• Strangler of the Swamp

    Strangler of the Swamp

    ★★★

    Far better than usual PRC production. One of those rare instances where the bargain basement values make things more spooky and atmospheric---with the title setting helpfully allowing for plenty of economy-obscuring mist and fog. It's not quite Val Lewton territory, but closer than most Poverty Row efforts get. The pace slows down considerably when the fine, just-hammy-enough character actors take a back seat to romance, but that's bearable with such a trim running time. If you're also into horror radio from…

  • Whiplash

    Whiplash

    ★★★½

    One of those natural B's shakily promoted to an A so that a bunch of really-too-good-for-this contract players could be kept laboring between higher-quality projects, but executed with such baseline studio brio that it's more engrossing than it ought to be.

    My semi-regular reminder that I under-value Dane Clark, though seeing Deep Valley, Moonrise and Gunman in the Streets should have settled that long ago. At least for the first half, Whiplash gives Alexis Smith something a bit better than the 'person you slot in…

  • Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

    Beyond the Poseidon Adventure

    ★★½

    Far more watchable than I'd imagined, considering the collective roasting its gotten since the day it came out. On my entirely subjective 70s disaster movie scale, with the first Poseidon and the  underrated Rollercoaster at one end, and the barely endurable Earthquake at the other, this hits somewhere around the middle---slightly better than Airport '77, but without the pure Me Decade deliriousness of Airport 1975. Squarely in the same 'Eh, Jaws IV paid for my house, so why not?' section of Caine's filmography as…

  • Valley of the Kings

    Valley of the Kings

    ★★½

    MGM actually went to Egypt to shoot part of this low-octane tale of archeological skullduggery, one of the final Western productions to do so before the Nasser government refused most such requests---the other shooting location being decidedly more prosaic El Segundo.) It's hard to fathom why they bothered, since much of what we see doesn't add more flavor or sense of place than the usual backlot-and-process shots (of which there are still plenty) combo. Watchable for Eleanor Parker, on record…

  • Oh, Johnny, How You Can Love!

    Oh, Johnny, How You Can Love!

    ★★★★

    A real surprise, completely delightful from beginning to end. I wasn't expecting much, since this is one of the many, many revamps of It Happened One Night, but Oh Johnny stands above a crowded class by making comedic and musical alterations to the source material that really pay off without trying too hard, while also being breezily honest about the fact that you just might have seen this all before. The shared motel cabin segment features lodgings bearing the first names…

  • The Green-Eyed Blonde

    The Green-Eyed Blonde

    ★★★

    A sneakily surprising little movie written by a pseudonymous, still blacklisted Dalton Trumbo.  Starts out like a zillion other teens-in-trouble (reformatory division) films from the 50s, then just as you're beginning to reflect that not even someone of Trumbo's caliber can do anything fresh with the genre, this makes a sudden left turn into a semi-comic gloss on the Three Godfathers/Forty Little Mothers/Three Men and a Baby idea of inexperienced people in an uncommon setting banding together to care for…

  • Party Girl

    Party Girl

    ★★

    This bare-bones little exploitation picture is by no means a good film, but assuming you're watching for pre-code-related purposes---and why else would you be watching something from 1930 with this title?---it does have the virtue of packing all the racy stuff into the first half hour, mostly at a party where there are (surprise!) girls.

    There's some zippy lines and a pleasantly seedy atmosphere aided by the zero-budget independent production company aesthetic.  Plus the talented, sprightly and doomed Marie Prevost, giving…

  • Ria Rago: Pahlawan Wanita dari Lembah Ndona

    Ria Rago: Pahlawan Wanita dari Lembah Ndona

    ★★★

    A rare chance to sample silent Indonesian cinema. The story's a tad thin to justify the running time, but still a really interesting look at a culture and a cinematic viewpoint with which many aren't familiar. Excellent preservation work by the Netherlands' Eye Filmmuseum, working from what I assume were several different best available elements, since the intertitles veer between simultaneous French and Dutch, as well as each of those languages singly. It's still relatively easy to follow if you're not proficient in either, and likely to be a fresh experience even for many hardcore silent devotees.

  • It's a Bird

    It's a Bird

    ★★★★

    Inspired early 30s daffiness, starting out as a live-action comedy (with Lowell Thomas setting the proceedings up as a news item for the proper air of faux gravitas) before morphing into one of the most delightfully nutty stop-motion animation shorts I've ever seen. My first encounter with Charley Bowers, whose wide-eyed but resolute naif persona works perfectly for interacting with non-existent creatures without batting an eye. Looking forward to seeing more of him. Well worth the Youtube watch!

  • Hearts and Flowers

    Hearts and Flowers

    ★★½

    Had David Lynch been around creating stop
    motion animation for a major studio in the Vitaphone era, I'm guessing it might've looked and felt  something like this jaunty little expressionist nightmare. (Minus the racist bits, one would hope.)

  • The Bitter Stems

    The Bitter Stems

    ★★★★½

    Fantastic post-Peronist Argentine noir about a journalist whose restlessness leads him into swindling and murder, complete with a surreal dream sequence that plays like an undiscovered Buñuel outtake crossed with Poe. Beautifully shot, with exceptionally strong use of lighting, framing and voiceover to indicate the characters' mental states. (As Eddie Muller mentioned in his TCM intro, cinematographer Ricardo Younis spent time in Hollywood working with and learning from
    Gregg Toland, and it really shows.) Carlos Cores has a Zachary Scott-ish…

  • Daddy Nostalgia

    Daddy Nostalgia

    ★★★★

    Knowing full well that there have been many, many excellent performances in the enduringly robust genre of films centering on the attempts of an adult child and dying parent to come to terms, and though I usually make an effort to avoid ranking actors' performances in similar roles against each other, as far as I'm concerned, Dirk Bogarde has top honors all sewn up in the category, now and quite possibly forever. Admittedly, the knowledge that this fittingly elegiac role…