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Police Story: A Dangerous Age (1974)
Good introspective show with great performance by Ed Asner
Ordinarily I don't like Ed Asner. I haven't liked his performances; I haven't liked the parts he's played; but in this series entry, he showed extraordinary acting ability, and deserves all the praise he can get.
Another attracting aspect in this entry is that Scott Brady, who plays the continuing character Vinnie who is a retired cop running a cop bar, gets a chance to shine. His character helps guide the cop played by Asner into acceptance of where life has taken them.
"Police Story" was always filled with powerful stories and moving performances, and this entry, with less action and more characterization, is one of the best of the series.
Lots of harmless fun, made even better by the adorable Rosemary DeCamp
Remarkably good actors people this entry in a series that seems to be forgotten in the year of C.E. 2020.
Actor Robert Cummings, known here as Bob Cummings, playing "Bob Collins" -- also the name of his character in that excellent motion picture "You Came Along" -- the professional photographer and womanizer, gives his name to the series, "The Bob Cummings Show."
Writing for this entry is inventive, giving all the players a chance to shine, and a chance for viewers to just plain enjoy.
My favorite performer is Rosemary DeCamp, who had a career playing the sister or mother or some important relation, and so frequently making any movie or TV show better by her charm and looks and ability. As the sister of "Collins" and mother of "Chuck" -- played by the excellent Dwayne Hickman -- she steals any scene she is in by that lovely and expressive face.
In this entry she gets some feminine competition from beautiful Marcia Henderson, whose sardonic psychologist is also pretty expressive.
There is a lot to like in this show, enough to make one want to see more or even all of the entire series. And, in my case, to explore Cummings' previous series, "My Hero," where his character is named "Robert Beanblossom."
Much or most or maybe all of "Love That Bob," or "The Bob Cummings Show," is available on YouTube.
The Kansas City Massacre (1975)
Incredibly talented actors in barely credible script
There was apparently a little accuracy in this complex story, but despite the presence of real-life gangsters such as "Pretty Boy" Floyd and Verne Greene and "Baby Face" Nelson, and real-life federal agent Melvin Purvis, and despite real-life vintage autos, and despite a lot of action and LOTS of flying bullets ... well, "accuracy" took more of a hit than did Frank "Jelly" Nash.
It's kinda fun to look up the characters named in this TV movie and see how many really were part of the crime-ridden era of the early 1930s.
Many a name has been changed, including that of the wife of Floyd, and the Kansas City police commissioner.
So watch for fun, for the always real pleasure of seeing Dale Robertson, for the chance to criticize the haircuts of the actors, and a serious chance to admire acting from some of the very best actors Hollywood ever provided, including Harris Yulin, the only one I ever met, and Lynn Loring, Morgan Paull, and the great Scott Brady.
And watch for a cameo by real-life former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox as "Governor Patrick Burns," although the real governor at that time was "Alfalfa Bill" Murray. I don't know why a real-life politician is not identified.
I do recommend this very well-made movie -- well, except the bad guys sure were better shots than the cops and agents -- but I hope you get a better print than the one I saw at YouTube.
Unknown show is perfect for Christmas and beautifully done
Mostly unknown today, these performers deserve all the praise available.
It's a sweet story of crime and redemption, of love and its salving effects on a trouble teen.
This is a show that should be brought out every year at Christmas season, and anyone with a heart, even non-Christians, should be able to love it as I do.
His Brother's Ghost (1945)
Far better than usual PRC B Western
With more characterization, and more of the minor characters getting more dialogue, director Sam Newfield brings George Milton's script to very active life.
According to IMDb, despite the different names as writers, they all were actually George Milton. And he deserves the credit.
Al "Fuzzy" St. John out-does himself this time, yes, still being his acrobatically funny self, but being an introspective self, too.
Bad guy Charles King out-does himself, too, and his look of glee at some particularly dastardly deed shows just what a good actor he really was.
Buster Crabbe doesn't stretch himself, but he looks good and, of course, handles his action well.
Behind them are some of the best Western players Hollywood ever had, and PRC once again rises well above its reputation.
I highly recommend "His Brother's Ghost" and there's a good print at YouTube.
Astonishing and truly pioneering film
Warning: Don't get turned off by the primitiveness of the titles and intertitles.
In fact, the story, the content, the photography, the acting, the directing, and especially the directing, are first rate!
Although I was already a general fan of director Lois Weber, "Suspense" has made me one of her devotees.
In this short film, she demonstrates some astonishing creativity and inventiveness, even if most shots are with an immobile camera, many are not, and those moving camera shots are mind-boggling; and there are examples of divided screen that she might not be the first to use, but that she uses awfully well.
Lois Weber deserves to be much better known. That she was female alone should make her practically a household name, but that she did such great work should make her an idol to most motion picture fanatics.
There is a good print at YouTube and I highly recommend "Suspense."
Great cast in so-so script
Having a narrator sounding like so many TV shows of this era and earlier actually detracts, in my opinion, and having so many real-life bad guys as characters also does, in my opinion.
It's a pretty good story otherwise, and George Montgomery was nearly always fun to watch.
Beverly Tyler is very much fun to watch. She was an extremely talented woman, with a reputation as a great singer, although she was not given any opportunities to sing on film -- more Hollywood strangeness.
Harry Lauter gets to play a good guy, and shows he should have had even more chances.
Gerald Milton, playing this version of "Ike Clanton," is someone I've not heard of before but seeing him in this role shows me I've been missing out. What a great performance.
YouTube has a good print, although there is an extra almost 30 minutes tacked on for no good reason.
Excellent acting of gritty script directed by William Beaudine
Another entry of "Treasury Men in Action" has some superlative acting in a taut and gripping story.
In this excellent cast, Stanley Clements still stands out as the younger, and not admired, brother trying to break his way into the drug-smuggling racket.
Most of the players and the writer, Alvin Boretz, are unknown today, but if enough people see this good print on YouTube, perhaps all of them will get the praise they deserve.
I certainly do recommend it.
Jesse White shines in a dramatic role
Early TV often had shows claiming to be based on real-life stories. This is one.
It's about a criminal wanting to sell fake gold coins and trying to talk a good con artist, played by Jesse White, into handling the transactions.
The master con, though, is torn because he has a young daughter, played by Beverly Washburn, whom he prefers to be with, and after two terms in prison, he is reluctant.
It's all rather low key, but watching Jesse White in a very different role for him makes this more than worth while.
A good print is available at YouTube.
The Tall Stranger (1957)
Excellent cast, writer, director, and Leo Gordon and Barry Kelley have their best roles
Leo Gordon too often was given the part of a sniveling villain, but here he gets to show that his talent would let him play almost anything.
Prolific, theater-trained Barry Kelley was on screen possibly more than in any other role, and did he make the most of it!
Virginia Mayo, one of the most gorgeous and talented women in the history of the world, is not just decoration: She has a pivotal role, including being a mother.
Joel McCrea probably never played any part badly. And just his appearance, his bearing, added strength and credibility, including here.
In fact, all the players were so great, the story almost doesn't matter -- but it does. Based on a Louis L'Amour story, this plot is involved but completely plausible. And it has lots of characters who are important to the development, who have their moment on screen.
One is played by Tom London, who first appears as only atmosphere, then stands out in a dangerous moment. (According to one of those "believe it or not" outfits, Tom London was in about 2,000 movies! Usually, as here, not given on-screen credit. Thank the heavens we have IMDb!)
Praise must be given to the prolific -- that means "busy" -- Thomas Carr. He is probably best known as a TV director, including of many of the "Adventures of Superman" entries, but he obviously knew how to present motion pictures.
Only the blah and generic title gets any, and mild, criticism. This is one great movie, which I highly recommend, and point out there is a very good print at YouTube. Enjoy.
Lady Windermere's Fan (1925)
Word master Oscar Wilde's play as a silent movie?
Perhaps only Ernst Lubitsch could have created this masterpiece, a play by one of the world's greatest users of words turned into a silent motion picture.
I remember seeing this at the late and very lamented Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax in Los Angeles, in the 1970s. And I remember marveling then how Lubitsch was able to create such a magnificent work.
Yes, he had the help of superlative actors -- May McAvoy's performance was truly a revelation -- and of course had the basic Wilde play as well as Julien Josephson's adaption, but it's his camera placement and where the actors performed that make this such a wonder.
I cannot recommend too strongly this "Lady Windermere's Fan," but when you go to YouTube, be careful to check out the various editions before you settle down to watch. One is terrible, but the one I saw is great. Worthy of a great movie.
Death Valley Gunfighter (1949)
Great acting, directing, script
Republic had access to the best cowboys and the best stunt men and to some of the best actors generally. And here that great studio also had one of the best -- although terribly under-rated -- directors, R.G. Springsteen.
And in Bob Williams they had a very skilled writer.
It all came together for an almost perfect movie.
Gail Davis never looked better, and she is very worth watching, not just for her looks, but for her expressions. Eddy Waller has one of his best roles, and he grabs hold with both hands. Prolific actor Jim Nolan shows, again, why he was so busy, and makes us wonder why he wasn't even busier.
The prolific Mauritz Hugo steals many of his scenes so we don't wonder at all why he kept busy, but, again, we wonder why he isn't even better known.
Writer Williams gives him some good scenes, and, as a good writer should, he allows many characters to speak and participate. There is both humor and action in this excellent Western.
I highly recommend "Death Valley Gunfighter," which can be found in an often too-dark print at YouTube.
Red Ryder: Gun Trouble Valley (1956)
Great cast with lots of action, but some didn't make sense
Too often, writers of Western action had characters jump into gun battles without knowing why or whom they were fighting. That happened once in this half-hour TV show that was apparently supposed to be a pilot for what should have been a popular series.
Well, the action, especially the fight scenes, was great, but the dialogue, especially that of "Little Beaver," was pretty bad.
So, ignore that, and the story hole, and enjoy this otherwise well-done Western, which you can find at YouTube. It might make you wonder why it didn't become a series, but it will remind you why we like Westerns.
Dancing Feet (1936)
Lots of great dancing from excellent cast, however ...
Other than the strange idea of dance lessons over the radio, this is both a lot of fun and a picture to admire for the talent of a superlative cast.
Bios here at IMDb don't mention that Eddie Nugent and the adorable Joan Marsh are pretty darn good dancers. That's puzzling to me.
But dancing is as much a part of the plot here as is the poor little rich girl trying to make her own way in life to show her grand-father she can.
Joan Marsh, to repeat, is adorable. She is a lovely lady just to look at, and her facial and body movements show her to be extremely talented.
Eddie Nugent is listed first in the on-screen credits, though Ben Lyons leads here at IMDb, and he is certainly better known.
I was not at all familiar with Nugent or Marsh, but now I will look for more of their work.
Isabel Jewell is the second female lead and, as usual, she always gets our attention, in every one of her scenes. She is a real icon of movies of this era, with a wonderful voice and tons of talent.
This is light entertainment, not trying to send any message or to be a classic motion picture, but it is so charming and so much fun to watch, it will be watchable perhaps long after some of the classics and alleged classics wear out their audiences.
There is a good version at YouTube and I highly recommend "Dancing Feet."
Back Page (1934)
Ah, for the days of real, honest journalism
As a former journalist myself, I almost always love these movies about small-town papers, or crusading big-town papers.
"Back Page" seems so unlikely today, with, in fact, reports earlier today, 15 November 2019, that the Gannett chain has been bought by a company with the word "investments" in its name.
In other words, it will probably be even less interested in news, but even more in profits, than was the Gannett operation.
"Back Page" is about journalists seeking to report news, as well as win and keep advertisers.
"Back Page" also benefits in having a perky, lovely, adorable Peggy Shannon as the forceful news reporter. She was an extremely capable and watchable actress, but never reached the acclaim she should have, and then died very young from a heart attack.
Claude Gillingwater is really the number two player, getting the chance to demonstrate his great talent by showing a wide range of emotions.
Harry Chandlee's story of small-town chicanery makes a good film, and I appreciate it more than most, perhaps, because I know of so many real-life parallels.
This is the kind of low-budget picture that shows the big-budget people how to make a good movie, with a strong story, talented cast, and high production values. I highly recommend "Back Page," and a good version is available at YouTube.
The Baroness and the Butler (1938)
Class war added to battle of the sexes marvelously performed
This very clever and intelligent premise is performed by an extraordinary cast.
There are only two flaws: 1) All the characters are supposed to be Hungarian, but the daughter of the Count and Countess Sandor is the only one with an accent -- and the actress is actually French.
2) No time is set for the story, although it might be contemporary with its production, which is late 1930s, but there is both alleged poverty in the country, though never shown, and wasteful extravagance by the aristocracy. The cure offered for this situation will probably sound familiar to anyone watching the Democrat presidential primary race in 2019: government control and redistribution.
However, the opposition party wanting to end the poverty-stricken situation does want lower taxes, putting it in opposition to the 2019 Democrat Party, also.
There is some wonderful and moving dialogue from the several writers, although the original author seems to be Leslie Bush-Fekete, who probably deserves most of the credit.
Britain went through its class upheaval after The Great War, or World War I, since "mere" servants sometimes became officers while the sons of aristocracy were privates who had to take orders from "the lower classes" and, after the war, it was impossible for that class-distinction situation to return. ("Downton Abbey" dealt beautifully with that premise.)
How conditions and situations in Hungary were, a better historian will have to tell us. But however accurate "The Baroness and the Butler" is, there is truth here even if the facts are wrong.
There is a good print at YouTube and I highly recommend "The Baroness and the Butler" for a poignant and inspiriting 80 minutes.
Police Story: Cop in the Middle (1974)
Sad story about cop who makes one mistake
Three of my favorites star in this excellent but heart-breaking entry: Chris George, Glenn Corbett, and Donald Barry.
The cast is just one reason to watch this. The story is another.
Police spend a lot of time and energy and manpower -- meaning taxpayer money -- trying to topple a leading criminal ... but, wait: Is he really a criminal?
The target of this police activity, at such taxpayer expense, is a gambling czar.
He offers a service to certain people who are after that proverbial "something for nothing." Which includes almost every person, such as the one who plays the horses, or who plays bingo at a church, or who buys a state-sponsored lottery ticket, or who plays a football pool at the workplace.
In the Los Angeles area, where the "Police Story" dramas take place, are several horse-racing facilities, and they also offer gambling.
Heck, Las Vegas is a short bus or train or plane ride or short drive, and there certainly is every kind of gambling there.
But non-licensed, non-government-sanctioned, gambling is still illegal. For reasons primarily of enforcing the moral and/or religious code of some people.
And such so-called "victimless crimes," or "consensual crimes," are still the primary focus of police all across these United States.
Since even the respective police officers themselves often see no real crime in gambling, they can sometimes become susceptible to bribes.
That kind of corruption is at the center of this show.
I hate to see Chris George play a bad guy, though he is so talented, he makes his character awfully believable. And I think most of us will still pull for him, wanting him to be able to make everything right.
How his character works out the situation is convoluted and tricky, but I think the most important lesson is this: Government has no business telling people how to live their own lives.
Trying to outlaw vices is both foolish and immoral, and creating such laws does more to create crime and, worse, to lead to corruption of law enforcement agencies.
Chris George and his fellow performers and the writers of "Cop in the Middle" have, as usual, given us an engrossing hour; but they have also given us a lot to think about.
Good beginning to a series
For some reason, no explanation is given and apparently one must have seen the movie first to understand the setting, although if one watches long enough, one will catch on: Two sisters are in New York City trying to establish their respective careers, Ruth as writer and Eileen as actress.
From that nice-enough premise, we have a story, here in Episode 1 of Season1, that plays upon the looks of the gorgeous Shirley Bonne, who plays Eileen, and the apparently endemic problem of women trying to succeed in any business as other than go-fer or sex symbol.
But this show has some of the finest actresses, with Elaine Stritch as Ruth, and the wonderful Rose Marie as Ruth's best friend Bertha.
Yes, there are some good actors also, including especially Leon Belasco as the sisters' landlord.
This is not timeless classic entertainment, perhaps, but it's very good TV. And it's available without commercials (maybe) at YouTube.
Lots of fun, as Sylvia Schnauser writes of her 51 loves
Frequently over the top, this entry still has some very funny moments, and some very funny situations, and some very funny guest stars, including the prolific Charlotte Rae in the title role, and Charles Nelson Reilly as a suspect publisher.
Charlotte Rae actually played the continuing role of Sylvia, wife of Patrolman Schnauser, who was played by Al Lewis, a regular on the show.
This entry had one of the largest casts and all the players were necessary as the running gag kept running.
"Car 54" had so many episodes per season, it's a real eye-opener to modern TV audiences who think a "season" is about 13 entries. Probably not every show could be a hit, but so far, the ones I've seen have provided laughs and an appreciation of what talent those early TV creators had.
WHO is that singing?
As the boys from the 53rd Precinct try to win a barbershop quartet singing contest, naturally the rest of the world refuses to co-operate.
Muldoon is the lead tenor -- and either Fred Gwynne has a magnificent voice, or he is an excellent lip-syncher! -- and must be protected ... and naturally the rest of the world refuses to co-operate.
Jan Murray guest stars as the nerves-of-steel TV star Jan Murray who is one of the judges of the contest ... and naturally the rest of the world refuses to co-operate.
To someone who is trying to see the entire series, via YouTube, this might be the best entry. Yes, it's a bit over the top, since it is TV, but it's seldom silly and it's often dead-mark-right-on.
Shot on location in New York, the series is a fascinating look at the era ("... Khrushchev's due at Idyllwild ..."), and a real delight for anyone who appreciates the type of humor Nat Hiken was so good at. And I do.
La hantise (1912)
Astonishing early movie that even includes the Titanic
Though very old-fashioned in that most scenes are set as for stage viewing, that is, with the camera locked down and not moved, this 107-year-old motion picture is pretty amazing.
It's well acted and the intertitles do not intrude too much.
It's French and seems rather advanced for 1912, but then I need to be reminded the Lumiere Brothers were considered co-inventors of the motion picture.
And the "special effects" must have intrigued, if not shocked, audiences of that era, and genuine footage of one of the ships involved in rescuing survivors of the Titanic is also inserted.
Very well worth the time to watch, if only for the historical value.
Erreur tragique (1913)
Astonishingly well done for 1913
Good acting, great camera work and directing more than make up for the truncated script.
intertitles last too long and too much of the story is told off screen or by intertitle, but the quality of acting and the mobile camera will keep any viewer watching.
The print at YouTube is also astonishingly good, and the music behind it is appropriate and adds to the movie rather than intruding.
I highly recommend "Erreur tragique" to, especially, fans of movie history.
The Only Way (1970)
"A lesson to us all"
That lesson is multi-layered: German National Socialism was not just about destroying Jews -- it was about destroying individuals and individualism.
Another lesson: Because demagogues can, often easily, arise and take control of governments, it is important, in these United States, to honor our Second Amendment. (You will see the usually peaceful Danes take up arms against the invader.)
This powerful motion picture is based on the true story of how the people of Denmark, almost unanimously, arose against a tyrannical and murderous invader to protect and defend a persecuted minority.
It is mostly very well done, especially the score by the magnificent Carl Davis, and the superlative acting. Directing and editing were not quite up to the script or the acting (and the haircuts seemed anachronistic), but this is a movie I can highly recommend.
As shown here, even the German invaders, as individuals, probably draftees, could often be humane and decent, just more people caught up in the viciousness of government. But war doesn't pay much attention to individuals, except as targets, as cannon fodder.
The single most important lesson for us all is that each of us, individual human beings, are valuable for our own sakes. Each of us is sovereign, each of us is self-owned and we must remember and we must remind others.
Freedom is our proper and natural condition, and each of us must remember that, must remind others, and must work to protect that freedom, must work to save other individual human beings from tyrannical government.
"The Only Way" is now almost 50 years old, and the incidents it portrays are more than 65 years in the past. Yet tyranny and mass persecution are always just around the corner.
Honor those brave and generous Danes, and remember this lesson: Government is always a danger, and most especially when it forgets that "We, the People" are sovereign individuals, when it concentrates (as 2019 politicians are doing) on groups rather than individuals, and when it assumes such total control over individual human lives.
I urge everyone to see this film, which is available at YouTube.
The Westerner: Line Camp (1960)
Great performance from Robert Culp
Guest star Robert Culp was unusually animated in this entry to one of the best TV series I've ever seen.
"The Westerner" was truly an adult Western, and Brian Keith was surely the perfect actor to star.
In this entry, he is backed by one of the best cast ensembles of not only this series, but of any comparable one.
Tom Gries was writer and director of this Sam Peckinpah-produced show, and he and his cast have created a classic, though relatively unpleasant, story. I can't recommend it highly enough. Available at YouTube.
The Slowest Gun in the West (1960)
Some of the best bad guys in the West
Finding this by accident on YouTube, I was excited because I vaguely remembered watching it on TV, 'way too many years ago.
I had not remembered it as a Phil Silvers special, for some reason. But watching it and him, I was again reminded what a really fine actor he was.
Yes, he generally played the similar kind of bluff con man, but watch his face. Watch his body. He was incredibly expressive, so very much in control.
Jack Benny also very much played his well-known character, but, again, watch him, closely. He really could be a good actor. And was in this funny story.
Then we were given some of the very best villains ever filmed, including Bob Wilke and Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. And they and all the others were so excellent in their portrayals, I can't help wondering why this little gem of a TV movie is not better known and presented more often.
It has one flaw: That intrusive and annoying laugh track. There is absolutely no good reason for such interference.
But I highly recommend "The Slowest Gun in the West" for a less-than-an-hour's entertainment