A Dangerous Woman (1929)

Article #1745 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-24-2005
Posting Date: 5-23-2006
Directed by Gerald Grove and Rowland V. Lee
Featuring Olga Baclanova, Clive Brook, Neil Hamilton

The commissioner of an African outpost lives with a woman who drives the white men to their deaths with her seductive ways. The commissioner learns that his brother will be his next assistant, and the woman begins working her wiles on him….

“The Motion Picture Guide” lists this movie as horror, claiming that the woman in question uses voodoo to make herself irresistible to men. There’s some talk of voodoo, of course, but nothing overt about the use of voodoo, so I find this assessment questionable, and the movie itself is nothing more than a marginal jungle movie. The commissioner is our hero, and he advises the natives to use wife-beating to keep their women in line (after all, it’s the native thing to do), and after he does, the natives leave doing a sort of “spanking” dance. This kind of racism and sexism pervades the movie, and though it is no doubt a product of its time, It’s still more than a little offensive. But then, I’ve never quite bought into the concept that it is the perfidy of women that drives men to do horrible things because they are helpless against the wiles of the feminine sex; if men can’t control themselves on occasion, I suggest they look at their own hormones rather than blame the other sex. The acting is pretty stagy, but that’s an early talkie for you. This is mainly for those interested in the career of Olga Baclanova, who would go on to play another evil woman in FREAKS.

The Net (1953)

THE NET (1953)
(a.k.a. PROJECT M7)
Article #1744 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-23-2005
Posting Date: 5-22-2006
Directed by Anthony Asquith
Featuring James Donald, Phyllis Calvert, Robert Beatty

The designer of a test aircraft (to be followed by one which will go into outer space) insists on flying it himself despite the fact that his superiors don’t want to risk his life. Furthermore, there appears to be a spy in the project as well.

The science fiction content of this movie is the aircraft itself, and the scenes of it tooling through the stratosphere are quite breathtaking at times. The movie also has an exciting conclusion that takes place in the cockpit of the airplane. However, these scenes take up only a fraction of the running time of the movie, most of which consists of some fairly tepid drama involving power struggles, loyalties, and potential romantic affairs. So once again we have an invention whose main purpose in the story is to serve as a backdrop for a more mundane drama and to serve as a prize in a plot by a spy. The patient fan might find it worth the wait for the flying sequences, and it also features an early performance by Herbert Lom.

Passport to Destiny (1944)

Article #1743 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-22-2005
Posting Date: 5-21-2006
Directed by Ray McCarey
Featuring Elsa Lanchester, Gordon Oliver, Lenore Aubert

When a charwoman finds the charm that her late husband had claimed made him impervious to death, she decides to use her protective power to help her in an attempt to go to Berlin and give Hitler what for.

I have to admit that I was so charmed and amused by the premise of this movie that I looked forward to seeing it. And sure enough, the movie is indeed charming and amusing; at least, it is for the length of time that it plays its story for silly comedy. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the movie starts to take itself seriously at the half-way mark, and, given the time, I don’t blame them; after all, the Third Reich really wasn’t a laughing matter. But it does become a thoroughly ordinary war-time propaganda piece at that point. Still, I always enjoy watching Elsa Lanchester at work, and the acting is fine throughout.

Night Watch (1973)

Article #1742 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2005
Posting Date: 5-20-2006
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, Billie Whitelaw

A woman sees a murder take place in an abandoned house across from her home, but the police find nothing when they investigate. She begins to think that she is going crazy.

In some ways, this movie is inevitable; ever since the movie GASLIGHT set up a template for a specific kind of thriller, It would only be a matter of time before someone took the template and added the twist ending that can be found in this movie. And, to be honest, the twist is pretty good; it’s the best thing about the movie. Still, in order to use this twist, you pretty much have to follow the GASLIGHT template for most of the movie’s running time, and I’ve never been particularly fond of that template: I get annoyed with its predictability and its shrillness. You’re always treated to endless scenes of a hysterical woman screaming at people to believe her, and they don’t (because she’s hysterical), and this just makes her more hysterical, etc. etc. etc. The fact that it’s Elizabeth Taylor providing the hysterics doesn’t really alleviate the fact that the movie spends most of its time walking an overused path. In short, I didn’t find that the final twist really compensated for the over-familiarity of most of the movie.

Night in Paradise (1946)

Article #1741 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-20-2005
Posting Date: 5-19-2006
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Featuring Merle Oberon, Turhan Bey, Thomas Gomez

When a sorceress is swindled by King Croesus, she vows revenge. She uses her magic powers to get Aesop to steal away Croesus’s bride-to-be, Delarai.

Hollywood ventures into sword-and-sandal territory with this costume picture, and if it takes itself way too seriously half the time, the other half of the time it’s aggressively courting silliness. Still, it has some good performances; I barely recognized Turhan Bey in what amounts to a dual role (let’s just say that Aesop is not quite what he seems), Thomas Gomez, Gale Sondergaard and Merle Oberon do fine jobs, but Ray Collins steals the show as Leonides, adviser to the king. It gets a little racy at times; in particular, a gag involving a statue being cleaned must have slipped by the censors somehow. It also has some of the worst crowd acting I’ve ever seen; notice how whenever a crowd gathers together, they’re all saying the exact same thing?

Meet Mr. Lucifer (1953)

Article #1740 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-19-2005
Posting Date: 5-18-2006
Directed by Anthony Pelissier
Featuring Stanley Holloway, Peggy Cummins, Jack Watling

The devil enlists the help of a drunken actor to help him to destroy the lives of various people with the help of his new invention – Television.

Yes, here’s another cinematic attack (in the grand tradition of MURDER BY TELEVISION, TRAPPED BY TELEVISION and THE TWONKY) on that most insidious of evils, the cathode ray tube. At least this one knows it’s a comedy from the outset. It shows how television destroys the lives of all whom it touches; it drains the money away from a elderly retiree, destroys the marriage of a young couple, and turns a respected pharmacist into a madman and a thief. Good heavens, it’s worse than alcohol or drugs! No, the movie is hardly convincing, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. Still, the third story (about the effect that an anonymous lonely hearts singer has on the imagination of an unhappy young man) actually has a touch of poignancy to it amid the laughs. Ernest Thesiger has a small but memorable role as a cantankerous pharmacist who refuses to dispense drugs to handle any ailments which he deems to be the result of divine punishment. All in all, it’s a fun if inconsequential comedy. And it even takes a potshot at the 3-D craze before it’s all over.

The Man Who Lived Twice (1936)

Article #1739 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-18-2005
Posting Date: 5-17-2006
Directed by Harry Lachman
Featuring Ralph Bellamy, Marian Marsh, Thurston Hall

A criminal on the run from the police allows a surgeon who has experimented with surgical methods in controlling sociopathic behavior to perform a brain operation on him to remove his criminal tendencies. The operation is successful, but the criminal now has amnesia and can’t remember his former life. He then becomes a respected doctor, only to find that his past is catching up to him.

The middle section of this movie drags a bit, but outside of that, I found this an enjoyable if somewhat far-fetched little B-movie. It’s the performances that really make this work. Ralph Bellamy is very good in the opening scenes as the criminal; it’s such a break from his usual type of character that it’s a little disappointing when he emerges from the operation in a far more conventional role for him, though he does a fine job throughout. However, my favorite performance goes to Ward Bond, who plays an old crony of the criminal who discovers the truth of the matter, but who is so won over by the change that he takes on the job of Bellamy’s chauffeur and vows to go straight; his final scene with Isabel Jewell is great. All in all, an enjoyable combination of the crime and science fiction genres.