Bulldog Drummond in Africa

No Pants

Once again, Bulldog Drummond is due to get married and something might get in his way.  To prevent the trouble, he and his trusty butler have removed all the guns from the house, cut the telephone line, stayed in for a week and, to be sure they didn’t wander, removed all the pants from the house.  These precautions aside, their friend gets kidnapped to Morocco and BD and pals rush in to save the day, which they do to our delight.  A creepy spy in a bad goatee captures Bulldog’s friend and tries to get him to talk by treating him civilly and threatening his life.  He’s a mix between a bond villain and Erich von Stroheim in The Grand Illusion.  All honor and stuff.

  • As usual, Bulldog is delightfully scallywaggish, gleefully trying to escape his Moroccan guards by tying sheets together to hang out the window.  When the guards want to know where Drummond has gone, his friends say he’s “having his bath.”  It takes them several minutes to remember that his room has no private bathroom.
  • Playing Jeeves to Bulldog’s Wooster, the butler saves the day over and over.
  • Algy didn’t get as many opportunities to be an ass in this movie as he did in the last one.  He was enjoyable nonetheless.
  • No severed limbs, though the bomb they planted on the underside of Bulldog’s plane went up quite nicely.
  • The landing scene taught me something about old-timey aviation: he had a “flares” lever to pull that dropped a series of flares on the ground, improvising a runway for himself.  Pretty sweet.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

Like Dr. Evil, the villain in this drama is a criminal mastermind looking to sell technological secrets to the highest bidder.  He keeps a pack of lions chained up and hungry (perhaps he keeps them mean by singing off key, ala Chief Wiggum) to threaten his victims with.  No simple pliers or electrodes for this guy–no, no.  He tortures people by tying them to a tree and letting a lion take swipes at them.  Of course, during his fistfight with Bulldog Drummond, he’s knocked into the lion’s den and eaten.

Hoisted on his own Lion

The Shadow Strikes (Scourge of the Underworld)

Rod LaRocque stars as Lamont Cranston, “the Shadow,” who foils unexplained safe-crackers and then poses as a lawyer for no earthly reason. He natters about the film with a look of mischief on his face, and the story is moderatly enjoyable, though I’m not sure I can explain who the murderer was. Maybe the butler?

A few more thoughts:

A shot rang out

This movie has the classic “person shot through an open door, mysteriously” trope, as well as the “gotta change my will before I get murdered” trope. In this case, it has both parts at once. The wealthy old man is changing his will, with the help of Mr. Fake Lawyerpants, Esq, when he’s shot through the french doors outside. Of course, there’s no broken glass or anything.

"Look at the Birdie"

When the cops show up, they just let the reporters waltz in. The reporters make small talk with the cops and then photograph the body. “Quick, before the coroner gets here.” When he takes the picture of the corpse, he says “Look at the birdie!” The other reporter uses the phone on the desk (fingerprints be damned) to call the news room and file his story.

"A trick I learned when I worked at the phone company"

The coolest part of the movie is The Shadow’s loyal driver, Henry. At times, Henry is a driver, an accomplice (as in breaking/entering, wiretapping, and lying to the police), a confidant, an aide, and a badass guard. Note the photo above.

The Shadow Strikes

Of course, the even cooler (when he decides to use it) is The Shadow himself, an enigmatic figure who can force adults to yield their clear advantage to the “law and order” side by cooperating with their arrest.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

When the reporter calls in to the station, he describes the basic nature of the genre for the film he’s in: “It’s a murder.  I dunno who done it.  It’s a mystery, I tell ya.”

Couldn’t some character in nearly every mystery story say these lines?

Sherlock Holmes: The Woman in Green


Watson investigates the abandoned house

1945. Holmes and Watson investigate a Bones-worthy mystery, a serial killer who murders women and cuts off their thumbs. Holmes discovers that, surprise surprise, Dr. Moriarty is behind this dastardly scheme. Rich marks are being hypnotized and left in odd places, with bloody thumbs in their pockets. Then, when they realize what “they’ve done,” Moriarty and his crew show up to shake them down.

  • The film proceeds at the usual pace, with solid jokes from Holmes and the expected bit of buffoonery from Watson–this time, Watson expresses disdain at the art of hypnotism and finds himself barefoot and harrumphing.
    Watson hypnotized
  • Holmes blusters his way around the movie, noting at one point that notable people in history (like he and Julius Caesar) have big noses; later, scoffing at the idea that he could have been hypnotized and leaving Watson to nearly tumble from the balcony. “Enjoying the view up here, old man.”
  • Watson also rails at the clearly hypnotized sniper who took a shot at Holmes while Holmes treats him gently. In this regard, Watson is the doofus of the movie. You’d think he’d come to understand Holmes’ methods, but no. Every time Holmes says something that seems odd to him, Watson blusters and disagrees. It really makes him a shallow character.
  • The mise-en-scene of the assassin’s lair, on the other hand, is the most interesting in the house. There are lots of cool shadows and a stuffed gorilla for us to enjoy.Watson discovers a gorilla umbrella stand
  • The lack of gruesomeness is a bummer — we don’t actually see even one severed thumb.
  • As usual, Moriarty has some awesome henchmen. The titular lady has the ice-queen look common to women in Hitchcock movies. Moriarty’s creepy doctor, seen dressing a doll and fondling surgical instruments, is the best of these. The shoelace salesman who badgers Watson is particularly amusing too.
    Moriarty's creepy doctor henchman
  • This is the second Holmes film I’ve seen where Moriarty falls to his death. In the first, The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty falls into an underground river, so he could have survived. Here, he falls onto the unforgiving cobblestones of a London back alley, and his resurrection would be surprising.
    Moriarty and Holmes

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
Holmes is a difficult subject
I thoroughly enjoyed the scene in which the woman in green attempts to hypnotize Holmes. The mystical quality given to the process, with its dissolves and overlays and swirling water, adds a magical quality to the film that belies the mundane ratiocination of Holmes. It’s also fun to ponder just how Holmes avoids getting hypnotized, because we know, of course, that he’s too strong-willed for it. He said as much to Watson:

Watson: How will you avoid being hypnotized?
Holmes: If I haven’t got a stronger will than her, I deserve to be.

The dig at Watson, who bumbles into his hypnotized state moments before, is clear and hilarious.

The Atomic Brain

aka Monstrosity, 1964.

The “plot” is roughly this: a wealthy old woman wants to live forever, so she funds the research of an unscrupulous scientist to figure out how to swap brains between bodies. Then she hires three sexy orphans to come live at her house as maids. Her plan to swap her brain into one of their bodies goes awry, of course.

A few notable moments:

  • Brain in a Jar from City of Lost ChildrenI think the other title would have been better, since The Atomic Brain means nothing. I expected to see at least one Brain In A Jar, ala City of Lost Children, but no.
  • The old woman has a fifty-something lover who helps her concoct and carry out the plan. She schemes to abandon this hapless Roger after she’s ensconced in her nubile young body. Of course, she tells this to Roger before the operation, so he has time to scheme against her.
  • The villainous doctor is named, um, Frank. Subtle. With his tan and dashing hairdo, though, he looks like he should be doing boob jobs for trophy wives in Boca.
  • You have to feel sorry for the three orphans who’re brought to the house. It’s pretty annoying that they don’t just turn on the old woman, though. She’s an old woman in a wheel chair!
  • The failures lurking around the house are awesome. There’s a hairy dude outside who looks a bit like the wolf-man, then there’s the first sexy orphan who gets her mind replaced with the mind of a cat. In Shakespearean (or low budget sci-fi) tradition, they demonstrate that the young woman has all the instincts of a cat by having her chase and eat a mouse, but they do so off screen. Of course, they show her grab the mouse, lift it to her mouth, then they cut to the disgusted face of the old woman, who says “Ugh! She ate it!” Then they cut back to the woman, licking her chops.
  • The disembodied hand in a jar is pretty cool, but it’s no brain.

Here are some cool images from the film:
Brain Swapping Machine
Dr. Frank tries his technique on a newly-dead corpse and finds it won’t work.

Wolf Man
The Wolf Man peeps at the sexy orphans.

Dr. Frank brags
Dr. Frank brags about his neon fish tank.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
Now that's one scratched eye!
The first orphan is turned into a cat, but the second one doesn’t know it and gets too close. Cat lady scratches out the second orphan’s eyes. She’s bandaged and in bed for most of the film, but tears off her bandages as she flees the burning house at the end. Check out the gore! Also, we learn that Dr. Frank is lazy, since he bandaged both eyes when only one was damaged.

An Announcement:
The more astute among you may have noticed that this is not a mystery film, yet it’s getting the $.38 treatment. That’s because I bought a second 100-movies for $38 box set: Sci-Fi classics. Boo-ya.

The Shadow: International Crime

1937. The Shadow: crime journalist, criminologist, detective, and radio star pursues a murder investigation under the scrutiny (and anger) of the cops. His hapless assistant tries to be a skillful journalist too, but she’s hopeless. I enjoyed this picture quite a bit, but there was a lot of goofy stuff in it.

A bunch of inanities:

  • In one scene, Honest John the safecracker forces the Shadow to clear him on the air. Then, while the Shadow is talking to the audience, he participates in the conversation. And for some reason beyond anyone comprehension, he’s surprised that he was on the air.
    Honest John the safecracker 2
    In spite of the microphone and the radio technician in the room.
  • Phoebe is dumb as a box of hammers. In one scene, The Shadow is trying to dupe a criminal into giving away some key info. They know the person is a criminal because he gave a misleading clue to Phoebe. So what does Phoebe do? She tries to join the undercover operation and gives the whole thing away.
    Impersonating a Baron
    Notice how the villain (on the left) is staring daggers at her? Then, when the Shadow is clearly trying to extricate them, she doesn’t take his obvious hints.
  • Along those lines, if you’re two German dudes, and a third one comes up to say hi and reminisce about the Fatherland, wouldn’t you, um, speak in German? And really, would a monocle and a German accent be enough to fool you?

A few other strange bits about the movie

  • A large portion of the movie involves fairly wide one- or two-shots in which The Shadow is reading into a microphone.
    The Shadow knows
    Sometimes we’ll cut to a shot of someone listening to him on the radio.
  • Honest John the safecracker
    Honest John is trying to go straight, so he threatens The Shadow with a gun.
  • The movie is shockingly (though I guess it shouldn’t be a shock for a 1937 movie to be this way) sexist. Phoebe is a bumbling reporter without much of a clue about anything, who keeps getting in the way and causing trouble. The Shadow is condescending to her in a way that would lead a modern movie character to fall in a big puddle of mud or get fired or something. Instead, he comes out on top and she gets stage fright when she finally gets to go on the air.

Stuff I really liked

  • The chief of police is a total jerk, who hates Cranston (not surprising, given that Cranston keeps calling him a doofus). At one point, he locks The Shadow up as a material witness just to keep him from doing another report critical of the police.
  • Cranston’s taxi driver, Mo, is a delight. He keeps calling Cranston by name and then, when reminded, reverts to calling him stranger. He carries a gun-shaped cigarette holder that twice fools villains into giving up their villainy.
    Want a cigarette?
  • All the dudes in the jail had suits on. With ties. One guy was in a tux.
    Jailed in style
  • There was a mysterious bearded gentleman who spied on the criminal proceedings in two different scenes, but was never mentioned or explained.
    Mysterious dude
    I think he looks a bit like Fidel Castro.
  • There’s a scene when Lamont needs Phoebe to remember about the man (the German above) who talked to her. She describes him and then says he had an accent. Cranston gets excited about this and goes through a number of quite good accents before he hits on it. A tour-de-force of accented speech.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

At one point in The Shadow’s radio show, he mentions how a young couple had retreated to a secluded spot above the city the evening before for some romance. We cut to a shot of a similar couple listening to that night’s broadcast. They smile and settle into one another’s arms. Then The Shadow says, “Their bodies were found in the morning by police. They’d been killed…” and the couple freaks out and drives off.
A young couple was found murdered on lover's lane
Crime reporting: the ultimate prophylactic.

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome

1947. Tracy faces off against a bank robbing gang who has a secret formula that freezes people immobile for about 15 minutes. A moderately entertaining story made great by the fabulous mise-en-scene and characterizations. I’m enjoying these movies more by the minute. Here are a few screenshots and some commentary.
The Hangman's Knot

Once again, a seedy bar in Dick Tracy land has an awesome name. This time, it’s The Hangman’s Knot, and unlike The Dripping Dagger, The Hangman’s Knot has an actual knot hanging outside which you can see in the shadows at the upper right of the image below.

The Hangman's Knot 2

The villains’ factory hideout also has an awesome name: Wood Plastics Inc.

Wood Plastics Inc

My favorite minor character in the film (despite the winning names of the physicist Dr. I.M. Learned and the taxidermist named Stuffum) is the lackey with the sinister, Peter Lorre lilt and the Coke Bottle glasses.  He ends up being Gruesome’s helper by the very fact that he’s the only one Gruesome doesn’t kill.  When we first saw him, I paused the movie and asked Jenny if he reminded her of anyone.  Turns out we both thought he looked like the sinister Nazi torturer guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The villain from Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome The villain from Raiders of the Lost Ark

In this shot, he’s just learned (to his horror) that he’s supposed to burn the comatose henchman, Melody, in the incinerator.  As with many of the shots containing this gentleman, I’m mesmerized by the light twinkling in his Coke Bottle glasses.

Not Melody Too!

As usual,  Pat Patton, Dick’s “assistant,” gets the worst of it. Like the more bumbling Watsons, Patton regularly gets knocked out (though only once in this epidose), overpowered by the villains, and looks the fool.  In this scene, he’s looking for the villain in a taxidermist’s shop and he backs into a stuffed gorilla.  I don’t really want to know why a taxidermist in Chicago has a gorilla to stuff, but there it is.  In case you’re wondering, after Pat recovers from the Gorilla attack, Gruesome overpowers him with a tiger-skin rug.

Pat Patton backs into a gorilla

When Melody abandons his piano to go on a crime spree with his buddy Gruesome, his boss scowls.  Now that’s the kind of bit player I like to see.  Check out those eyebrows!

Crusty Bar Owner

The filmmakers made a lot of the fact that they had Boris Karloff playing Gruesome.  He lurches around and scowls a lot.  They give him lots of cool portraits, including this one in which he’s frozen.

Karloff as a Corpse

Incinerators are ALWAYS cool.  Two other movies I enjoy that have incinerators (or corpse-size furnaces): Grosse Point Blank, Blood Simple.


Worth my thirty-eight cents:

There’s lots of stuff in this movie worth it, but I’d put my seal of approval on Tess’ identification of one of the bank robbers.  Of course, Tess was in the bank when it was robbed and, since she was sealed in a phone booth, did not breathe any of the freeze gas.  When they captured one of the robbers (after Pat shot out their tire and made them crash into a tree), she’s brought in to identify him.  She gives a positive I.D. — “Yes, I’m sure that’s one of them.” — despite the fact that his face is wrapped like a mummy’s.

Tess makes a positive I.D.

Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police

1939.  Bulldog Drummond is back in another gripping adventure.  This time, just one day before his wedding, an absent-minded professor (so absent minded he wears winter clothes in August because his calendar says January) shows up at the Drummond house to explain that there are millions of pounds hidden in the catacombs below the castle.  Adventure ensues.  Among the highlights:

  • Algy, the Watson to Drummond’s Holmes, gets his robe tangled in a suit of armor and then falls down the stairs.  When he lands at the bottom, the helmet has landed on his head like in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  Later, Algy bends down to peer into a hole in the wall and narrowly avoids being decapitated because Bulldog is about to chop down that very wall with his axe.
  • ‘Tenny,’ Bulldog’s butler kicks ass.  At one point, to mollify his fiance, Bulldog ostentatiously instructs Tenny to burn a code book–thus ensuring that Bulldog won’t pursue the mystery instead of attending to his wedding.  The butler, who clearly knows which side his bread is buttered on, burns a phonebook instead and slips the code book back to Bulldog, who stays up all night working on the cipher.
  • Phyllis’ aunt Blanche is particularly funny, with a feathered hat and a deep abiding hatred for Bulldog, who consistently misses being married by one mystery after another.
  • How come professors are always depicted as absent-minded?  It seems a pretty rude stereotype.  On the other hand, come to think of it, I AM absent minded.  Maybe next time Jenny scowls when I admit that I’ve forgotten to put the laundry in the dryer or some such error, I should just plead “deep thoughts.”

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

This is a seventy-four cent movie, certainly.  I have two moments that are both so great I can’t decide.  The first comes from the very beginning of the movie.  Bulldog is driving with Phyllis and Aunt Blanche, arguing about how he certainly will marry Phyllis the next day (he doesn’t, by the way), when he starts playing chicken with a train.  When he reaches the crossing, he jumps the tracks with no room to spare.  In the two screenshots here, the first shows the moment just after the train roars by, and the second shows a moment or two later.  Can you guess which person Aunt Blanche is?  And check out the grin on Bulldog’s face: what an asshole!

Just barely beats the train

Jousting with trains sure is fun!

The second moment from the movie that’s just awesome comes at the denouement, where the underground catacombs turn out to contain a secret room of spikes with a locking door.  Check out these stills, and I’ll narrate at the bottom.

It's a trap!

The cool iron door slams shut behind them.  In the window above looms the villain and Phyllis who, of course, has been captured and fights valiantly to save Bulldog and pals.

Cool gothic spikes start creaking downward

The spikes begin to lower.  Check out the lighting and mist.  The creaking sound of the spike chains menaces.

in a spot of trouble

This looks like something out of Anne Frank — listening to the sounds of Germans tromping around near the stairs below.  It’s got a holy aspect that far exceeds the B-movie quality of the narrative.

Algy contemplates his doom

Look at the terror on Algy’s face.  Awesome.

The spikes creak lower, the iron portcullis opening occasionally as Phyllis manages to ratchet it open while the villain fights her off and begins lowering the spikes again.  The people inside cower in terror, piling up a pitiful stack of rocks to hold back the spikes, only to see the rocks shatter without slowing the spikes at all.  And the best part, just as the spikes start to drop, Terry says to Bulldog:

Pardon me, sir, but we’re in for a spot of trouble.

The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes

1935.  Holmes, descending into retirement, takes one last case to catch the elusive Dr. Moriarty.  He gets involved, somewhat obliquely, and Holmes ‘catches’ him at the end.  Sigh.  It was moderately entertaining, but the sound quality is pretty terrible on the 1930s movies in this set, so it was difficult to follow.  I enjoyed the bespeckled sidekick and Watson’s bumbling, and the image of Holmes fishing out the window with an umbrella worked pretty well for me.  I also liked the moment when the detective, assured by Holmes that they had no more need of the body in situ, tells the butler that he can remove the body now.  Geez.

Triumph of Sherlock Holmes: The boss of the scowlers threatens cecil barker

The film also features a long flashback sequence told by the widow of the victim.  She tells what essentially turns out to be a hard-boiled detective story, about her husband the renowned Pinkerton detective who broke up a vicious gang of thugs that ran a small coal town.  (The photo above shows the boss of the Scowlers threatening Cecil, the man whose death brings Holmes to the manor.)  These thugs swore revenge and it was through Moriarty’s help that they found the victim.  The priceless name of these bastards could have come straight from a Dick Tracy story: they’re The Scowlers.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

Triumph of Sherlock Holmes: Watson nudges Holmes

Throughout the film, Holmes keeps snubbing Watson by forgetting to introduce him whenever they meet someone new.  Watson, for his part, gets bent out of shape about it, nudging Holmes in the ribs and getting a constipated look on his face.  Here’s the usual exchange:

Police Inspector: Mrs. Witness, may I present Sherlock Holmes.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do, Mr. Holmes?
Holmes: How do you do, Mrs. Witness?
Watson [elbows agitating furiously]: ahem
Holmes: Ah yes.  May I introduce my colleague, Dr. Watson.
Mrs.Witness: How do you do?
Watson: How do you do?
Holmes: On the night of the murder…

There is obviously some humor already at work in this setup, but it gets doubly funny when one considers that Watson is played by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame.  I like the imagine that Bond is suave and debonair in all the ways Watson was not, and that perhaps Fleming imagined himself not as the bumbler of these films but rather as we see Bond fifty years later.

Follow-up: As I finished writing the above, it occurred to me that the Ian Fleming in these films was pretty old to be in espionage 5 years later.  So I checked IMDB and found this sentence: “Not to be confused with the creator of James Bond.”  Well, shit.

This is a big mental jump, but it makes me want to go back to my idea for the namesake series.  In looking back at that post, I see that Jeff Rice’s suggestion of Charlie Brown and Chuck D has been lost.  I think Brian Doan also suggested some. Darn.  Anyway, there seems to be some Derridian value in the idea that the man who played Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick and the man who created James Bond had the same name.

Dick Tracy vs. Cueball

Priceless Prentice watches Dick Tracy leave his store

1946. Jenny and I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Like the last Dick Tracy movie we watched, Dick is pretty funny, the villains are goofy, and the story was somewhat anticlimactic. Nonetheless, the details of the film worked really well for me:

  • CueballCueball looked a bit like a thuggish, husky John C. Reilly.
  • Dick has to use Tess in his undercover sting operation because none of the policewomen could adequately fake being a society lady. Dick’s inquiry process went this way:
    • look through the records and find four sexy policewomen (okay, the film doesn’t make the sexy part specific, but you know that’s what DT was looking for)
    • ask them into your office and then immediately dismiss three of them because they don’t have enough experience
    • ask the fourth one if she could pretend to be a woman of high society, frowning when she says “Naw, my Brooklyn accent would get in the way,” and asserts that she couldn’t hide it
    • ask your girlfriend to play the part.

    If that last point doesn’t surprise you, reread the second point. Also, I bet the screenwriter for the Sandra Bullock smash hit Miss Congeniality was a Dick Tracy fan. Those rough-and-tumble women of law enforcement!

  • Cueball knocks Pat Patton out several times during the film, always by bopping him on the back of the head. You can almost see the BONK springing out from the attack. It makes me wonder just how hard you have to hit someone on the back of the head to knock them out. I bet there were some bank robbers or other criminals in the mid-late 1950s (and thus had seen the film as kids) that were caught because they thought a light bonk was enough to knock out robust policemen.
  • Vitamin FlintheartThe best part of the movie, though, is Vitamin Flintheart, an eccentric friend of Dick Tracy, played in vaudeville style by Ian Keith. His eyebrow waggling and hilarious crescendoing voice are not to be missed.
  • the 1940s Dick Tracy films have an interesting mix of cartoonish elements (odd criminals and hilarious names) and more conventional police elements. The latter make the former all the funnier. Some names from this film: Jules Sparkle (jeweler), Percival Priceless (antique store owner), Filthy Flora (owner of a rough-and-tumble dive on the waterfront). Flora is the most amusing in this regard, as she clearly is meant to be a former hooker or madam who has moved up in the world to dive proprietess.
  • Pat Patton also has a consistently funny sequence of run-ins with officers who are new to the force and arrest him for things like vagrancy and drunk driving.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
When Cueball is on the run and looking for a place to stay, he goes into Filthy Flora’s waterfront dive, the Dripping Dagger. Who’s going to go to a place called the Dripping Dagger unless they’re cheap hoods or vamps looking for some company? Or I guess a bunch of fellas from Purdue* out slumming it with the townies. Jenny and I had a spirited brainstorming session about the rejected names for other wretched hives of scum and villainy.

The Dripping Dagger

*I use Purdue as an oblique reference to Titanic (1953), in which the analogue to Leo D.’s character is a tennis playing middle-class Dudley Dowright from Purdue. He wears a shirt with a big P on it and introduces himself as “Gifford Rogers, but everyone calls me ‘Giff.’ I go to Purdue. That’s in Indiana.” BTW, in looking up Giff’s name on IMDB, I discover that he was played by a young Robert Wagner.

The Inner Circle

Inner Circle

1946.  Adele Mara and Warren Douglas star in this mystery about a murdered radio gossip columnist.  The moment pictured here is awesome — the detective is duped by the damsel in the veil, and left to take the blame for the corpse on the floor.  She beans him with a bookend.  A fine film, and well worth the price.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

At one point, Johnny Strange, of Action Incorporated, is tangling with some gangsters preparing to tie him up and chuck him off a cliff.  He warns them, “You’re making a boner, York!”  Juvenile tittering commences.

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge

An amusing tale of intrigue, chases on the train, and gunplay. Among the more amusing moments:

  • Drummond’s tired butler gets settled into bed, only to be woken and asked to guard a cabin. Poor butler.
  • Algy (pronounced like the water moss) gets stuck on the train and, in his continual attempts to contact his fiance (whom he accidentally abandoned on the train platform), he moans “Hugh, hugh!”
  • The fiance who keeps telling Drummond he has to give up his exciting life finally backs down at the last minute: “I kinda like the adventure.”

Worth my thirty-eight cents:

When the scientist’s assistant betrays the scientist in order to steal the ‘hexonite,’ he rigs the plane to crash and then prepares to parachute to safety. Preparing to hide his own escape, he pulls a severed hand from his pocket or something and slips his wedding ring onto it. Upon finding the plane, Drummond remarks to his pals that there’s a severed hand lying there, and it’s been dead for hours. Foiled!

I couldn’t help but think of the Big Lebowski and Walter’s declaration that “Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon… with nail polish.”

The Kennel Murder Case

An enjoyable, if forgettable, mystery starring William Powell as Philo Vance, a Thin Man knockoff. I say forgettable because Jenny and I watched this movie twice in the last year, and had virtually no memory of it the second time. On top of that, we had to re-watch the ending because we couldn’t remember who’d done it.

There were some nice moments, though. I enjoyed the cranky sergeant, who seems to fawn over Vance and yet makes wisecracks at every turn. Also, When Vance goes to explain the unbelievably complicated plot of the murder (involving two separate murderers, a wounded man who stumbles up a staircase, a door locked from the inside, three murder weapons, and a Doberman), he illustrates his case with an incredibly detailed model of the two buildings involved. Not only is the model accurate from the outside, it has removable floors with plans that reflect the relationships of the rooms inside. The film makes no nod to the outlandishness of having such a prop available–Awesome.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
I enjoyed the much-harangued coroner, who complains that Vance et al continually interrupt his meals, grouching that a seriously-wounded man “isn’t even dead.” When Vance asks whether the man’s wounds could have been self-inflicted, the doctor barks “I’m the butcher, not a detective.” Then he says, “Don’t call me after three o’clock today. I’m going to the World Series.” As he storms out, the sergeant shouts “Will you call me with updates in between innings?”

Dressed to Kill

Sherlock Holmes film from 1946 that turned on a code hidden within three “musical boxes”. Our favorite detective gets wrapped up in a theft-recovery project and faces off against a female villain to rival Irene Adler (from “A Scandal in Bohemia”).

The dingy tavern where Holmes meets up with a former safecracker and musical genius was particularly striking.  As the scene opens, a lanky fella strolls the stage singing “Ya never know just who you’re going to meet” and Watson scoffs at the den of iniquity Holmes has led him to.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
Holmes listens to the tune played by the “Musical boxes”, which is created through a series of alternating notes that sound nice, but have little discernible melody. Having listened to it once, however, Holmes whistles a tune that’s a solid, single song. The dated sound-dubbing makes the moment hilarious.

The Mysterious Mr. Wong

Of the cheapo 100 mystery movies that I have to watch, the worst are the films from the 1930s. They aren’t bad per se, but the sound quality is usually terrible. It’s like listening to a movie through a closed door.


There’s always something a bit shameful about watching old Hollywood movies in which basic bits of stereotype, as in the Fu Manchu moustache give the actor carte blanche to play whatever race he likes.

The reporter fella in this film is particularly boneheaded, telling his gal to “come on, be a sport” when she wants to go home after the couple has narrowly avoided four murder attempts in as many minutes. On the other hand, he tricks a rival suitor into leaving with a fake offer of free football tickets. Apparently, he knows exactly how much the newspaper telephone operator will be worth to a rival reporter.

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
The dungeon room in Mr. Wong’s lair was delightfully creepy, and his strategy for dealing with busybodies (tying them up) makes no sense to me. Just once I’d like to see a nasty villain who just kills his rivals the moment he has an opportunity to do so.

The Scar

(also called Hollow Triumph) Starring Paul Henreid.

A thoroughly enjoyable film, with excellent film noir twists and characters who betray one another. One key moment in the film revolves around Muller’s doppleganger, Dr. Bartok. The only difference between the two is that Bartok has a scar on his left cheek. Muller takes a photo and imitates the scar by cutting his own cheek. Alas, the man at the photo lab printed the image backward and his scar is on the wrong side. Ha ha!

Worth my thirty-eight cents:
When Muller decides to steal another man’s life and identity. He does so while looking out a window that, in classic noir fashion, faces a blinking neon sign. The shadows of the blinds across his face are lovely, as is most of the film.
paul henreid in the scar

Side note: It turns out Linux DVD players don’t have that pesky crap that keeps you from doing a screen capture. YES.