Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Quick Look: NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959-color)


   NORTH BY NORTHWEST was one of the great Hitchcock "wrong man" thrillers. Enemy agents take Cary Grant to be a secret agent and target him for elimination. Adventure takes off from there. This has always been one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, and it could be argued the film sets the stage for the spy craze which would erupt a few short years later. Indeed, the cast is full of future spy stars, including The Man From UNCLE's Leo G. Carroll, Mission: Impossible's Martin Landau, and Get Smart's Edward Platt! Cary Grant, in fact, was approached to play James Bond, but didn't want to do a series! James Mason was the first choice to play Hugo Drax in MOONRAKER, but that sadly didn't happen. In addition to a cast dripping with familiar faces, the film features one of Bernard Herman's most impressive scores. Of particular note is his pounding main theme, which is enough right there to leave one feeling exhausted! A certified classic, always worth another look.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Quick Look: GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE (1944)


   When it comes to the old East Side Kids movies, GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE was one of the best (that I've seen). It was one of two entries to star Bela Lugosi, the other being SPOOKS RUN WILD. The gang thinks they'll be doing their recently-wed buddy a favor by fixing up the honeymoon cottage he just bought. However, the gang ends up at the house next door, a sprawling residence supposedly haunted and crawling with enemy agents. It's a situation which has been used many a time, but this one exudes all the charm one expects, with the cast in top form. Leo Gorcey, Bobbie Jordan, and Huntz Hall were among the juveniles hired to play a tough street gang in the dramatic play Dead End. When the story was brought to the screen, the kids were carried over. Though a gritty drama meant to cast a critical eye on city slums, the boys had a chemistry that made them, and DEAD END, a hit. Audiences liked the kids, and soon other crime pictures were incorporating "The Dead End Kids" into other gritty crime stories. In time, new kids joined the group and they began headlining movies as The Little Tough Guys. Producer Sam Katzman then took over and created a series of films to star The East Side Kids. These proved highly popular mixtures of comedy and drama, with the kids running afoul of Nazi spies and slum hoods. Finally, Leo Gorcey took over and re-worked the concept into The Bowery Boys. From here, the focus was more and more on laughs, until the series became full fledged comedy. This incarnation lasted through the 1950's, going beyond Gorcey's eventual departure. Huntz Hall carried the remaining films. The movies became popular on television, and in the 1960's, director Ray Steckler paid tribute to the boys with his characters, The Lemon Grove Kids, in a couple of featurettes edited into a feature film I haven't seen yet.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Quick Look: KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977 - color)


   KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS was one of a handful of killer tarantula movies produced in the 70's, and is by far the best of the bunch. William Shatner is a country vet who comes across a mystery. It seems the spiders, particularly tarantulas, have converged on the southwest in atypical cooperation. What's more, with their food sources depleted by insecticides, the spiders have declared war on larger animals -and human beings! One of the best genre movies of the 70's, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS starts small and builds to fever pitch, climaxing with a full assault on the normally quiet town of Verde Valley. Those looking for a good ecological horror movie will be well served to go with this one. Those interested in a good science fiction movie in general, as well as a solid suspenser, will not go home disappointed either!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Neato 50's ad block


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That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. -St. Paul, Romans 10:9-10