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THE COVERED WAGON (1923).

 

I just watched the first epic western of the silent era from an okay laser disc transfer currently available on You Tube. A huge money maker in its day, this film brought prestige to the film genre at the time.

 

Unfortunately time has not been particularly kind to this slow moving curiosity piece about a wagon train of pioneers headed to Oregon. The story is ordinary, the characters, not surprisingly, strictly archetypes, from the noble but modest hero (the incredibly dull J. Warren Kerrigan), to the wide eyed heroine (pretty but bland Lois Wilson), who never can seem to make up her mind who she prefers, Noble Hero (who has a rumoured tarnished past) or conniving bad guy fiancee (Alan Hale, yes, I said Alan Hale, without a sign of a smile on his face). The audience is way ahead of the dim witted lady as to whom she will finally choose.

 

James Cruze directed the production and failed to enliven or distinguish any of the much needed action sequences, whether it be a big scene, an Indian attack on the wagon train, or a smaller one (a fist fight between Kerrigan and Hale).

 

The film is noteworthy, however, for its photography, and in showing the far flung vistas on the horizon, does convey a sense of bigness. Also enlivening the film to a degree are the performances of Tully Marshall as a fur trapper and, in particular, Ernest Torrence as a grizzled wagon scout, stereotypes as they may be. Torrence and Marshall are entertaining enough that eight years later they would be reunited for essentially the same roles in a 1931 wagon train tale of negligible entertainment value, Fighting Caravans.

 

The Covered Wagon might have been considered to be a big deal for the film world in 1923 but today this trip put west is, I'm sorry to say, more than a bit of a sleep inducing one for modern audiences.

 

0099113.jpg

 

2.5 out of 4 stars

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Point Blank (1967) - Hard to talk about this one without revealing spoilers, so warnings about that right away. I'd seen the first half of this movie at least once before, up to the scene with the sniper (Doogie Howser's dad!) in the sewers, but this was my first time to make it all the way through. Since it was Angie Dickinson day, I was glad to see she returns in the second half of the film and plays a prominent part. The first time I saw it, she and Lee Marvin very casually say goodbye to each other after the penthouse scene, and it didn't appear as if her character would have any reason to return.

 

I found the plot terribly confusing.  These scenes didn't make sense to me at all, but they didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the movie.

 

This is the only movie I've seen that I found MORE confusing the second time I watched it. As you say, that didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the movie.

 

SPOILERS:  Some viewers believe that Walker is dead and that the images he sees are what he sees just before he dies. There are lines in the script which seem to support this reading (people say, "I thought you were dead," etc.). I like to regard Point Blank as "acid noir."

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Café Metropole (1937)

 

Adolphe Menjou plays a Paris restaurant/nightclub owner who has been embezzling from the firm, and needs to replace FFR 960,000 before the auditors go over the books. He wins the money at baccarat, except that the last person to play against him (Tyrone Power) writes a bad check.

 

So, Menjou comes up with a plan: have Power pretend to be one of the Russian nobility émigrés in Paris in that era, and woo the daughter (Loretta Young) of an American businessman (Charles Winninger) who frequents the place every time he's in Paris.

 

Complications ensue, everybody turns out OK, more or less. It's really a little trifle, but it entertains you while it runs, and I'm sure audiences of the day loved the opulent sets. You'll probably forget most of it not long after it's over.

 

To be honest, I prefer Love Is News of the Power/Young pairings, but I'll still give Café Metropole a 7/10.

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Café Metropole (1937)Adolphe Menjou plays a Paris restaurant/nightclub owner who has been embezzling from the firm, and needs to replace FFR 960,000 before the auditors go over the books. He wins the money at baccarat, except that the last person to play against him (Tyrone Power) writes a bad check.So, Menjou comes up with a plan: have Power pretend to be one of the Russian nobility émigrés in Paris in that era, and woo the daughter (Loretta Young) of an American businessman (Charles Winninger) who frequents the place every time he's in Paris.Complications ensue, everybody turns out OK, more or less. It's really a little trifle, but it entertains you while it runs, and I'm sure audiences of the day loved the opulent sets. You'll probably forget most of it not long after it's over.To be honest, I prefer Love Is News of the Power/Young pairings, but I'll still give Café Metropole a 7/10.

I too like LOVE IS NEWS and CAFÉ METROPOLE, slight though they may be, but prefer CM better; in LINE, Loretta Young's channeling of Carole Lombard's screwball heiress is not entirely successful. Even better than both of these is a third romantic comedy the duo did in 1937, SECOND HONEYMOON. With a plot not dissimilar to THE AWFUL TRUTH (both films.were released at the same time), this more typically screwball has Young's more naturalistic comedy portrayal an improvement over LIN. But I enjoy all three trifles.

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I too like LOVE IS NEWS and CAFÉ METROPOLE, slight though they may be, but prefer CM better; in LINE, Loretta Young's channeling of Carole Lombard's screwball heiress is not entirely successful. Even better than both of these is a third romantic comedy the duo did in 1937, SECOND HONEYMOON. With a plot not dissimilar to THE AWFUL TRUTH (both films.were released at the same time), this more typically screwball has Young's more naturalistic comedy portrayal an improvement over LIN. But I enjoy all three trifles.

 

It's interesting that after becoming a star with Lloyds of London, Fox initially starred Tyrone Power in four light hearted comedy and musical trifles in 1937 (the fourth one being Thin Ice). It was starting with in Old Chicago (a big hit), though, that they started to feature him in more dramatic features, and it's in dramatic and costume features, which made up the bulk of his career, that he is primarily remembered today. Power only returned to that same kind of light hearted fare on three occasions after 1937, one of them a remake of Love Is News.

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"The Guns of Fort Petticoat" (1957)--Starring Audie Murphy, Kathryn Grant, and Hope Emerson.  Directed by George Marshall.

 

This surprisingly enjoyable, low budget Western turns the genre upside down. It is loosely based on fact.

 

The plot:  In 1864, in a Colorado fort, Lt. Frank Hewitt (Murphy) deserts after failing to talk his commanding officer, Col. Chivington (Ainslie Pryor) out of attacking an Indian village that has only women and children in it.  The village is located on Sand Creek.  Chivington and his company massacre the inhabitants, the men find out and swear vengeance.  The rest of the film is about Hewitt's race to inform the female settlers and children (the men are away fighting the Civil War) that they are in danger.  To complicate matters, the settlers are Confederate, and Hewitt is on the Union side.

 

Murphy is earnest and sincere in his role; it's a relief to see him lose his temper.  Grant made no impression whatsoever, aside from being pretty.  As Hannah Lacey, Emerson was the best player in the film; whether she was ready to kill Hewitt at first sight, or turning thirty some women into soldiers, she was a funny, welcome presence.

 

"Westward the Women" (1951) and TGoFP would make a good double feature.  TGoFP is a sleeper, despite the 1950's cliches that sneak in the script.  2.5/4. 

 

Edit--saw on archivedotorg.

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And Power would go back to another trifle, making Day-Time Wife in 1939 with a very young Linda Darnell.

Loretta Young was supposed to have done this one also, but she was severing her working relationship with Darryl Zanuck. So it went to anot quite 16 year old Darnell, having done well in her film debut, HOTEL FOR WOMEN. Zanuck removed her from the supporting role in DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK and DW became her second film (although she can be seen in long-shot in the background in a couple of shots in DATM.

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San Quentin (1937)

 

This was one of the few Bogart movies I hadn't seen.  I'm also a big fan of Ann Sheridan.  I'd also heard of Pat O'Brien, but did not have a face to place with the name.  I have rectified that.  Finally, I'm also a big fan of prison movies.  While this wasn't my favorite prison genre--women in prison, it was still an interesting prison film.  This movie felt like there were scenes missing.  Sheridan was largely wasted in this part, but seeing that this was made earlier in her career, maybe it was a "big" movie for her. I didn't really buy Bogart as her "kid" brother, especially in the film when they mentioned he was 25.  35 maybe.  Not 25.  I would have bought it if they'd said Sheridan was 25.  I think they could have made Bogart merely Sheridan's brother, but perhaps by making him a kid brother, it forces Sheridan to be more protective of him.  

 

Anyway, I thought O'Brien was fine in the film.  I was surprised that the film settled the main conflict, O'Brien is in love with Sheridan (who dislikes Police Captains) while dealing with her brother Bogart whose got a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is trying to prove himself at San Quentin, so quickly.  

 

I was disappointed that Sheridan didn't have much singing time in this film.  I love the scenes of the characters at the swanky nightclubs listening to torch singers.  

 

Bogart was fine in this film.  He's still playing the same type of gangster image, but this time he's in prison.  This is definitely not among his best films or performances, but he was definitely better here than he was in say, Virginia City.  I believe this is the second film I've seen where Bogart's escaped out of San Quentin.

 

My biggest problem in this film was the ending.  While I understand why Bogart's character did what he did, it just seems that this change was abrupt.  I feel like there was at least 10-15 minutes of film missing that would better flesh out the film. 

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The Phynx

 

"They say that you're mad
They say you hear voices"

That's from one of the numerous Lieber/Stoller (Hound Dog, Ruby Baby, Spanish Harlem) songs in this 1970 release about a pre-fab boy band created by the SSA (Secret Spy Agency) to free some hostages from Albania. But first some back story...

 

Back in 1969, I was a high school senior and film buff who read the trade mags as often as possible which was often as I had friends who subscribed. It seemed that for a couple of months not a day went by that I didn't see an item such as Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan joins the cast of The Phynx, Louis Hayward signed up to appear in The Phynx or Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall to reunite for The Phynx.

This went on and on, Clint Walker, Martha Raye, Richard Pryor, Dick Clark, James Brown, George Jessel, Dorothy Lamour, Butterfly McQueen, Rudy Vallee - it just kept happening and film buffs all over were buzzing about this upcoming Warner release. We expected to see it by the end of the year, then it was postponed and postponed again - I think it finally got a screening in Podunk or something but it sure didn't hit NYC.

Finally it shows up on DVD at the Warner Archive a couple of years ago but this was around the same time that they sacked their 4/$40 and 5/$50 sales. I wasn't about to pay 20 dollars for something which Variety had dismissed courtesy of a trade screening in 1970. Not even if I had been in the cast. All of those name droppings were like bird droppings to me at that price.

It showed up on TCM the other night and as it was a 4am screening, I set the recorder, saw the opening credits and went to bed.

Now, why have I spent so much time on foreplay here, what about the movie? The movie is like this review - nothing of any consequence is happening until the end. Not until 70 mind-numbingly awful minutes have passed do we finally get to see the bulk of the classic stars and they do little more than enter a room and sit down to watch the band play. Up until then we get unfunny comic bits and some good talent such as Mike Kellin and Lou Antonio wasted. Kellin plays the head man at the agency, he's called Mr. Bogey but he comes off more like Paul Stewart. Antonio seems to be wearing his 'fro backwards. The guys in the band have little to do, no personality even if you added them up and the songs except for one are awful.

If you can take it one sitting, I'd be surprised. Probably the worst film that Warners released since The Story of Mankind and hardly worth the 47-year wait.

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The Phynx...We expected to see it by the end of the year, then it was postponed and postponed again - I think it finally got a screening in Podunk or something but it sure didn't hit NYC....

 

So THE PHYNX was LITERALLY nixed in the stix?!

 

great write up, btw.

 

as per your recap, this movie sounds somewhat like the infamous 1988 Oscarcast opening produced by Allan Carr...where a bunch of old names were onscreen at a tacky mock-up of the COCOANUT GROVE for all of 3 seconds apiece before being unceremoniously dismissed by the camera.

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I had a long, hard day yesterday and I turned on and watched THE LADY IN THE LAKE and ended up putting on my blinders and laying down to finish it and- I have to tell you- the movie is greatly improved by just listening to it and ignoring the distracting visual trickery.

 

such a weird movie- but there is some there there to it.

 

DAMN SHAME Audrey Totter didn't come around at the right time to play Catwoman.

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I also watched Lady in the Lake, my first time to see the entire movie. I had started it a number of times over the years but always got exasperated with the first-person perspective. I'm glad this never really became a thing. Are there other examples of this technique from this era besides this film and Dark Passage? You see snippets of it from time to time in cinematic history - the pool scene in The Graduate most immediately comes to mind - but I can't think of any other movies with at least a third of the running time devoted to that perspective. Earlier this year, there was a movie called Hardcore Henry that was shot entirely in first person, though I think it was inspired by first-person shooter videogames (I think maybe it was a game before it was a movie) and not classic cinema.

 

I'm looking at imdb, and I see that this was Montgomery's final film at MGM after 18 years. He only acted in five more movies after this one, four at Universal, one at Warner Bros., and he also directed all but one of those. Actor/director wasn't really a thing back then. Chaplin, Keaton, Welles and Ida Lupino, I guess.

 

My gosh, I'm learning a lot about Montgomery at imdb, including the fact that he was a friendly witness before HUAC (boo) and he was the father of Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched. I'm sure 99 per cent of you knew that last one already, but that was news to me. Seems like the kind of trivia a TCM host would have told me, but if they ever did, I had forgotten.

 

The story was certainly an easier Marlowe follow than The Big Sleep. At the very beginning, when Montgomery is challenging us to solve the mystery, he seems to make particular emphasis on us needing to remember the address of the publishing office. I thought to myself, oh my gosh, I don't want to watch this movie if I'm going to have to think THAT hard! But it ended up being easier to understand and keep up with than I was anticipating.

 

Nice supporting cast - Lloyd Nolan, Tom Tully, Leon Ames. I was particularly struck by that blonde receptionist who kept giving Marlowe the come hither stare, so I looked her up on imdb. Her name is Lila Leeds. She was only 19 when she made this film and only had a handful of speaking parts in her career. Trivia note: she was the girl with Robert Mitchum when he was busted for pot, which led directly to her getting cast as the lead in the exploitation film Wild Weed, the biggest part of her career by far. The things you learn on imdb.

 

A few observations. One of the baddies, when revealed, falls victim to the Talking When He Should Have Been Shooting trap that fells a lot of classic movie bad guys. I thought the scene where Marlowe is getting tailed in his car was pretty innovative, but my gosh, what was up with that choral music? It made me think the apes had just discovered the Monolith.

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So THE PHYNX was LITERALLY nixed in the stix?!

 

as per your recap, this movie sounds somewhat like the infamous 1988 Oscarcast opening produced by Allan Carr...where a bunch of old names were onscreen at a tacky mock-up of the COCOANUT GROVE for all of 3 seconds apiece before being unceremoniously dismissed by the camera.

 

 

I'm assuming that's the Rob Lowe/Snow White one, and not the one with Pat Morita, Telly Savalas and Red Buttons singing Guys & Dolls songs?

 

(And I keep being disappointed, as I always end up confusing The Phynx with The Asphyx, which is not too bad of a Hammer-era British horror B-title.)

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I'm assuming that's the Rob Lowe/Snow White one, and not the one with Pat Morita, Telly Savalas and Red Buttons singing Guys & Dolls songs?

 

(And I keep being disappointed, as I always end up confusing The Phynx with The Asphyx, which is not too bad of a Hammer-era British horror B-title.)

 

You are correct, Sir.

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I'm assuming that's the Rob Lowe/Snow White one, and not the one with Pat Morita, Telly Savalas and Red Buttons singing Guys & Dolls songs?

 

(And I keep being disappointed, as I always end up confusing The Phynx with The Asphyx, which is not too bad of a Hammer-era British horror B-title.)

 

You are correct, Sir.

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"Tight Spot" (1955)--Starring Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, and Brian Keith.  Directed by noir veteran Phil Karlson.

 

The plot--Lloyd Hallett (Robinson) has developed a case against the murderous Mafia kingpin Benjamin Costain (Lorne Greene, in his second film) to have him deported, because they can't get him indicted for any of his other crimes.  Trouble is, all his other witnesses who could have testified against Costain have been killed.  Sherry Conley (Rogers) who is serving a prison term, is their last chance to get him deported.  The rest of the film is about her decision to testify or not, and if the police can keep her alive.

 

Rogers is excellent as an aging model/gangsters girlfriend who was too softhearted in the past, and is paying for her decisions.  Whether she's being sarcastic or dodging bullets, Rogers  gives one of her best performances.  

 

Robinson is matter of fact and businesslike in his role.  Hallett's job is his life, and Robinson gets that across to the viewer.  It's close to the role he played in "Double Indemnity" (1944), but Robinson makes the cardboard role human.

 

Keith is very good in his role as the Fed who's at first disgusted with Sherry, then starts to care for her.

 

The shadowy cinematography is by Burnett Guffey, who also did the photography for "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967).  The taut script was by William Bowers.

 

"Tight Spot" is a Good noir, and should be better known.  3.4/4

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The Phynx

 

"They say that you're mad

They say you hear voices"

 

That's from one of the numerous Lieber/Stoller (Hound Dog, Ruby Baby, Spanish Harlem) songs in this 1970 release about a pre-fab boy band created by the SSA (Secret Spy Agency) to free some hostages from Albania. But first some back story...

 

Back in 1969, I was a high school senior and film buff who read the trade mags as often as possible which was often as I had friends who subscribed. It seemed that for a couple of months not a day went by that I didn't see an item such as Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan joins the cast of The Phynx, Louis Hayward signed up to appear in The Phynx or Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall to reunite for The Phynx.

 

This went on and on, Clint Walker, Martha Raye, Richard Pryor, Dick Clark, James Brown, George Jessel, Dorothy Lamour, Butterfly McQueen, Rudy Vallee - it just kept happening and film buffs all over were buzzing about this upcoming Warner release. We expected to see it by the end of the year, then it was postponed and postponed again - I think it finally got a screening in Podunk or something but it sure didn't hit NYC.

 

Finally it shows up on DVD at the Warner Archive a couple of years ago but this was around the same time that they sacked their 4/$40 and 5/$50 sales. I wasn't about to pay 20 dollars for something which Variety had dismissed courtesy of a trade screening in 1970. Not even if I had been in the cast. All of those name droppings were like bird droppings to me at that price.

 

It showed up on TCM the other night and as it was a 4am screening, I set the recorder, saw the opening credits and went to bed.

 

Now, why have I spent so much time on foreplay here, what about the movie? The movie is like this review - nothing of any consequence is happening until the end. Not until 70 mind-numbingly awful minutes have passed do we finally get to see the bulk of the classic stars and they do little more than enter a room and sit down to watch the band play. Up until then we get unfunny comic bits and some good talent such as Mike Kellin and Lou Antonio wasted. Kellin plays the head man at the agency, he's called Mr. Bogey but he comes off more like Paul Stewart. Antonio seems to be wearing his 'fro backwards. The guys in the band have little to do, no personality even if you added them up and the songs except for one are awful.

 

If you can take it one sitting, I'd be surprised. Probably the worst film that Warners released since The Story of Mankind and hardly worth the 47-year wait.

 

 

LOL. I recorded it out of curiousity, but who knows if I'll ever watch it. I dont remember this film at all. I know it never played in our area. Even in drive ins!

 

Wonder how they managed all those dressing rooms? They probably had to make up themselves at home, then come in their own clothes. Probably one day of shooting. LOL

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Film Lover:  I too, have suggested that Westward the Women and The Guns of Fort Petticoat are a perfect double feature.  If you can get past the speedup sequences in Petticoat it's a pretty good film with some surprising adult themes.  WTW was made with an obviously larger budget, better production values and storylines not found in Saturday morning Westerns.  I enjoy both.

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Still kind of watching BROADWAY THRU THE KEYHOLE...which has had its interesting moments...

 

But...

 

I know it's her SUTS day and all, so is it mean of me to point out that Constance Cummings just isn't particularly good at singing or acting?

 

(Or should I have waited till tomorrow?)

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