roland Varno). The couple lives at the mansion/office of Dr. Joseph Van Ee (horror great George Zucco). Dr. Van Ee is assisted by Lilybeth (Gladys Blake) who serves as a combination nurse/receptionist/maid. Lilybeth is hounded by lovesick moron Bill Raymond (Nat Pendleton), a former homicide detective with the IQ of a lightbulb and the character of one of the Dead End Kids. Dr. Van Ee’s cousin, Professor Leonide (Lugosi), shows up with a deaf mute midget, Indigo (Angelo Rossito).

Leonide is a former vaudeville hypnotist who was a former inmate at the sanitarium that would become Dr. Van Ee’s mansion. Rumor has it there are hidden passages that he was able to create without anyone noticing.

Laura is being threatened by someone who has sent her a mannequin head with her face. And there is a floating blue head (it’s supposed to be green, but it’s actually blue). And there’s a nosy reporter, Terry Lee (Douglas Fowler), with a dumb blonde girl friend, Joyce (Jane Cornell).

The plot is convoluted and not very good. The comic relief is not very funny. The flashbacks from the corpse are muddled and not very well handled. There are two saving graces to the film. At 65 minutes, it is short. And, according to the documentation of the DVD box, this is the only color film with Lugosi. All my memories of Bela are grainy black-and-white. So that excuses some of the issues.

Don’t go out of your way to find this one. The interesting things about it aren’t. I’m hoping the Karloff film is better, but I know it is also from late in Karloff’s career and I have my doubts there also.

But, your mileage may vary. As for me, I’ll watch Dracula or Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

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

Forgotten Films: Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

Hard to believe the producers of this film originally envisioned it as soft-core porn.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 139th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

OK, Halloween is happening in a few days so it must be time for another horror film. And, like last week’s film, I decided to watch a film I had never seen before. From 1970, I chose Count Yorga, Vampire, a film which has a decent reputation and which generated a sequel The Return of Count Yorga the next year.

I’m not sure why I didn’t see this when it was released in May 1970. I was just out of high school, getting ready to head off to The University of Texas in three months. I was working my first job and trying to save money and my girlfriend at the time, the fabulous Christine, was not at all impressed with horror or vampire films. Once at school, I never had much money so my movie trips were infrequent. If they included a date, we went wherever she wanted to go, and horror films were generally not on the bill of fare.

So, to the film.

Donna (Donna Anders) is upset over the recent death of her mother (Marsha Jordan). She has contacted her mother’s most recent boyfriend, Count Yorga (Robert Quarry), a Hungarian mystic who is conducting a séance for Donna, Donna’s boyfriend Michael (Michael Macready, the film’s producer), Donna’s friend Erica (Judy Lang) and her boyfriend Paul (Michael Murphy) plus others. At the séance, Donna gets hysterical and Count Yorga uses hypnosis to calm her down. Unbeknownst to the others, he gives her a telepathic hypnotic suggestion that she will obey and come when he calls.

The original Yorga film inspired this sequel.

Erica and Paul give Yorga a ride to his castle in the L.A. suburbs, and after they drop him off, their VW Microbus gets stranded in a suspicious mud puddle. Stranded, the two lovers do what lovers in remote places in Microbuses with curtains in the early ’70s would do. In the erotic afterglow, Erica hears a noise and finds the ominous figure of Count Yorga peering in. Paul gets out to investigate and is knocked out. Erica enjoys the erotic nature of the vampire.

The next day, a listless Erica is taken by Paul to Dr. James Hayes (Roger Perry), a researcher in blood diseases. A transfusion is required and Hayes notices the two small puncture marks on Erica’s throat.

It’s a small jump to realize that Yorga must be a vampire. Michael and Paul visit Yorga and discuss many things, including vampires. The visit convinces Hayes that Yorga is indeed undead. When Erica vanishes, plans are made to attack the vampire. Little do they know that Yorga has three lovely brides, including Erica and Donna’s mother.

This was a fun film and I enjoyed watching it. Apparently, according to the film’s Wikipedia entry, it was initially supposed to be a soft-core film called The Loves of Count Iorga with lots of nudity and the like, but Robert Quarry would only do the role if it was played as a straight horror film. No nudity, though it could easily have been shot with it. This film carries a PG-13 rating while the sequel was rated R.

I found this in the Edward Hamilton catalog with the sequel for $3.99. The Hamilton catalog is filled with new and remainder books at various prices. I’ve been a customer for about 30 years and ordered many a fine volume from them. More recently, they’ve added audio and video to the books, making for a wonderful browsing experience.

Other websites have the films available at various prices. Find your copies wherever you choose. I will be watching the sequel sometime soon.

Happy Halloween and enjoy the candy!

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


Forgotten Films: The Color Out of Space (2010)

If you don't mind subtitles, Germany's Color Out of Space serves up Lovecraftian chills.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 137th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

With this being the Halloween season, it is only appropriate that I review some horror-type films fir the next several weeks.

My friends Willie and Chuck brought this one to my attention. A German adaptation of The Color Out of Space based on the Lovecraft story of the same name. I do love the work of Lovecraft, as shown in more than a few columns of the Forgotten Books and Forgotten Films over the last six years or so. So when they expressed their pleasure in it, I checked up on it from Amazon and found that there was a Blu-Ray for a reasonable price and that it was limited to 1,000 copies. Sold!

When I first went to watch it, my Blu-Ray player seized up with the disc inside and would not respond. I tried the normal things – new batteries, manually hitting the control buttons on the machine, everything, and the disk remained stuck and the player was inert.

So, being the person that I am, I bought a new Blu-Ray player and set it up.

As I removed the old one, I looked for various ways to retrieve my unplayed disc but to no avail. As a last ditch effort, I plugged the player into another circuit. Suddenly, I saw the flickering of a power light. I punched the manual controls and out popped the tray. I grabbed the remote with its new batteries and the machine responded. Now I had two Blu-Ray players. I could not return the new one as I had pretty well destroyed the box opening it. So the old one went upstairs to reside next to the DVD/VCR combo in the guest bedroom. Another problem solved.

Last night, I watched this film. I had vague memories of the earlier version — Die, Monster, Die with Boris Karloff and Nick Adams — which I saw many years ago. I checked my movie listing and I do not appear to have a copy of that one. I know I have The Dunwich Horror and that one may show up soon.

This one was quite fun. It’s done in glorious black and white (mostly), and it’s set in three different timelines. The story starts with Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) returning to Arkham College to discuss the disappearance of his father with Mr. Danforth (Olaf Kratke), a librarian in the Forbidden Books area. The elder Davis had unexpectedly gone off to Germany a few weeks earlier and had not been heard from.

Jonathan heads over to the Swabian-Franconian Forest area of Germany to try to find his dad. He enquires at a pub and finds Armin Peirske (Michael Kausch) who did not recognize the father from the current pictures but did from his time in the war.

So we shift to the period at the end of World War II where the elder Davis (Ralf Lichtenberg) is a doctor looking to relocate people displaced by the war. Armin is returning wounded from the war to his farm when he encounters Davis. Davis asks him about the area, particularly the neighboring valley. Armin tells Davis not to go over there.

No one lives there. Anymore.

Now we shift to Armin’s tale from prior to the war when a meteorite has landed in that valley on the farm of Nahum Gärtener (Erik Rastetter), who has a small farm and orchard that he runs with his wife and three sons. Scientists come to examine the meteorite, which has some very strange properties and keeps shrinking. Testing does not determine its origins, so the scientists return and find a small opening in the fragment. They crack it open and something happens. There is a release and suddenly the fragment disappears.

Then strange things begin to happen. Giant pears begin to grow in the orchards but the fruit tastes spoiled. Frau Gärtener (Marah Schneider) sees something and goes very slowly insane. Things happen to the boys.

I’m not going to delve too much deeper here. You should see this film for yourself. It’s one of the best Lovecraftian films ever made. I can easily compare it to The Call of Cthulhu that I reviewed some time ago which was excellent.

The film is dual language – parts of it are in English but most of it is in German — so you will have to read your film. But, if you’ve read Lovecraft, you can easily read a film.

I’m not sure if it’s on Netflix or one of the other services. Amazon has it on its Amazon video and the Blu-Ray is still available for under $20.

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