The Night Walker (1964)

Directed by William Castle

What’s the problem???

23 August 2002 | by Christopher Mercurio (United States) – See all my reviews

Really, what is the problem? This movie has a great script, a great score, great actors and a great director. There really is nothing to hate about this movie. The Night Walker is similar to William Castle’s other films; like House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler, and this movie is just as creepy. It’s basically about nightmares. Are they nightmares or are they more. Great story line. But there is also a great twist. I rented this movie, but I was at first going to buy it to add to my William Castle collection. I rented it and expected a terrible movie. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t a terrible, but a great horror movie or a great mystery. I especially like the part where Barbara Stanwyck is screaming, “I can’t wake up!” “I can’t wake up!” This is a great movie. See it and you won’t be disappointed.

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Castle Chiller Saved By Its Stars

7/10
Author: phillindholm
17 April 2007

Producer/Director William Castle, famed for his low-budget shockers complete with assorted gimmicks, had by now reached his “Star Stage.” He had featured Vincent Price in two of his films, and in 1964 really scored a coup when he signed Joan Crawford for “Strait- Jacket.” Thanks mostly to her drawing power (she would later do “I Saw What You Did” for Castle) the film was a hit – and her publicity appearances on behalf of it didn’t hurt, either. So, for his next project, Castle signed both Barbara Stanwyck and her initially reluctant ex-husband Robert Taylor to headline “The Night Walker” from a script written by “Strait-Jacket’s” Robert Bloch (who also penned the book “Psycho”).

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In this psychological mystery melodrama, Stanwyck plays the wife of a rich, blind scientist (Hayden Rorke) who suspects her of having an affair. He hires a detective (Lloyd Bochner) to determine whether his wife is only dreaming of a lover or actually has one. Shortly thereafter, he is killed in an explosion, and his now very rich widow is plagued with nightmares in which he is pursuing her (when she’s not dreaming of her mystery lover, that is). Taylor is her late husband’s lawyer whom she turns to for help when her dreams begin to drive her mad. And so goes the plot…

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Most critics saw this as another “Horror Hag” movie, in other words, a lurid yarn featuring a Golden Age star, a cycle which began with “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” (with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) and continued with “Strait-Jacket” (Crawford); “Lady In A Cage” (Olivia De havilland) and Ann Sothern) “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” (Davis, De havilland and Agnes Moorehead) etc. This time around though, the still- beautiful Stanwyck was cast as a victim, rather than a villainess (as most of the veteran actresses ended up playing in these films were) and she generated a good deal of sympathy-(besides being a terrific screamer).

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The supporting players (Bochner, Judi Meredith, Rochelle Hudson and Marjorie Bennett) are capable and game, the production is well photographed and features a truly creepy score from the great Vic Mizzy (“The Addams Family, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”). Famed voice-over king Paul Frees (for some reason credited as ‘Ted Durant’) sets the scene beautifully with a short but effective prologue. What really makes this work, however, are the still-potent talents of Stanwyck and Taylor, both of whom are really better than the material, but give it their all nevertheless. Alas, though profit participant Stanwyck toured with Castle to promote it, “The Night Walker” was a box-office flop, and it would take “Rosemary’s Baby” which Castle only produced, to put him back on top. It’s still an above-average film of it’s type though, and pretty scary to watch alone at night.

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Hitchcock, it’s not. It’s better.

9/10
Author: Pete H. Kanter (KanterTheShark) from Los Osos, Ca–USA
6 October 2001

Without a shadow of a doubt, screenwriter/novelist Robert Bloch (1917 – 1994) will always be best remembered for the 1960 film that made Alfred Hitchcock a household name: “Psycho”; and young Janet Leigh played what small part she had, in The Bates Motel, to the hilton.

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But the four-years-after thriller, “The Night Walker”, which starred an actress who’d already been a star for more than a decade had a story line that haunted its lady in distress, rather than having her killed off after one scream.

Irene Trent (Barbara Stanwyck) was a troubled woman from the very start–having nightmares that seemed so real, she didn’t know the meaning of the word “reality”; and having a literally-blind, eccentric husband (Hayden Rorke)–who was so demanding of her, that we might as well have wished she got away with murder.

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Enter her lawyer and supposed friend, Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor) and a very overbearing “dream lover”, (Lloyd Bochner), and you’ve got the formula for a workable “B” grade drama which, however predictable it might seem, isn’t going to be very predictable at all. Throughout the entire story, there’s a very gradual, even-paced sort of building-up-of-the-plot.

Had Alfred Hitchcock been handed this script, he’d probably have put in a subtle common-thread of humor. And, too, he’d probably have put himself in a cameo shot, in one scene or other. (Which scene that would’ve been would be anyone’s guess: an observer at the wax figure wedding? Maybe he’d have himself under a hair dryer at Irene’s beauty salon.)

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But there was no room for that sort of thing, here. The story moved along on an even keel. Even by the time Irene had the final piece of her personal life’s puzzle in place, the way the very final scene was to pan out was anything but predictable.

William Castle did one royal job, here, for insomniacs everywhere, for many generations to come.

Illegal (1955 )

Director:

Lewis Allen

Cinematography by

J. Peverell Marley

After an overly aggressive district attorney unknowingly sends an innocent man to the chair, he resigns, turns to drinking, and acquires a criminal clientèle.

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Almost Forgotten Noir   *****

2 May 2009 | by jpdoherty (Ireland) – See all my reviews

A remake of Warner’s “The Mouthpiece” (1932) “Illegal” is a substantial half forgotten Noir! Directed for Warners in 1955 by Englishman Lewis Allen it stars Edward G. Robinson as a highly accomplished prosecuting attorney who becomes disillusioned when he learns that the man he was responsible for sending to the electric chair (a young DeForest Kelly) has finally been exonerated and found to be innocent after all. With his reputation now in tatters he hits the bottle ending up on skid row. But he slowly picks himself up from the gutter becomes a defence lawyer and a “fixer” for racketeer Albert Dekker. Robinson is terrific in it! His screen presence – with that soft spoken matter of fact acting style

    • is altogether appealing. This, after “Key Largo” (1948) was his first.

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picture for the studio since his contract ended with them in 1942. And while not being an overly auspicious return it wasn’t a bad one either. Others in the cast are Nina Foch, Hugh Marlowe and making her debut , as Dekker’s moll, the voluptuous Jayne Mansfield with the dubious moniker Angel O’Hara (Dekker auditioning her as she plays the piano glibly declares to Robinson “interesting girl – lives and breaths music!”). A fairly engaging movie, nicely written and sharply photographed in monochrome by Perverell Marley. The studio’s legendary composer Max Steiner provides an attractive score which gives the movie an agreeable pace.

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“Illegal” is the second feature on this excellent DVD that also features RKO’s enjoyable Mitchum Noir “The Big Steal” (1949). A splendid package this fine double bill comes with trailers and commentaries for both movies plus a featurette. Interestingly the commentary on “Illegal” is spoken by the film’s leading lady Nina Foch (she pronounces it Fash) who informs us that she now teaches film directing at USC. Not bad for an 84 year old! Also Robinson is interviewed on set by the ill-fated Gig Young where we learn that Robinson loaned some of his prized and valuable paintings from his famous art collection to the studio for use in the picture. They can readily be seen in the movie in Dekker’s palatial apartment.

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Classic line from “Illegal” – when Robinson warns Dekker not to blame him if the court case goes wrong – Dekker responds “I don’t blame people – I bury ’em”!

Production

During filming Robinson lent his considerable contemporary art collection to the production company. These include some impressionist works by Gauguin, Degas, Duran, and Gladys Lloyd, all of which appear in the film. Because Robinson was also the target of investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee this movie was of a lower budget and caliber than his earlier films.

The film offered a rare serious performance by the future sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield, who went on to star in hits like: The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).

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Critical response.

Film critic Bosley Crowther compared the film to The Asphalt Jungle but thought it was not as good. He wrote, “For one thing, the story of Illegal invades the higher echelons of crime, with a fast-thinking, double-dealing lawyer as the principal character … The fact that this hard-bitten lawyer is played by Edward G. Robinson in his old vein of stinging sarcasm is a clue to what you may expect. But more than this and more than the climate of sordid deceit that is achieved is the fact that Illegal tries to blueprint The Asphalt Jungle’s Marilyn Monroe. You may remember that Miss Monroe’s first screen role was in the latter. She spoke not a word but she went right to work as an adornment in the apartment of the criminal counselor. Well, in Illegal Jayne Mansfield plays precisely the same sort of role in the apartment of Albert Dekker, the big poobah of crime. Miss Mansfield, we might add, is the beauty who is imitating Miss Monroe in a feeble imitation of Once In a Lifetime on the Broadway stage.”

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A Clever Man and a Wrong Move

24 October 2011 | by rpvanderlinden (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

“Illegal” is an intelligent and nimble little crackerjack of a crime thriller starring Edward G. Robinson as a D.A who’s maybe a little too smart – and smart-assed – for his own good. He’s ruthless because his job requires him to be. He wins cases. That’s what he’s paid for. He’s quick of wit and tongue. He’s ambitious, canny and – technically, at least – in compliance with the law. He’s, at heart, a good man, and he’s in the public eye, but he’s not universally well-liked. One day, he sends the wrong man to the chair. And he comes undone.

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This sets in motion a plot that winds and twists without becoming outlandish. The picture, which doesn’t strike me as a “noir”, moves at a nice clip, each of the broad spectrum of characters is painted with a defining brush stroke, and the dialogue is efficient and snappy. It’s the kind of movie that hooks you and hooks you good. It did me.

“Illegal” is, above all, an Edward G. Robinson picture. It doesn’t seem like a star vehicle. Robinson shares the screen with everyone, yet he is such a forceful presence and creates such a complex and complicated character, sympathetic yet warped, you search him out in every scene.

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You want to watch him. He’s magnetic. I’m becoming a real Edward G. Robinson fan on the strength of his 40’s and 50’s films alone, some of them comic reminders of his earlier gangster persona. He’s as good in this movie as he is in “Scarlet Street”, which I saw recently for the first time and which, well… kinda sorta blew my mind. I’ve lived a little and can recognize the truths that some of these lively, well-written B-movies shine a light on.

E.G. Robinson in legal thriller that’s better than its parts, thanks to director Lewis Allen

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
11 August 2002

Illegal puts Edward G. Robinson through more perils than Pauline ever suffered. A tenacious District Attorney on his way to the governor’s mansion, he resigns when a man he had sent to the electric chair proves innocent. But the civil practice he hopes to undertake goes bust, and he takes to the bottle (a plot development which goes nowhere).

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Down and out, he defends a fellow inmate he encounters in a holding cell, and decides to apply his legal acumen to becoming a sharp, high-priced criminal attorney. To get off a guilty client, he grandstands in court by downing a bottle of poison placed in evidence, only to rush off to have his stomach pumped. (This particular ploy was originated by George Brent in 1940’s The Man Who Talked Too Much.) He’s such a brilliant mouthpiece he comes to the attention of civic crime boss Albert Dekker, whose blandishments he tries to resist.

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Meanwhile, back at the D.A.’s office, he’s left behind his protégé Nina Foch (looking matronly), whom he had taken under his wing when her father, an old mentor of his, passed away. Though he harbors romantic feelings for her, he gives his blessing when she announces her marriage to a young, ambitious lawyer, Hugh Marlowe. But a series of leaks from the office concerning Dekker’s activities brings suspicion on all three. Ultimately, Robinson finds himself defending Foch for murder, during which Jayne Mansfield, Dekker’s mistress, sashays to the witness stand in a wasp-waisted black outfit, replete with picture hat…..

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The fast and too complicated plot takes a few pointless and baffling turns. Though on the talky side, there’s a high quotient of gunplay. Still, it’s absorbing. Robinson, still in his early-50s string of B-pictures owing to his guilt-by-association in the wake of the anti-Communist crusade, holds everything together with his bag of old tricks. And credit must go also to director Lewis Allen, who somehow brought a distinctiveness to several of his films which otherwise might have passed unnoticed: Desert Fury, Chicago Deadline, Suddenly. It’s hard to point out just how, but he brought some of it to Illegal, too.

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Solid E.G. Robinson Performance

8/10
Author: gordonl56 from Canada
7 December 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

ILLEGAL – 1955

Illegal is the second remake of the 1932 film, THE MOUTHPIECE. Here, Warner’s lets W.R. Burnett (The Asphalt Jungle)punch up the story and move it up to the 50’s.

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Edward G. Robinson plays a slick D.A. who wins far more cases than he loses. He wins a big one and decides it is time to run for higher office. This idea goes south when the man he sent to the chair, turns out to be innocent. Robinson resigns and takes to the bottle in a big way.

One day, after spending a night in the drunk tank, Robinson helps a man, Jay Adler, beat a murder beef. He decides to dry out and open up a civil practice. He is soon in demand with all the wrong people. Mobster, Albert Dekker hires him to get various mob types off.

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Nina Foch, a friend from his D.A. days is not amused with Robinson’s working for the “dark side”. The new D.A. Edward Platt, is sure that Robinson must have a source inside the D.A.s office. Platt is sure that the source is Miss Foch. Actually, it is Foch’s husband, Hugh Marlowe. Marlowe got in deep with the mob over a large gambling debt. He is paying the debt off by feeding Dekker info on cases.

This arrangement soon ends when wife Foch learns the truth. She ends up shooting hubby Marlowe when he tries to silence her. D.A. Platt, believes that Foch had murdered Marlowe to stop “him” from informing on Foch. She is charged with murder.

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Robinson quickly steps up and takes her case. Needless to say no one believes a word that Foch says. Robinson digs around and comes up with a witness to Dekker and Marlowe being in cahoots. Dekker is not the least bit amused with this, and sends a hit-man to deep six Robinson. Robinson survives the attack and presents his witness, Jayne Mansfield. Mansfield coughs up more than enough evidence to get Foch off and mobster Dekker in deep trouble.

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A quite watchable film noir with Robinson as usual, giving a reliable performance. Foch, Marlowe and Dekker are also good. The hourglass figured Mansfield, in her first billed role, seems to spend all her limited screen time leaning her upper-works into the camera.

The director here, Lewis Allen is in good form as well. His other film noir include, SUDDENLY, DESERT FURY, A BULLET FOR JOEY, APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER and CHICAGO DEADLINE. The sharp looking film was shot by veteran cinematographer, Pev Marley. The two time, Oscar nominated Marley’s work, includes, THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS, LIFE WITH FATHER, PRIDE OF THE MARINES, DRUMBEAT and KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE.

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ILLEGAL (Lewis Allen, 1955) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
4 July 2008

Due to his brush with HUAC, Edward G. Robinson’s career suffered throughout the 1950s; I hadn’t watched that much of his work from this period myself – but have now managed to catch two (coincidentally, both semi-noirs made for the same director) in one day.

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Though actually the second one, this was the superior effort: in fact, I found it to be quite an underrated genre outing – whose courtroom milieu supplies an added treat; for the record, it was the third screen version of a popular play of the 1920s (the others were THE MOUTHPIECE [1932], the best-regarded one, and THE MAN WHO TALKED TOO MUCH [1940]). Robinson is perfectly in his element here as a crusading D.A. who hits the skids after he sends an innocent man (STAR TREK’s DeForrest Kelley!) to the electric chair – trying to pick up the pieces as a common civil lawyer, he falls in with a powerful gangster but is ultimately redeemed (in both senses of the word). At this point, the actor must have relished such a meaty part – particularly one that so vividly recalled some of his earlier vintage work (but most of all BULLETS OR BALLOTS [1936], a Robinson vehicle I watched for the first time only recently and greatly enjoyed, and which also sees him playing on either side of the law).

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The play was here adapted for the screen by two notable scriptwriters, W.R. Burnett (author of LITTLE CAESAR [1930], which had made the star’s name in the first place) and James R. Webb. The supporting cast is also well chosen: Nina Foch as Robinson’s diligent assistant and surrogate daughter, who stays on with the D.A.’s office once the hero is disgraced; Hugh Marlowe as another Robinson aide who loves and subsequently marries Foch; Ellen Corby, one more member of Robinson’s staff but who devotedly sticks with her boss; Albert Dekker as the gangster figure; and a debuting Jayne Mansfield as Dekker’s ‘talented’ moll (her role reminded me of Marilyn Monroe’s celebrated bit in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE [1950], coincidentally drawn from another popular W.R. Burnett novel).

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Eventually, the mole in the D.A.’s office – suspected to be Foch due to her ties with Robinson – is discovered to be Marlowe who, when confronted by Foch, she ends up killing him in self-defense; Robinson defies his boss by taking up her case (protecting himself by secreting evidence that would point the finger at Dekker in the event that something happens to him). Though the film is an atypical noir and contains just one action sequence, Robinson’s unconventional courtroom tactics are at least as entertaining and arresting: knocking out a burly witness to a brawl so as to prove his unreliability; drinking a dose of slow-acting poison himself in order to smash the new D.A.’s case against his client (an associate of Dekker’s); at the end turning up in court mortally wounded to acquit Foch. By the way, a handful of paintings from Robinson’s personal renowned art collection are passed off as Dekker’s in the film!

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Warners’ exemplary DVD – issued as a double-feature, as part of their “Film Noir Collection Vol. 4”, with Don Siegel’s even better THE BIG STEAL (1949) featuring the great team of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer – contains the trailer, an Audio Commentary (an extra I used to lap up in the past but haven’t listened to one in a long time – chiefly due to time constraints and a huge backlog of films!) as well as two featurettes. One discusses the film proper (all-too briefly) and the other a vintage TV piece in black-and-white, hosted by the ubiquitous Gig Young, about courtroomers produced by Warners (with clips from the Oscar-winning THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA [1937] and two ‘brand-new’ efforts – Otto Preminger’s THE COURT-MARTIAL OF BILLY MITCHELL [1955], which I haven’t watched, and, of course, ILLEGAL itself with even a brief contribution from Edward G. Robinson).

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Strait-Jacket (1964)

Directed by William Castle
Cinematography Arthur E. Arling

After a twenty-year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behavior.

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Psycho in Strait-Jacket

6 April 2007 | by andrabem (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

“Strait-Jacket” tells this story: Lucy Habin (Joan Crawford) surprises her husband with another woman. She falls into madness and kills them both, and her daughter sees everything. After spending 20 years in an asylum, she’s is considered recovered and released. She leaves the asylum and goes to live with her daughter. Very simply told this is just the introduction of the film. The rest you can guess but maybe you’ll guess wrong. I said maybe.

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This is an interesting film. It is deceivingly naive but those able to go beyond the story will make their own discoveries. For one thing: “Strait-Jacket” was filmed in 1963 when society was more conservative – social rules and divisions were much more rigid then. There were mainly two choices (especially in small towns and rural areas) – either adapt to society and its straight-jacket or else be an outcast. Why am writing this? Because this is one of my readings of the film.

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Anyway “Strait-Jacket” is a good thriller (not so much for the scares but rather for the atmosphere). Well, it hasn’t the sophistication of some film noirs of the 40s and 50s but its charm resides in its simplicity not deprived of sense of humor. Joan Crawfords acting is of course superb and the supporting cast does also a good job. The story is interesting and will keep your attention till the end.

I’ve seen 2 other Castle films (“The Tingler” and “House on Haunted Hill”) – both of them funny and entertaining, but I think that “Strait-Jacket” is the best one – it is not so amateurish and goes deeper than the other ones, but still preserves the light touch characteristic of William Castle. There are surprises in store. Go for it!

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William Castle Presents Joan Crawford In EMOTE-O-RAMA

7/10
Author: gftbiloxi (gftbiloxi@yahoo.com) from Biloxi, Mississippi
14 May 2005

Like all William Castle films, the story of STRAIT-JACKET is slight, full of holes, and often silly to the point of absurdity. Long ago Joan Crawford came home to find her husband in bed with a floozie and snatched up an ax. Adjudged insane, she is locked up in an asylum for twenty years, but now she’s home–and pretty soon some really weird things begin to happen around the old family farm. Could it be, oh, I don’t know… JOAN? Throughout his career, producer-director William Castle liked to build his movies around gimmicks: TINGLER had “Percepto,” 13 GHOSTS had “Illusion-O,” and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL had “Emergo.” But STRAIT-JACKET had something better: Joan Crawford herself, who plays in a style that can only be described as “Emote-O-Rama.

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” Say what you like about Crawford, she never gave any performance less than one hundred percent, and in STRAIT-JACKET she gives one hundred and fifty. In the opening scenes, 60-something Joan has the unmitigated gall to play Lucy in her 20s! Later, as Lucy in her 40s, Joan plays the role like a nice little old lady who occasionally drops acid: when she’s not busy with her nervous breakdown, she sucks down bourbon, attempts to seduce her daughter’s boyfriend (even to the point of putting her fingers in his mouth), knits like a fiend, lights a cigarette by striking a match on a record album, raises hell at a dinner party… and all of it about as subtle as a bulldozer.

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But they didn’t call her a star for nothing: not only does Crawford manage to carry it off with complete conviction, she actually manages to endow the character with considerable pathos along the way. And I have absolutely no doubt that THIS was the film Faye Dunaway studied the most when preparing to play Crawford in the infamous MOMMIE DEAREST; watch both back-to-back and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

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The rest of the cast is pretty interesting as well, featuring Diane Baker as daughter Carol, Leif Erickson as Crawford’s brother, George Kennedy as an unsavory farmhand, and a very young Lee Majors as the ill-fated husband–not to mention Mitchell Cox, a Pepsi V.P. Joan was favoring at the time. There are cheap special effects (amazing, how she can neatly lop off a head or two with a single blow), Pepsi-Cola product placements, and even some dialogue that would do Ed Woods proud. It’s all campy and bizarre and hilariously weird and ramped up to the nth degree by Crawford’s full-force performance.

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With a somewhat better script and production values, STRAIT-JACKET could easily have matched Bette Davis’ more sophisticated HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE; as it stands, however, it is a cult movie in all caps. The DVD release is very nicely done, with the film itself in excellent condition. A collection of Crawford’s costume tests gives a surprising insight to actress’ personality, and a particularly nice little making-of documentary includes comments from Diane Baker. (Note: don’t watch the documentary, called “Battle-Ax,” until after you’ve seen the film: it’s a spoiler.) Strongly recommended to Castle, Cult, and Crawford fans! Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer.

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Background notes

After the success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Joan Crawford and other older actresses, including Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck, made numerous horror movies throughout the 1960s. Strait-Jacket is one of the more notable examples of the genre sometimes referred to as psycho-biddy or Grande Dame Guignol. During the film’s original release, moviegoers were given little cardboard axes as they entered the theater. At the end of the closing credits, the Columbia logo’s torch-bearing woman is shown in her traditional pose, but decapitated, with her head resting at her feet on her pedestal.

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Reception

Critics disliked the film but praised Crawford’s performance, the general critical consensus being that she was better than the material. Variety noted, “Miss Crawford does well by her role, delivering an animated performance.” Judith Crist commented in the New York Herald Tribune, “…it’s time to get Joan Crawford out of those housedress horror B movies and back into haute couture…this madness-and-murder tale…might have been a thriller, given Class A treatment.” Elaine Rothschild in Films in Review wrote, “…I am full of admiration for Joan Crawford, for even in drek like this she gives a performance.”

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Bosley Crowther, however, wrote a scathing review of both the film and Crawford’s performance in The New York Times, declaring, “Joan Crawford has picked some lemons, some very sour lemons, in her day, but nigh the worst of the lot is “Strait-Jacket…”. He goes on to call the film a “…disgusting piece of claptrap.”

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The film has reasonably high reviews on the Internet Movie Database, with a score of 6.8 out of 10, based on 2,123 votes (February 2013). The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson‘s book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made. The film also maintains an 80% rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 5 reviews.

Assisted by Castle’s promotion gimmicks, including in-person appearances by Crawford, the film was a big hit.TCM

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Crudely effective William Castle schlocker; Crawford’s last hurrah.

6/10
Author: sdiner82 (sdiner82@aol.com) from New York City, USA
15 September 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Following the unexpected smash-hit “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” both Bette Davis & Joan Crawford saw their careers revitalized–as crones in horror films. Davis took the high road (“The Nanny” features one of her finest, most subdued performances.) Crawford apparently took whatever she could get, as witness “Strait-Jacket,” an enormously entertaining low-budget low-class William Castle schlockfest wherein our gal Joanie’s released from prison years after chopping hubby’s block off upon discovering him in bed with another woman.

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When La Crawford is sent home to stay with her daughter (the lovely Diane Baker, whose career had apparently fallen on hard times as well), heads begin to roll again and guess who the cops think is wielding the axe? Like most of Castle’s fright-fests, “Strait-Jacket” is a crude, outrageous (for its time), often genuinely shuddery thriller that does indeed deliver the goods–and benefits immensely from Crawford’s undeniable star-power (whether you’re a fan or not). The isolated farmhouse setting provides a perfectly eerie backdrop for the ghoulish goings-on, the cast includes such pros as Leif Erickson, George Kennedy and Rochelle Hudson, and when the battle-axe starts swinging, the chill-factor is truly alarming.

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The surprise ending is a corker–and such a neat, nasty twist that the exact same gimmick was used four years later when Ms. Crawford journeyed to England to take on the lead in the garishly Technicolored circus thriller “Berserk.” If you’ve seen the latter, you’ll know exactly what I mean, so I shall say no more. Except that, without Miss Crawford, both films could have easily come off as camp hoots. That they don’t is a tribute to this lady’s amazing professionalism. In private life (according to her daughter’s memoir), Joan Crawford may have indeed been the mother-from-hell. In movies, however, she commanded the big screen right up to the bitter end. More power to her!

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Directed by Robert Wise
Cinematography Leo Tover

An alien (Klaatu) with his mighty robot (Gort) land their spacecraft on Cold War-era Earth just after the end of World War II. They bring an important message to the planet that Klaatu wishes to tell to representatives of all nations. However, communication turns out to be difficult, so, after learning something about the natives, Klaatu decides on an alternative approach.

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Patricia Neal has admitted in interviews that she was completely unaware during the filming that the film would turn out so well, and become one of the great science-fiction classics of all time. She assumed it would be just another one of the then-current and rather trashy flying saucer films, and she found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines.

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Development

Producer Julian Blaustein set out to make a film under the working titles of Farewell to the Master and Journey to the World that illustrated the fear and suspicion that characterized the early Cold War and Atomic Age. He reviewed more than 200 science fiction short stories and novels in search of a storyline that could be used, since this film genre was well suited for a metaphorical discussion of such grave issues. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck gave the go-ahead for this project, and Blaustein hired Edmund North to write the screenplay based on elements from Harry Bates’s 1940 short story “Farewell to the Master“. The revised final screenplay was completed on February 21, 1951. Science fiction writer Raymond F. Jones worked as an uncredited adviser.

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Filming

Principal outdoor photography for The Day the Earth Stood Still was shot on the 20th Century Fox sound stages and on its studio back lot (now located in Century City, California), with a second unit shooting background plates and other scenes in Washington D.C. and at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. The shooting schedule was from April 9 to May 23, 1951. The primary actors never traveled to Washington for the making of the film. Robert Wise indicated in the DVD commentary that the War Department refused participation in the film based on a reading of the script. The military equipment shown, however, came from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment then stationed at Ft. Meade which supplied the vehicles, equipment and soldiers for the segments depicting Army operations. One of the tanks in the film bears the “Brave Rifles” insignia of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

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The robot Gort, who serves Klaatu, was played by Lock Martin, who worked as an usher at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and stood seven feet, seven inches tall. Not used to being in such a confining, heat-inducing costume, he worked carefully when wearing the two oversize, laced-up-the-front or -back, foamed neoprene suits needed for creating the illusion on screen of a seamless metallic Gort. Wise decided that Martin’s on-screen shooting time would be limited to half hour intervals, so Martin, with his generally weak constitution, would face no more than minor discomfort. These segments, in turn, were then edited together into film’s final print.

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In a commentary track on DVD, interviewed by fellow director Nicholas Meyer, the director Robert Wise stated that he wanted the film to appear as realistic and believable as possible, in order to drive home the motion picture’s core message against armed conflict in the real world. Also mentioned in the DVD’s documentary interview was the original title for the movie, “The Day the World Stops”. Blaustein said his aim with the film was to promote a “strong United Nations

A Peaceful Message in One of the Brightest Science-Fiction Movies

7 March 2004 | by Claudio Carvalho (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

A flying saucer lands in Washington, and a man, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), brings the preoccupation of other planets with the use of atomic energy and development of spacecraft by people on Earth planet. Further, he brings a message and also a threaten against the danger Earth could cause to other planets: the planet could be destroyed if the people does not live in peace. Any menace to other planets would cause the destruction of the entire planet.

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This classic is one of the best science-fiction movies I have ever seen. The story is very simple, but the message is wonderful. When this film was made, World War II had finished six years ago only, there was the Cold War and the paranoia of the Americans at that time was against the communists. The special effects are excellent for a 1951 movie. In Brazil, this classic movie was not released on VHS or DVD. It is a shame! I have a VHS, having a version dubbed in Portuguese, full of commercial and with a terrible quality of image that I recorded from TV many years ago. Yesterday I watched this video again, and it is really an outstanding movie. My vote is ten.

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Title (Brazil): ‘O Dia Em Que a Terra Parou’ (‘The Day Which the Earth Stopped’)

Obs: 01 March 2006 – Fox do Brasil finally released this DVD in 2005. After so many years, I was able to see one of my favorite sci-fi in the original language and restored image.

A science fiction classic that beautifully melds the ordinary and the fantastic

10/10
Author: J. Spurlin from United States
17 March 2005

This science fiction classic is more relevant than ever, and I don’t mean its silly message about peace. Yes, yes, we’re all violent, silly, war-like humans, and we should all throw away our guns and atomic bombs posthaste if we know what’s good for us. Thanks, Klaatu. We’ll get right on that. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy the chance to watch your story on DVD because we live in an age – yes, of war and cruelty and weapons of mass destruction – but also of Jar Jar Binks and “Alien vs. Predator.”

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Klaatu (Michael Rennie) is a gentlemanly outer-space alien who comes to earth in his flying saucer to send us Earthlings a very important message. Sadly, we shoot him on arrival and try to imprison him in a hospital room. He escapes, however, and goes out among us to find the basis for our “strange, unreasoning attitudes.” He takes a room in a boarding house, where he meets the widowed Mrs. Benson (Patricia Neal) and her young son (Billy Gray). The widow is being romanced by an insurance salesman (Hugh Marlowe), who later displays a lust for glory that endangers Klaatu – and thus the rest of the world. Klaatu is in better hands when he reveals himself to Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), a brilliant scientist and the best hope for the survival of Earth.

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It’s funny, but I never think about this movie in terms of that plot outline. To me, this film is composed of small moments about people – especially Mrs. Benson. Mention “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to me, and the first thing I think about is that moment where the strange new boarder tells her that he’d like to spend the day with her son. She hesitates a moment and says in a lowered voice, “Well, that’s awfully nice of you to suggest it.” It’s a tiny moment about her concern for her son, her good manners and her intelligent ability to reply quickly and diplomatically. Patricia Neal, not Gort the robot, makes this movie come alive for me.

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The real reason this story is so fresh is because – it’s a good story. It’s not an excuse to slap us senseless with fast-paced cutting or drown us in great globs of special effects. It has an engaging plot with warm, interesting characters. If we stupidly (and as you know, Klaatu, we humans can be so very stupid) limit ourselves to the New Releases section of the video store, we forget that some sci-fi thrillers put story before special effects.

The trick work in this movie is excellent, though. I think the robot looks silly, but when Gort opens its visor and we hear that unnerving theremin music, we don’t care that this supposedly metallic creature bends like Styrofoam at the knees. We know those laser beams eyes are about to scorch everything in their sight.

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Michael Rennie makes up for Gort’s deficiencies. He gives what easily could have been a humorless, sanctimonious character a quiet, graceful authority. His slightly otherworldly looks add to the illusion; and Neal as Mrs. Benson completes it by reacting to him with obvious respect – even when she fears him.

Under Robert Wise’s direction, every shot is strikingly composed and brings out the maximum dramatic potential of the story. The sense of rhythm and pacing is beautifully suspenseful. Bernard Herrmann, with the theremin as one of his instruments, gives the movie both a nervous tension and a sense of wonder. And the story is so perfectly constructed that it even gets away with a big speech for a climax.

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What’s the heart of this movie? There’s a bravura sequence where Billy Gray secretly follows Rennie from the boarding house to his spaceship. It’s a simple, wordless scene where the entire team of filmmakers – and that goes double for Herrmann – meld the ordinary and the fantastic. You want a special effect? That’s it.

Simple SF Tale with Profound Message…

Author: Ben Burgraff (cariart) from Las Vegas, Nevada
13 January 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is such a basic Science Fiction story that many first-time viewers have been stunned by the reverence in which it is held. An alien arrives on earth, is misunderstood and is nearly killed, passes a warning to mankind to not carry the weapons of potential nuclear war into space, or face annihilation, then leaves. The FX are minimal, there are no ‘space battles’ or ‘monsters’, even the score, by the legendary composer Bernard Herrmann,

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is simple, lacking the bombast of later ‘epics’. Yet in it’s very simplicity, director Robert Wise has created a tale more timeless and relevant than many other ‘message’-driven SF blockbusters that followed.

Based on Harry Bates’ short story, “Farewell to the Master”, which paints a far less friendly view of our galactic community (Gort, the enforcer robot, is revealed to be the true ‘Master’ of the story, not Klaatu, thus revealing that machines are controlling the Universe), 20th Century Fox and director Wise quickly butted heads on how the film should be presented. Fox envisioned Spencer Tracy as Klaatu, believing that the legendary star’s well-established persona would make the SF elements more ‘understandable’ to audiences.

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Wise scoffed at the notion, arguing that no one would ever believe Tracy was an alien, and searched until he found relative newcomer Michael Rennie, a gaunt, sensitive British actor, whom he felt best suited the Christ-like quality Klaatu had to possess (even the name Klaatu adopted to mingle with humans was ‘Carpenter’). For earth’s greatest scientist (a thinly-disguised Albert Einstein), Wise cast screen veteran Sam Jaffe, which also brought a howl from the studio, as the actor was being investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee, in the midst of their infamous ‘witch hunt’ and blacklisting of Hollywood’s supposed Communist sympathizers. Jaffe proved a perfect choice, however, displaying many of the qualities he would later bring to ‘Dr. Zorba’ on “Ben Casey”.

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Rounding out the cast were popular actress Patricia Neal (still recovering from her failed relationship with Gary Cooper), Hugh Marlowe (fresh from the success of ALL ABOUT EVE), and Billy Gray (who would go on to great success in “Father Knows Best”).

The true casting coup, however, was finding 7-foot Hollywood doorman Lock Martin to portray the robot, Gort. Encased in foam rubber ‘armor’ and ‘lifts’, to bring his height to nearly eight feet (he actually wore two different outfits, as the seam was impossible to hide, and would always have to be on the opposite side to the camera), Martin, who, Wise acknowledged, was not a physically strong man, would occasionally faint from heat exhaustion (if you watch him carefully, during the film, you can actually see moments when he would start to tilt over). The scene where he carries Neal on board the spacecraft was a major achievement for the easily tired giant, and the actress, who was afraid, justifiably, that she might be dropped!

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The filming was, by and large, an enjoyable experience for the cast and crew (although Patricia Neal, in later interviews, said that it was nearly impossible for her to say the film’s famous ‘tag’ phrase, “Klaatu Barrada Nikto”, without breaking into giggles). Everyone knew the end result would be special; Michael Rennie, ten years later, would call the role the most “important” of his career (NBC would even bring him in to host the network premiere of the film, on “Saturday Night at the Movies”).

With it’s anti-war stand, the film was the direct counterpart of the year’s other ‘classic’ SF production, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, the first of Hollywood’s ‘alien invasion’ films. In THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, ‘Mankind’ is the true monster, toying with nuclear weapons, constantly fighting, and willing to kill a peaceful emissary, without allowing him to deliver his message or offer his gifts to the world.

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“Man must grow up, or be destroyed” was a powerful message, in 1951, particularly when Wise panned his camera over Arlington Cemetery, with it’s thousands of headstones, as Klaatu/Carpenter viewed, sadly, the end result of our fixation with warfare.

The message is even more relevant, today, which is why THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL remains a classic.

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You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939)

Director:

Lewis Seiler

Cinematography by

Sol Polito

You Can’t Get Away with Murder is a 1939 crime drama starring Humphrey Bogart and Gale Page. The film was directed by Lewis Seiler and features “Dead End Kid” leader Billy Halop. The movie is one of Bogart’s studio B pictures filmed before his famous breakthrough in High Sierra two years later.

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“Who said anything about crime, this is a business.”

11 January 2006 | by classicsoncall (Florida, New York) – See all my reviews

Billy Halop led the Dead End Kids in three other films that paired them up with Humphrey Bogart – “Dead End” which gave the gang their name, “Crime School”, and the memorable “Angels With Dirty Faces”. Here, Halop co-stars as the conflicted Johnny Stone, a nineteen year old impressionable young man who looks up to petty hood Frank Wilson (Bogey). It’s a fairly typical Warner Brothers era film, taking a dim view of crime and poverty, and makes you stay till the very end to find out whether Johnny can win out over his conscience.

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Bogart’s character is a vile sort, though he takes Johnny under his wing he’s really all for himself. When a botched pawn shop robbery results in the murder of the owner, Wilson plants Johnny’s gun at the scene. But Johnny’s gun was “borrowed” from his sister’s boyfriend, cop Fred Burke (Harvey Stephens), so now Burke is framed for the robbery and the murder. Winding up in Sing Sing prison for an unrelated caper, Johnny spends his entire time agonizing over whether to rat out Wilson or do the right thing.

There’s a great cast of Warner’s B stock players on hand to move the story along. Henry Travers is “Pop” the prison librarian who tries to help Johnny see things straight. Pop’s in for life though we don’t get to know what his crime was. When introduced to Johnny, the P.K. can’t even remember his real name – “Pop will do, I’ll never need another name” – one of the first serious hints to Johnny that maybe a life of crime isn’t such a good thing.

Joe Sawyer, George E. Stone and Harold Huber are all on hand as prison inmates, with Toad (Stone) regularly making book on whether death row inmates will be executed. Huber’s Scappa is totally unrecognizable compared to his roles in the Charlie Chan films of the same era. The one big surprise in the movie, and you’ll recognize his voice before you even see him, is Eddie “Rochester” Anderson in an uncredited role as inmate Sam. He provides a touch of comic relief every time he visits Pop in the library for a new dessert recipe.

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I always get a kick out of these early films for the perspective they give on the value of money. Wilson gets five gallons of gas for ninety cents, while Fred Burke plans on buying a house in Boston with his promotion that carries three hundred dollars a month – Oh for the good old days!

Though “You Can’t Get Away With Murder” winds up being fairly formulaic, it’s still a decent film with a lot of screen time for Halop, and Bogie building up a head of steam for his gangster sizzler “High Sierra”. With only a couple of viewer comments to it’s credit in this forum, the movie deserves a wider audience, especially if you’re a fan of the principal players.

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Bogart plays Frank Wilson, the leader of a gang of local toughs who frames his former buddy Johnnie Stone in a robbery gone bad. When both men wind up in prison, Wilson pays the price with his life. Bogart had remained on this monotonous course, playing small-time thieves, for most of his 1930s career, but reuniting with Raoul Walsh in the following year’s They Drive by Night would kick his conventional career into high gear.

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Soulful, well-acted gangster/prison combo from the mean streets of the Warner Bros.’ lot. Warner Bros.’ Archive Collection, the M.O.D. (manufactured on demand) service that puts out hard-to-find, library, and cult titles, has released You Can’t Get Away With Murder, the 1939 action meller based on a play by real-life Sing Sing Penitentiary Warden Lewis E. Lawes, starring Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, the Dead End Kids‘ Billy Halop, John Litel, and Henry Travers. Not as well known as some of Bogie’s other gangster pics from this period (probably because he’s really only a supporting player here to the excellent Billy Halop), You Can’t Get Away With Murder‘s title doesn’t leave a lot of room for speculation as to where all the criminals are going to wind up at the end of the movie, but as with so many of these Warner urban efforts from this period, it’s fast-paced, exciting, and pleasantly reflective from time to time. An original trailer is included in this super-sharp remastered edition.

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Teen punk Johnny Stone (Billy Halop) wants nothing to do with his pretty sister Madge’s (Gale Page) fiancé, Fred Burke (Harvey Stephens). Good guy Fred, a private security agent, wants to marry Madge and take her to Boston where his boss has promised him a promotion and a raise. Fred’s even willing to get surly Johnny a job there, too. But Johnny ain’t havin’ none of that, see; he thinks Fred is just shining him on to keep Madge sweet, and no hard-working goody-two shoes is going to make a mug outta him. To Johnny’s way of thinking, local gangster Frank Wilson (Humphrey Bogart) has it all figured out. Having never served a day in jail, smooth, vicious criminal Frank feeds Johnny’s anti-social beliefs (beliefs that Madge forgives, considering that’s all Johnny ever experienced in the slums), eventually taking him under his wing one night to help him stick up a gas station.

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Now Johnny’s got a fistful of cash and a new suit the “easy” way, and Madge is terrified at what will happen to her baby brother. But Johnny’s got the fever, see, and he’s going with Frank all the way. The only problem is, Frank isn’t just a thief, he’s a killer, too, and when Frank zaps a pawn shop owner, he plants Fred’s gun―which Johnny stole and which Frank took away from the kid―on the body. Fred’s arrested for murder, and then convicted, and Johnny’s conscience begins to bother him, particularly when he sees how devastated Madge is at losing her husband. When Frank and Johnny are busted for the gas station stick-up, they wind up in the same prison where Fred is brought for execution, so now Johnny only has a few months to decide whether or not he’s gonna squeal on Frank…with Frank trying to decide when’s the best time to off his unsteady, dangerous pupil in crime.

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It’s been years since I last saw You Can’t Get Away With Murder (I’ll bet the last time was on Bill Kennedy at the Movies!), but I was surprised at how much of it came back to me, and how well it played today, despite less-than-glowing reviews (then and now). Anyone who grew up on these Warner Bros. crime mellers will immediately recognize the conventions of their house style: the quick, fast cutting (accompanied by the blaring, dramatic music cues); the then-up to date colloquialisms and slang; the evocative chiaroscuro lighting, the grimy, realistic sets; the threat of sudden violence simmering below the surface of a topical, punchy social subject (the threat to slum teens from charismatic gangsterism here). No one did these kinds of movies better than Warner Bros. (just as nobody did better musicals at the time than M-G-M, nor horror pictures better than Universal, nor comedies better than Paramount), and while You Can’t Get Away With Murder is rarely if at all mentioned as a notable Bogart picture―let alone an important example of the gangster or prison genre―it’s consistently entertaining in that assured, ultra-professional (and perhaps just a tad “anonymous”) studio/factory way of filmmaking from this period.

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Journeyman director (and that’s not an insult in my book) Lewis Seiler had already twice worked with Warner Bros.’ new acquisition, The Dead End Kids, in Crime School and Hell’s Kitchen…right before Warners dropped their option (either reported hijinks on the lot or nervousness about their sustained popularity, as I’ve read it). So Seiler was attuned to working with the talented Billy Halop (as were co-stars Bogart and Gale Page, who also starred with the Broadway sensations in separate projects, including Crime School and the classic Angles With Dirty Faces). Based on a play co-written by former Sing Sing Penitentiary Warden Lewis E. Lawes (he apparently was famous enough for his picture to featured in the movie’s trailer), You Can’t Get Away With Murder‘s team of scripters, Robert Buckner (Yankee Doodle Dandy, Santa Fe Trail, Dodge City, Knute Rockne, All-American), Don Ryan (Smart Blonde, Devil’s Island), and Kenneth Gamet (the Nancy Drew series, Wake of the Red Witch, Flying Leathernecks)―and any other anonymous scribes not credited in the end―stay true to the Warner crime meller formula here, juicing up its ripped-from-the-headlines story with bursts of violence and snappy dialogue, throwing out some Depression-era populist grumblings about Wall Street as well as some sociological “nature/nurture” musings before dispatching the guilty with Production Code-approved Old Testament morality.

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Indeed, the Code may have been firmly in place by 1939, but the screenwriters of these studio efforts could always find some way to slip in something racy, such as department store worker Madge’s friend, Peg (Gertrude Short), alluding to her boss’ pick-up line at the Underwear Department: “I told him, ‘There ain’t nothing you can tell me about B.V.D.s'” (you could also have a lot of fun in a term paper making a case for the veiled push-me/pull-you homosexual triangle that the scripters ever-so-slightly hint at with Bogie, Halop and Henry Travers). The rest of You Can’t Get Away With Murder sticks pretty closely to Warner’s formula for this time, from the occasional heavy-handed symbolism for the female viewers watching (shopgirl Madge works in the luggage department…and wants to escape to anywhere, yearning for the suburban good life that Fred can give her), to then-popular sociological “nurture” excuses about criminal behavior patterns that the liberal Warner Bros. frequently embraced in these crime mellers (Madge defends Johnny gravitating towards Frank because all he’s ever known in his life is “poverty, cheapness, and gangs”). But this is 1930s liberalism, not today’s brand, and Johnny’s sneering rejection of working hard to get ahead and the ethos of “try, try again”-ism, is going to land his ass in trouble fast.

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Bogie’s cocksure gangster Frank is set-up to be admired by the audience just as Robinson’s Little Caesar and Cagney’s Public Enemy were at the beginning of the decade (with his top billing, we expect Bogie to run this show). He’s the new kind of “smart hood,” apparently, who sees crime as a business first, with government statistics about likelihood of getting caught, and likelihood of getting convicted, used to convince Johnny that crime indeed does pay if you bet on the percentages. He pays his taxes to throw the Feds off his scent, and his “all it takes is brains and nerve” motto puts the emphasis first on strategy and cunning (which he shows when in a flash, he plants Fred’s gun on the murdered pawn store owner’s body, simultaneously letting himself off the hook and fingering Fred, who Frank swore he would get even with for slapping the gangster). And just for good measure, he throws in a moral justification equivalency about Wall Street bankers “having their hands in everyone’s pockets,” to seal the deal with pissed-off Depression audiences. Yet almost immediately, the scripters take Bogie’s seemingly Robin Hood-ish populist gangster and show him up for his true colors: a vicious, amoral killer who will hound and ride Johnny to keep his secret safe…and then polish him, too, when it’s expedient.

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When You Can’t Get Away With Murder switches allegiance to Johnny, the movie because quite reflective and soulful…for a Warner’s gangster/prison “B,” with a genuine amount of suspense―both cinematic and moral―generated as we watch Johnny gradually lose his nut trying to justify his silence that will kill the wrongfully accused Fred in the electric chair. There are numerous scenes with Halop where the moral implications of his silence are debated, and pushed, and thrown back at his confessors, with director Seiler going in tight on Halop as he struggles with his impossible dilemma: rat out Bogie and become an accessory to murder (dead either by a “stream of electric juice” or a shiv from Bogie), or let Fred fry for a murder he didn’t commit…and live with the guilt that he destroyed not only Fred, but his sister’s life, too. A big surprise for me was how well Halop comes over in these scenes. It’s an intense portrayal of anguished indecision and moral vacillation and it’s surprisingly varied, technically.

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As for Bogie, he’s excellent, as well, playing a gangster yet again who shows absolutely no remorse for the killing he’s done…or the killings he’s planning (he appeared four times as a gangster in 1939 alone…and he certainly wasn’t happy about it at this point in his career). You Can’t Get Away With Murder was one of seven films Bogart had in release for 1939 (another gripe he had: his sausage-grinder shooting schedules), when Warners was throwing him as a supporting player into anything they had on their production roster, including his only (improbable) ventures into the Western and horror genre―The Oklahoma Kid and The Return of Doctor X―that same year, too.

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It would take another two years of slogging through B-supporting roles before he landed the one-two leading man punch of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon in 1941, permanently elevating him into Hollywood’s top star ranks. That’s when the Bogie we now know best came into being―the wounded, cynical, romantic anti-hero hiding his idealism deep down inside himself―but I must say I have a fondness, too, for the earlier Bogie of films like You Can’t Get Away With Murder, where his clipped, nasty shorthand for the violent, amoral killers he portrayed matched up perfectly with the frameworks of the fast-paced, exciting B-programmers routinely churned out by Warners.

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Final Thoughts:
Typical slam-bang Warner Bros. gangster/prison meller…but with a decidedly reflective, moody undercurrent. Humphrey Bogart may be top-billed, but his usual skill at portraying an amoral psychotic killer takes a supporting player backseat to Dead End Kid Billy Halop’s excellent portrayal of a punk kid tortured by a life-and-death decision. “B” moviemaking at its most efficient…and effective. I’m highly recommending You Can’t Get Away With Murder.

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. The supporting cast features Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson‘s 1939 play of the same name, which played on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.

The script was adapted from a 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson. In the play, the gangsters are Mexican bandidos, the war in question is the Spanish Civil War, and Frank is a disgraced deserter who dies at the end.

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Robinson had top billing over Bogart in their four previous films together: Bullets or Ballots (1936), Kid Galahad (1937), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) and Brother Orchid (1940). For this movie, however, Robinson’s name appears to the right of Bogart’s, but placed a little higher on the posters, and also in the film’s opening credits, to indicate Robinson’s near-equal status. Robinson’s image was also markedly larger and centered on the original poster, with Bogart relegated to the background. In the film’s trailer, Bogart is repeatedly mentioned first but Robinson’s name is listed above Bogart’s in a cast list at the end.

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Exterior shots of the hurricane were taken from stock footage used in Night Unto Night, a Ronald Reagan melodrama which Warner Bros. also produced in 1948.

The boat used by Rocco’s gang to depart Key Largo, with Bogart’s character at the helm, is named the Santana, which was also the name of Bogart’s personal 55-foot (17 m) sailing yacht.

Phoenix: The Hero Reborn From His Ashes

29 June 2015 | by garthbarnes-83945 (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

The film is about Frank. He returns from the war disillusioned and depressed both from the horrors he has endured and the lies he was told. Remember why he is here, he has come to tell his best friends’ relatives how he died. If you do not understand Frank, his actions will seem bizarre and inexplicable.

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Once Rocco’s gang takes over, and everyone realizes they are prisoners there, Nora looks to Frank to save them. Frank gives a little speech, the point of which is, he went through hell trying to rid the world of Johnny Rocco’s and here is another one right in front of him. James tries to tell Nora that no man who went through what Frank did could possibly be a coward. Nora snaps, and unleashes a tirade on him about what a pathetic coward he is. Rocco will tolerate no challenges not even verbal. His reaction is to try and bait him into letting Rocco shoot him. Nora tries to convince herself Frank knew the gun was empty. When she discovers he didn’t that is when she goes postal on him. The movie follows Frank learning to care again. As Rocco, becomes more and more cruel to everyone around him. Frank begins to hate him and the old Frank is on his way back.

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The scene where Rocco makes Gaye sing for her drink is one of the saddest scenes on film. This is the fate of the moll who has outlived her usefulness, now she is discarded like garbage. When Johnny says,”You stink,” Faye answers,”Johnny you’re as mean as can be.” It won Trevor the Oscar; she earned it what a powerful scene. There is a parallel here to Treasure of Sierra Madre, watch as the storm grows, like the fire in Madre, how Rocco gets more and more frightened. Mr. Temple starts praying for divine retribution and almost gets shot by Rocco. Gradually, the film builds to the decision point. They all urge Frank to run; it is a death sentence for sure. Frank hesitates, you can see the anguish on his face, he is through running. He climbs aboard with the gun Gaye gave him secreted away. He is not the same docile, nihilistic Frank who gave that speech at the beginning. He has decided no more Johnny Roccos. The cruelty and evil of the man brought Frank back to his senses.

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Huston pulls no punches, Frank is almost killed several times, and gets a serious wound for his trouble. Rocco is portrayed as a mendacious, cowardly, cruel monster. This was before villains were heroes like in today’s movies. See how strong the normative structure of the country was back there. When Frank returns, with the fog dissipating and the sun rising behind him, both beautiful existential metaphors, the message is unmistakable; the hero has returned. What gives the movie its power is the struggle within Frank to find the hero buried under all that suffering and disillusionment. As the music ascends, and Nora rushes to meet him, his nobility reminds all of us that it is within each of us. It just has to be brought up and out with courage. A GREAT MOVIE.

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shock value

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
2 April 2004

My favorite Bogart movie is also Key Largo. Even before Edward G. Robinson and his hoods take everyone hostage in Lionel Barrymore’s hotel there is a tension that does not let up for one second. Movie goers had to be on the edge of their seats in 1948.

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There is one scene however that I don’t think viewers today can fully appreciate. Lionel Barrymore had been acting from a wheelchair for 10 years and movie audiences were used to that. When Robinson and his goons goad him to a futile gesture of bravado, Barrymore rises from that chair and moves slowly towards the snickering Robinson. He swings and misses and falls down and Bogey and Bacall pick up Barrymore and bring him back to his wheelchair. The shock value of that scene for 1948 audiences would have a dimension that can’t be appreciated now.

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Robinson’s Johnny Rocco is based on Lucky Luciano who had been deported a few years back. He’s evil incarnate and Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud is the jaded, cynical former idealist who redeems himself and becomes the countervailing force for good. They play well against each other in a reverse from the 1930s Warner gangster flicks where Robinson was usually the good guy.

Who could have known this would be the fourth, last, and best of the Bogey and Bacall teamings.

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Edward G. Robinson at this best

8/10
Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
21 June 2004

Key Largo is just one of John Huston’s many memorable films that somehow always seem to transcend the intention–the Hollywood intention being to make a few bucks–and to this day still plays very well and indeed appears as something close to a work of art. It features what I think is one of Edward G. Robinson’s finest performances as Johnny Rocco, a sociopathic gangster holding the off-season personnel of a seaside hotel hostage as he concludes a counterfeit money deal.

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The story begins as Major Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) pays a visit to the family of one of his G.I. buddies who was killed in Italy during WWII. He finds the welcome from the hotel’s only “guests” chilly except for Gaye Dawn (a funny and perhaps prescient Hollywood stage name) played by Claire Trevor who is drunk and befriends him. After a bit McCloud discovers that the hotel’s owner Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her invalid father-in-law James Temple (Lionel Barrymore) have been tricked into allowing Rocco’s gang to stay and now, as a tropical storm begins to blow, are being held at gunpoint. McCloud’s delicate task is to keep the megalomaniac and murderous personality of Rocco under some control so that he doesn’t murder everyone.

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Note that this is a splendid cast, and they all do a good job. Note too that Huston adapted this from a play by the versatile American playwright Maxwell Anderson. So the ingredients for a good film are clearly in place; and aside from some self-conscious mishmash with the Seminoles of Florida, this is a success. Anderson’s desire to explore the psychopathic personality (some years later he adapted William March’s novel The Bad Seed into a stage play) finds realization in Huston’s direction and especially in Robinson’s indelible performance. The utter disregard for the lives of others and the obsessive love of self that characterize the sociopath reek from the snares and callous laughter of the very sick Johnny Rocco. I especially liked the crazed and thrilled grin on his face when he emerges from the hold of the boat in the climactic scene, gun in hand, imagining that he has once again fooled his adversaries and is about to delightfully shoot Humphrey Bogart to death.

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What I loved about this scene was that Huston did not think it necessary to contrive a fight in which the good guy (Bogart) beats the bad guy by fighting fair. What happens is exactly what should happen, and without regard for the fine points of Marquis of Queensberry-type rules. Also good is Rocco beginning to sweat in fear of his life as the storm moves in while Bogey gives us his famous laugh and grin as he assesses the essential cowardice of the petty gangster.

Lauren Bacall, in one of her more modest roles, does a lot without saying much, and Lionel Barrymore is very good as the cantankerous old guy in a wheelchair. Claire Trevor actually won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her work, and she was good as the alcoholic moll with a heart of gold. Robinson won nothing, but he really dominated the picture and demonstrated why he was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.

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Bottom line: watch this to see the gangster yarn meld into film noir with overtones of the psychoanalytical drama that characterized many of the black and white Hollywood films of the forties and early fifties.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book “Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can’t Believe I Swallowed the Remote!” Get it at Amazon!)

Key Largo (1948)


One of Bogart’s, Bacall’s & Robinson’s best.

10/10
Author: Paul Browne from Oldham, England.
5 February 2005

Basically this film is almost like a play. The whole story is more or less (apart from the ending) shot in a rustic Florida hotel. A great location and setting, a real credit to John Huston.

 

In short, Frank McCloud (Bogart) an ex war hero and living at no-fixed-address, visits (by request) his dead war buddy’s father (barrymore) & widow (Bacall). As he arrives, it doesn’t take long for Frank to work out the Hotel is temporarily hostage to a big mob gangster – Rocco (robinson) and his cronies.

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The film instantly grabs you, it looks beautiful, there is a lot of substance and well thought out scripts, nothing glamorous or smart, just very good story telling. A good side line to the story, are the Native American clan, who due to an approaching hurricane need to find shelter, their plight is placed nicely into the story. There is a scene in which Bacall introduces Bogart to the oldest member of the clan, a 100 and something year old Native woman which is just so genuine, I still don’t believe this woman was an actress, Huston must have improvised this into the script.

Not only is Bogart superb in this, but also the whole cast. It goes without saying Edward G Robinson’s performance was second to none as to was – his right hand man (Harry Lewis I think), Bacall & Rocco’s girlfriend – Ziggy..pretty much the entire cast.

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The whole thing ties up well, without Spoilers it does have a great ending. This is a must not just for Bogie fans but for anyone who can appreciate an intelligent film.

-Paul Browne.

Enduring Warner Gangster Melodrama.

8/10
Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
5 June 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the finest of the great gangster melodramas KEY LARGO is still a firm favourite with fans and cultists alike. Produced by Jerry Wald in 1948 for Warner Bros.

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it was based on the stage play by Maxwell Anderson and was beautifully written for the screen by Richard Brooks and John Huston. Stunningly photographed in low key black & white by Karl Freund it was expertly directed with his customary flair by Huston. The cast assembled couldn’t be better with Humphrey Bogart delivering one of his very best subdued performances and arguably being almost eclipsed by a riveting Ed. G. Robinson. The rest of the small cast is fleshed out with Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Thomas Gomez. And complimenting the on screen proceedings is the splendid music by the tireless Max Steiner who provided one of his best forties scores.

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It is 1946, the war in Europe is over and a returning GI (Humphrey Bogart) arrives at The Largo Hotel in Key Largo. Asked who he is Bogart coolly replies “McCloud, Frank by John out of Helen”. He is here to meet with the hotel owner John Temple (Lionel Barrymore) to talk about the death of his son George Temple and how he lost his life in combat in Italy saving his unit. But McCloud notices that also staying in the hotel are a undesirable crowd of sinister looking characters. It’s not long before he learns that they are a gang of mobsters led by an abrasive deported racketeer – the infamous Johnny Rocco (Robinson). When McCloud reveals who Rocco is and lists his many illegal and crooked enterprises the aging wheelchair bound John Temple gloweringly chides him “You Filth” which elicits little more than a snigger from Rocco. Then the gang declare themselves and display their violent ways (they murder the deputy sheriff) and make known their intention to force McCloud to sail them to Cuba. However after Rocco’s moll (Claire Trevor) slips McCloud a gun he takes them on in a surprise move out at sea which makes for an intense and exciting sequence. The picture ends with McCloud’s dispatch of the baddies and turning the boat around he heads back to Key Largo and The Largo Hotel where a new life awaits him.

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With some remarkable ensemble playing performances are top notch. Bogart gives one of his best portrayals in a likable reserved manner. Here proving yet again that he remains one of the most enduring icons of the silver screen. But there’s little doubt KEY LARGO is Robinson’s picture! His snarling and totally mean spirited Rocco is the best thing he has ever done. Good too are those in support especially Lionel Barrymore as the irascible aging hotelier, Lauren Bacall as Nora his daughter in-law and Claire Trevor giving a great turn as Rocco’s moll in her Acadamy Award winning best supporting actress performance.

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And holding the whole thing together is Max Steiner’s great score. His main theme is a lovely gentle anthem-like cue which points up the sadness of George Temple’s death in the war and the loneliness now felt without him by his father and widow Nora. Also heard are some great action cues and an appropriate swirling piece for the Hurricane sequence. 1948 was a bumper year for the busy composer. In twelve months the man scored an unprecedented eleven films which included such amazing classics as “Treasure Of The Sierra Madre”, “Johnny Belinda”, “Silver River” the exceptional “The Adventures Of Don Juan” and of course KEY LARGO.

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KEY LARGO remains a memorable and enduring classic from Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the tradition of the great noirs it exudes an engaging dramatic thrust throughout and an all encompassing intensity rarely felt in movies today. John Huston demonstrated yet again his prowess as one of film’s outstanding directors and with his inspired casting in KEY LARGO the movie will forever maintain its appeal as long as there are movies and a place to screen them..

Footnote: It is interesting to note that the boat used in the final sequence was Bogart’s own boat “The Santana”.

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The African Queen (1951)

Cinematography Jack Cardiff
Directed by John Huston
In Africa during World War I, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.
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entertaining but overrated
11 February 2005 | by tolbs1010 (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

The African Queen is an entertaining film done in grand old Hollywood style, and it is probably the most conventional movie John Huston ever made. It’s surprising though that people can call this movie one of the greatest of all time considering the hokey (and at times unbelievable) script and the awkward lack of chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn. Actually, that lack of chemistry creates some strangely funny moments which change the tone of this adventure story–sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The two are never really believable as the characters they are playing, but they are still fun to watch as a couple of stars chewing up the scenery.

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Bogart’s Academy Award for this performance is obviously a Revlon choice in that it makes up for his being overlooked for at least 10 better performances that he gave prior to this one. Huston’s direction seems to lose focus in the last 10 minutes or so and the ending is very abrupt, but overall the film is briskly paced and painless. Also worth noting is the wonderful use of African locations as photographed by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff. If you want to see a better film with similar themes, check out Huston’s far superior Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.

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Don’t Take This One For Granted

10/10
Author: gftbiloxi (gftbiloxi@yahoo.com) from Biloxi, Mississippi
3 June 2005

THE African QUEEN is probably one of the most widely available films in the world, on sale in the electronics department of virtually every major retail chain, a commonplace at every rental counter, frequently seen on television. It is hard to imagine any one in the western world, especially in the United States, who has not seen the film at least once–and probably more than once. And so we take it for granted.

That is a mistake. Based on the famous C.S. Forester novel, which it follows quite closely, THE African QUEEN is the simple story of pragmatic river-rat Charlie Allnut (Bogart) and high-minded Methodist missionary spinster Rose Sayer (Hepburn) who are thrown together by chance when German troops sweep through Africa during World War I. Once safely aboard his beat-up riverboat “The African Queen,” Allnut desires nothing more than to dodge the Germans until war’s end; Rose, however, determines to strike a blow against the Germans by sailing the boat downriver to attack a German battleship.

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There are so many fine things about this movie that they are hard to innumerate. Filmed on location in the Congo, the cinematography is remarkably fine without being obtrusive; the script, which is at once subtle and very purposeful, has a remarkably natural tone; the two stars–who play the vast majority of the film alone together–give justly famous performances; and Huston’s direction is so fine that we never feel even the slightest hint of directorial manipulation. As an adventure, it has a sense of realism that most adventure stories lack; as a character study it is remarkably detailed and finely wrought; as a love story, it is quite touching without engaging in common sentimentality. And it can be enjoyed by many people of diverse backgrounds and ages without the faintest qualm.

If you haven’t seen THE African QUEEN in a while (or heaven forbid never seen it at all) don’t take it for granted thinking you’ll catch it sooner or later. Sit down with the film and watch it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer.

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Bogie Deserved It

Author: Brian Washington (Sargebri@att.net) from Los Angeles, California
14 January 2004

To me this film will always be the validation of Humphrey Bogart’s long and distinguished career. His portrayal of the hard drinking Charlie was what made this film what it was. Also, he showed just how great an actor he was when he was able to match up against the woman who is generally considered to be the greatest actress in film history, Katherine Hepburn. Also, this film will always be recognized for having the perfect mix of action, romance and comedy and it will always be a classic.

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A successful mixture of comedy, character and adventure

10/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
28 August 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“The African Queen” was Bogart’s fourth film to be directed by John Huston and his performance in it was very likely the best in his career as well as one which finally won him an Academy Award… He beat out Marlon Brando, who was heavily favored to win for “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The screenplay by Huston and the celebrated movie critic-writer, James Agee, matched Bogart with Katherine Hepburn in what amounted to a two-star tour de force in a deeply touching romance linked to adventures and heroics…

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Bogart and Hepburn were delightful as they infused their personal conflict with a warmth, humor, and tenderness rarely seen in films… Mixing comedy and adventure, it was a two-character film, in which Hepburn gave a fine demonstration of her ability to develop within a role… The sensitive interaction between her and Bogart (in an unfamiliar guise) undoubtedly benefited from her many films with Tracy…

Bogart was given a rare opportunity to demonstrate his range as an actor, more than holding his own opposite the formidable Hepburn… He played many scenes with maximum effectiveness, down impossible rapids, where he becomes covered with leeches and suffers a severe fever attack, his drunk scene where he rebels against Hepburn and mocks her high-blown speeches, and the tender moments in which he realizes he’s fallen under her bewitching spell…

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“The African Queen” was not an easy film to make, most of it being done on location in the insect-infested, suffocatingly hot and humid African Congo… But the result was a brilliantly entertaining film, a successful mixture of comedy, character and adventure…

Love Isn’t Just For the Young

10/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
18 June 2005

The African Queen is a significant historical film in two respects. Along with King Solomon’s Mines it was the first American film to show the real Africa to the American public. Previously our ideas about Africa were gleaned from studio backlot jungles created for Tarzan films and the like. The African Queen changed all that, no cheap studio sets would do any more.

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But also, The African Queen dealt with romance among mature adults in their forties. A ne’er do well river pilot on a ramshackle boat and the spinster sister of a missionary, thrown together by the circumstance of war.

Humphrey Bogart, our intrepid river pilot, makes a scheduled stop to deliver mail to the mission run by Robert Morley and Katharine Hepburn. And he breaks the news to them that World War I has started. Almost as soon as he leaves them, German troops from East Africa come to call. Bogie comes back and he finds Kate with her dead brother. They bury him and skedaddle. And while skedaddling they conceive of a cockeyed plan to help in the war effort.

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To say what it is and what happens would spoil the story, but let me say this. The original opening of the film with Bogart coming in as church services are being conducted for a few hundred uncomprehending native Africans is Director John Huston’s comment on the usefulness of the lives Morley and Hepburn have led up to that point. What Hepburn and Bogart accomplish by the end of the film makes up for the waste that was Hepburn’s life.

But The African Queen is a great romance as well. Bogart became a great romantic star in Casablanca and he upholds the tradition here, winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. Katie Hepburn doesn’t seem to miss her usual partner Spencer Tracy not a bit, the part of Rose Sayer is a perfect fit. As was remarked, they’re going to have stories to tell their grandkids.

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When I watch The African Queen I’m reminded of what Bogart’s friend Frank Sinatra sang in one of his best ballads about how Love Isn’t Just For the Young. Kate and Bogie sure prove it here.

Out of Africa with Bogey and Kate

9/10
Author: gaityr from United Kingdom
6 February 2002

This is one of those films whose special effects and scenery must have been astounding at the time (1951), but which seem mediocre at best today. BUT, and that’s a big ‘but’, this does not detract from the greatness of the movie overall. The scenery truly is beautiful, for one thing–and the direction and cinematography is great.

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However, what truly makes this film a classic, and deservedly so, is the performances given by the lead actors. For their one film together, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn pull out all the stops. Bogart is crude, dirty and a low-life river-rat with a heart of gold. He gives the Oscar-winning performance of his lifetime. Hepburn is prim and prissy, but always manages to win us over with her radiance and vulnerability, as well as that core of steel and strength she lends to all her on-screen characters. He’s charming, in his way; she’s achingly beautiful in hers. You can’t help but warm to Charlie and Rosie, and truly, genuinely root for them to get together.

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The ending is predictable; all ‘opposites-attract’ romance adventure stories are. You know without a doubt that the sunset will be there for Charlie and Rosie to ride off (or swim) into together. But you still hurt when Charlie hurts; and you still smile like a fool when he sees Rose, and when he tries to explain her forthrightness away by jungle fever. You believe the love, and that’s what the African Queen is all about.

Oh, and the gin and leech scenes, of course. Those are brilliant, as everyone else here has already mentioned! 😉

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The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cinematography Jack Cardiff

At Maria Vargas’ funeral, several people recall who she was and the impact she had on them. Harry Dawes was a not very successful writer/director when he and movie producer Kirk Edwards scouted her at a shabby nightclub where she worked as a flamenco dancer. He convinces her to take a chance on acting and her first film is a huge hit. PR man Oscar Muldoon remembers when Maria was in court supporting her father who was accused of murdering her mother. It was Maria’s testimony that got him off and she was a bigger star than ever.

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According to Turner Classic Movies, Mankiewicz based the film’s central character of Maria Vargas on American movie star and dancer Rita Hayworth, who had been married to Prince Aly Khan. According to the audio commentary on the 1931 film Tabu, she was based on Anne Chevalier, an actress in that film.

Although The Barefoot Contessa is considered one of Mankiewicz’s most glamorous “Hollywood” films, and one of the most glamorous of Golden Hollywood,  The Barefoot Contessa was shot at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Italy. Exterior scenes were shot at Tivoli (the olive grove), Sanremo, and Portofino. However, Bogart wasn’t on location at Sanremo. The studio was about to release the film’s poster with no image of Bogart, a contractual violation. Bogart had the matter rectified with the addition of a large line drawing of his face.

The film’s Italian production was part of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” phenomenon.

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The film was praised by many critics for its extravagance, which earned the director many new admirers. Saturday Review called Ava Gardner “one of the most breathtaking creatures on earth”.Some critics disapproved of the film; the book Feature Cinema in the 20th Century: Volume One: 1913–1950: a Comprehensive Guide called the film “dreadful”, remarking that Mankiewicz’s “intelligence and ambitious aims too often collide with an astonishing lack of subtlety and aesthetic judgment”. Bosley Crowther called it a “grotesque barren film” about the “glittering and graceless behavior of the Hollywood-international set.

However, Francois Truffaut wrote, “…what is beyond doubt is its total sincerity, novelty, daring, and fascination … I myself accept and value it for its freshness, intelligence, and beauty … A subtle and intelligent film, beautifully directed and acted.  It currently holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on eight reviews.

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Anthony Quinn, Ava Gardner and Edmond O’Brien on the set of The Barefoot Contessa  (Below)

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What exactly was Rossano Brazzi’s sexual problem? How does an uneducated peasant woman speak as if she were an English professor?

13 November 2010 | by mauricebarringer (United States) – See all my reviews

(I want to preface my review by stating that I have posted many reviews and am a positive and fair minded critic. This is by far the most negative one I have ever written.)

(I also thoroughly appreciated the excellent commentary by John Holder on page 1 of “hated it.” I have seen 2400 films in my 64 years and this is one of the top 10 worse big budget so-called A level films I have ever seen.)

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This is the second time Ava Gardner has appeared in a film where her husband or lover has somehow lost his penis or else lost its use. This was the problem in the Hemmingway classic novel “The Sun Also Rises” that was made into a film in 1958 when Jake Barnes (played by Tyrone Power) either had Mr. Johnson shot off in WWI or else had it so damaged that he could not use it.

I did not understand what happened to Ava Gardner’s husband (Rossano Brazzi) in “The Barefoot Contessa.” Was his penis shot off? Did he have PTSD(shell shock in those days)? Did it get damaged and cause him to become impotent? Was he gay? Was he a latent homosexual who found out that Ava could not satisfy him? Talk about a hard luck dame (1950s language).

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No writer has mentioned that Ava’s character was an uneducated peasant woman who did not even have an elementary school education yet she spoke as if she were a college English professor. Talk about stilted language, this takes the cake.

The scene where Warren Stevens (Kirk Edwards) and Marcus Goring (the rich playboy) had their verbal confrontation was so silly that I spit up the burrito I was eating. They stood at opposite ends of the lavish mansion and in an excessively theatrical manner started hurling insults at each other. I expected them to challenge each other to a duel.

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Edmund O’Brien, a fine actor, seemed to have overloaded on caffeine or worse. Rossano Brazzi seemed stupefied as to what motivated his ridiculous character. Humphrey Bogart spent the 1950s attempting to stretch his roles. This was a stretch that Wilt Chamberlain in his prime could not reach.

Ava Gardner was being portrayed as an innocent in the woods yet in 1950s style movie subtlety she was sleeping with her “cousin,” her chauffeur, the deck hand on her husband’s yacht and the gypsy to whom she threw her gambling casino winnings.

Joseph Mankiewitz won back to back double Academy Awards in 1949 and 1950 for writing and directing “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve.” He was a fine writer for almost 20 years before becoming a director. This was his Waterloo.

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Bittersweet tale of success leading to tragedy

8/10
Author: BuddyBoy1961 from Los Angeles, California
4 March 2000

Scouting talent for an upcoming film to be shot in Italy, a trio from Hollywood (writer/director Bogart, producer Stevens and publicist O’Brien) travel to Spain to scope renowned local dancing sensation Maria Vargas (Gardner). Immediately, they are struck by her beauty and presence. In fact, Gardner has a profound effect on every man she meets…though the effect is as unique as each man she encounters. Stevens sees a talent to be exploited for all it’s worth and O’Brien sees only huge marquees and dollar signs. But Bogart, after a couple of brief but revealing conversations with Maria, sees so much more. Expecting a naive Spanish peasant eager to grab at the brass ring, he finds instead a woman as smart as she is beautiful, whose main motivation is to enjoy the challenge and escape that a Hollywood career might offer a woman who will nevertheless always value the simpler things in life. Even with her inate beauty and uncommon savvy, to Maria’s detriment she does not have eyes in the back of her head. Told in flashback the viewer experiences her success in Hollywood and her quest to find the true love of a man (Brazzi) that has always eluded her.

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In the hands of Joseph Mankiewicz, “The Barefoot Contessa” frequently bristles with crackling dialogue (would you have expected less?). Unique to this contribution from Mankiewicz is the portent that hangs over the film. As the details of Maria’s life are expounded, empathy for her fate increases accordingly. Impeccably well-cast, this is actually an ensemble film. Gardner is luminous as Maria, though she is not solely dependent on her looks to carry the film–she gives a real performance. Bogart is stalwart and sympathetic as Maria’s protector. And O’Brien, in an Academy Award-winning turn, is sly and oily as the single-minded publicist who changes allegiances as often as his sweat-soaked shirts. Lensed by the great Jack Cardiff and shot largely in Italy, the European ambiance, as well as the snappy dialogue, push the credibility of the premise a notch or two above so many other so-called exposés of Hollywood excess and pretense.

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Just couldn’t care about the story or characters.

6/10
Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
20 February 2010

This movie sounded like a good idea. It’s about the rise and fall of a female movie star and focuses on the upper-class society and the world of Hollywood but in truth and honesty the movie is just too much of a drag, due to the fact that the story just never seems to take off and the characters are not very compelling ones.

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It probably foremost is the pace that makes this movie its story come across as slow and dull. It seemed like an interesting idea to tel the story of this actress from the viewpoint of several male characters she met throughout the entire movie. However this way of storytelling instead causes the story to feel like a messy one. I also just don’t see how this movie is a good one as an inside-Hollywood movie or social commentary perhaps. The movie to me just seemed pretty pointless and it wasn’t going anywhere. It all still could had worked out had the characters been better ones.

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You can’t really blame the actors for not letting the characters work out well enough for the movie. I mean when you have actors like Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner and Edmond O’Brien involved, you can hardly blame the acting can you?

The movie is just too much talking and not enough drama or romance involved. I didn’t very much liked watching this movie and didn’t feel involved with it enough but nevertheless I also couldn’t hate it. After all, it certainly ain’t no bad movie but it still is one that comes across as being uninteresting and pretty pointless overall.

6/10

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Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972)

Directed by Robert Butler
Cinematography Frank V. Phillips

A chemistry student invents a spray that makes its wearer invisible. A crook finds out about it, and plans to steal it for himself.

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charming family fun

1 December 2015 | by SnoopyStyleSee all my reviews

College dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) is trying to cut the chemistry department budget. He dismisses all the science being done by the students. A lightning strike hits the lab. The next day, Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) checks the damaged experiments and discovers an invisibility liquid. He shows his friends Richard Schuyler and Debbie Dawson. Crooked investor A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero) has bought up the college’s mortgage. The Dean is clueless but the three friends suspect Arno has nefarious motives.

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This is the second of the Dexter Riley movies from Disney. It is charming family fun. There is an endearing innocence about these movies. Baby-faced Kurt Russell is great. I also love the pre-CGI special effects. As a kid, I was engrossed by them. As an adult, I am enchanted by them. The story is silly but that’s also part of the charm.

Now you can be entertained, if you sit down to watch this classic movie

7/10
Author: Amy Adler from Toledo, Ohio
3 January 2007

Dexter (Kurt Russell) returns from The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes for a new adventure that can stand alone. Dexter, ever the college student prone to misadventure, has an idea for a formula to render things invisible. Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) is less than impressed and sets his hopes for winning a lucrative science prize with the pupil studying bees. However, the bees sting the student and he turns out to be allergic.

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There goes THAT chance for a prize. But, wait, Dexter does it! He actually concocts a liquid that makes him invisible. Trouble is, a unscrupulous businessman (Cesar Romero) learns about it and decides he can use that formula, thank you, for something illegal. Can he manage to steal the bottle out from under Dexter’s nose? This is a companion movie to the TCWT but one need not have seen the first film to enjoy this one. Russell is a genial leading screw-up who comes through when it really counts. The rest of the cast is also a dream, with Flynn, Romero, Jim Bacchus and others showing why their comic abilities are still held in high regard today. The script is just innocent fun that is charming, with the special effects somewhat simple, by today’s standards, but effective nonetheless. If you want to sit down and relive a bygone era or just want to share a quality, G-rated film with your family, this is a great choice. Although it is over 30 years old, there is a great possibility that even now you will see your loved ones giggle away the blues with a showing of this fine flick.

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Great! I LOVE this Movie

10/10
Author: ludi1us from United States
21 February 2009
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is Classic Disney at its live action cartoon best! Bumbling college student Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) develops a mysterious liquid invisibility formula that actually makes objects disappear and helps him to save his cash strapped college. Further experimentation reveals that it works amazingly well on humans too! Riley’s startling discovery takes some hilarious new twists when a gang of crooks headed by the notorious A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero) steal the formula and attempt to use it for their less-than-legal activities. Dazzling special effects and a fast-paced story make this lively film a textbook case of college comedy! I love this movie! This movie has always filled me with a sense of wonder and joy.A pleasant little comedy that the entire family can enjoy. Not much violence or sex and absolutely no swearing, makes this a movie that parents can watch with their children.Merely one in a series of Kurt Russell movies set at Medvale College. A pleasant little series set in a wholesome America before terrorists, when people valued integrity more than cash! I highly recommend this movie!

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More Medfield College shenanigans

6/10
Author: MartianOctocretr5 from Redondo Beach, CA
16 August 2014

Comedic take on the Invisible Man motif, featuring Disney’s Medfield College gang of Dexter Riley, Dean Higgins et al. A good showcase for Kurt Russell’s early work in comedy, before he started doing violent action heroes a few years later.

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This time, Riley (Russell) is one of several college students trying to win a scientific invention contest. Lightning strikes (literally) and he finds himself in possession of a viable invisibility potion. He is ready to wow the world with this scientific breakthrough, but then, some evil hi jinx by crooks intervene, setting up some weird moments, car chases, predictable slapstick, keystone cop style bumbling, and other tomfoolery. The invisibility special effects are cheap, but it doesn’t matter.

There are some slow points and lulls, but the good scenes make up for it. The golf sequences and the “invisibility presentation” bit are the funniest moments. The cast features some great character acting by Joe Flynn, Cesar Romero, Jim Backus, and William Windom.

Brainless fun for when you’re in the mood for 3 Stooges type slapstick.

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Dexter Riley’s Adventures x 3

8/10
Author: reabbott63 from United States
18 November 2009

This is a 1972 Disney movie. For the time, I was eleven years old and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Feeling nostalgic, I purchased the three series DVD’s of the Dexter Riley movies and even now, at age 46, I still enjoyed them. It was all about fantasy, magic, and clean fun. And it still is! I wasn’t sure which of the three movies came first then second and last. So now I have the official dates. On December 31, 1969 The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes–On July 12, 1972 Now You See Him Now You Don’t–On February 6, 1975 The Strongest Man In The World. I still think the middle movie was the best. The special effects were amazing back in 1972 to us kids. I definitely recommend it to all ages.

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Props

The Green VW used by Schuyler was two Herbie cars from The Love Bug: one was the vehicle carried by Tang Wu’s Chinese Camp students, (this was a gutted car and a rubber truck tire tube was placed under the passenger door, and when inflated suddenly, it would tip the car over, this car used in the scene where A.J. Arno rams it). The other car was used in the scenes with Schuyler driving it on a flat tire. (The Art Dept. painted the car green, and dusted it to give a look of neglect. When the sunroof is open, the original Herbie Pearl white paint job under the tarp sunroof can be seen where the green was not painted.)

The Medfield College exteriors were on the Disney lot: the main Medfield College building and courtyard used in the title sequence was the old Animation Building at the corner of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive. Parts of the chase scenes were done along the main street that goes through the area of the golf courses in Griffith Park.

Es kracht, es zischt - zu seh'n ist nischt aka. Now You See Him, Now You Don't, USA 1972

Reception

The movie received a mixed reception. A negative review came from The New York Times, which accorded, “Now with all due respect to children’s intuition and judgment, may we suggest that they now try the Real McCoy, if they haven’t already. How about the original “The Invisible Man” on television? There’s grand, serious fun, kids. Plus—square or not—something to think about.” A positive review came from Varietys staff, which stated that “Virtually all the key creative elements which early in 1970 made The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes encore superbly in Now You See Him, Now You Don’t.”

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The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

Some college students manage to persuade the town’s big businessman, A. J. Arno, to donate a computer to their college. When the problem- student, Dexter Riley, tries to fix the computer, he gets an electric shock and his brain turns to a computer; now he remembers everything he reads. Unfortunately, he also remembers information which was in the computer’s memory, like the illegal business Arno is involved in.

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Enjoyable, watchable for adults as well as young people

1 October 2000 | by agentr63 (Colorado) – See all my reviews

I remember seeing this as a kid in the theatre, and saw it again for the first time in many years on cable recently. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it after all this time. Russell’s performance is quite believable, despite the fantastic story line. Really good entertainment, and blows away much of the modern Disney entertainment provided these days, which is pretty nauseating.

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Another wonderful movie from Disney

10/10
Author: Andrew Towne from United States
28 August 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Add this to the list of great non-animated Disney movies and TV shows of the fifties and sixties (some others are “Darbie O’Gill and the Little People,” “Follow Me, Boys,” “Spin and Marty,” and “The Hardy Boys.”) This is wholesome, fun, family entertainment. But it’s also witty, well-written and not overly sentimental. A nice slice of Americana at its best.

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Kurt Russell, so appealing as a child actor in “Follow Me, Boys,” returns to the screen as a nineteen-year-old (approximately) college student. His acting range is excellent, and he is accompanied by an able crew of supporting actors. Joe Flynn (who many will remember as the perpetually flustered captain in “McHale’s Navy”) is perfect as the dean of a private college that ranks low academically and in terms of financial resources in comparison to other colleges in the state — especially the state university. Flynn — in a sign of his college’s limited resources — drives what appears to be a Volkswagen Karman Ghia convertible. The driver’s-side interior door latch is broken, so he simply uses a rope to keep it closed.

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He complains that the state university is rolling in taxpayer money that his private college can’t lay its hands on, and rants and raves in a meeting of the college board of directors about the unfairness of that and about how the president of the state university is “greedy.” The students overhear all of this through a bug they’ve planted in the dean’s office. The dean, having declared that the school can’t afford a computer that one of the professors wants, goes on to mention the names of some of the students he thinks should be put on academic probation.

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Hearing all of this, the students decide to try to get the computer themselves. What follows is a comedy of mishaps, misunderstandings and odd coincidences that is very entertaining. The overall theme — that friendship is more important than money, fame and prestige — is well supported by the plotting and character development in the movie.

This movie, in my opinion, is worth watching more than once. Part of its charm is that the conception of what a computer was and could do was so different in 1969 than it is today.

All in all, I highly recommend “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.”

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The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes

Author: thekyrose from United States
21 June 2008

When compared with modern movies, yes, it *does* fall short. However, it must be viewed with the genre and era it was made in. It’s simply another of those “60’s feel good movies” types. In a time when the country was in a turmoil and college campuses were a hotbed of controversy, this movie (and it’s 2 sequels) chose to portray the college scene somewhat rosier than reality. So what? Disney did that a lot with his movies.Disney movie versions of many classic stories always were white-washed,sanitized versions of themselves. Remember the Jungle Book? It was a far cry from the original Kipling tale. This came out at, or near the time of the “Kent State” mess. Dates about it vary from placing it in 1969 or 1970. Whenever it actually played, it came at the end of a very turbulent time in America’s history. I feel that audiences were looking forward to seeing a nice, quiet view of college life, however naive.

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A Disney Date for Kurt Russell, Frank Webb and Jon Provost

6/10
Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
18 April 2010

Squeaky-clean cut collegiate Kurt Russell (as Dexter Reilly) downloads data from his campus computer, and becomes a “cause celebre” by demonstrating his improved mental gymnastics. “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” continues the Disney studio’s successful run of comedies featuring good-looking youngsters, great character actors, and a plot providing its star with a super-human strength. The first follow-up film had Mr. Russell discovering how to become invisible. Since it’s a Disney film, the characters aren’t too quick with the obvious (like the invisible hanging out in the girls’ locker room), but everything is certainly likable.

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The film is chock full of familiar favorites, like veteran Cesar Romero (as A.J. Arno), Joe Flynn (from “McHale’s Navy”), and William Schallert (from “The Patty Duke Show”). Getting to play in roommate Russell’s top bunk is handsome blond Frank Webb (as Pete Oaks), who also joined Russell and Medfield College co-star Jon Provost (as Bradley) in the pages of “16” and “Tiger Beat”. The teen magazines duly noted the presence of three of their own in one film. Mr. Provost had background fame as the second kid to own TV’s “Lassie” and Mr. Webb ended his career tragically. Both feature prominently in the film’s relatively fun conclusion.

****** The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (12/31/69) Robert Butler ~ Kurt Russell, Frank Webb, Cesar Romero, Jon Provost.

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Great fun in an era when Disney actually made family films that families could view

Author: HobbitHole from Czech Republic
25 June 2008

People who are putting down this film as not good enough to ‘show it’s face in the theater’ are showing their extreme ignorance.

These movies were made for family audiences and rebroadcast on Walt Disney’s television program which highlighted family oriented movies with cast members that even signed morals clauses that they wouldn’t act up (see Lindsey Lohan, etc. in these days) and trash the Disney image as being a family movie business.

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Early on Disney had just made shorts and TV shows. In the late fifties they started making full-length films like ‘The Shaggy Dog’ with Fred MacMurray. It was so successful, it started something. Fred MacMurray was asked to do more films.

The Absent-Minded Professor (remade later with Robin Williams in the lead role in ‘Flubber’) was one of the successful movies made by Disney that was then edited for their TV audience.

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It not only spawned a sequel, “Son of Flubber”, but many more family films and comedies that were designed to help people forget their problems, while at the same time the commercials advertised Disneyland.

Disney was ahead of his time in providing programming in what were essentially well-made advertisements for families to enjoy and be reminded about visiting Disneyland, his ‘family fun park’.

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This light-hearted, fun comedy featured Kurt Russell in the early days of computers (pre-internet)getting the computer’s full knowledge into his head.

In the remake (with Kirk Cameron) they updated it to the Internet infiltrating the student’s mind and a ‘super-hacker’ from the opposing school (who’s dean ironically is past Disney star Dean Jones) who seeks to hack Cameron’s brain and stop his ‘brilliance’.

The first of the three films that revolve around Dexter Riley (Russell), the dean (Joe E. Flynn), and friends is also the best done, though the others are enjoyable too. (‘Now You See Him, Now You Don’t’ and ‘Strongest Man In the World’ are part of this three movie series)

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It also teaches the value of humility. Riley did nothing to gain his knowledge, yet he became proud of how smart he was. He had to learn humility and how to treat his friends if he wanted to keep them. Good lessons to learn.

The Disney television films were made for families and are much better than the stuff made today for ‘families’ including politically correct films, sexually explicit, nasty language and all the other things that supposedly makes them more ‘modern’.

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Disney TV temporarily stopped around 1975. They have made some films since then that were still family oriented, though people that followed Walt and then Roy Disney didn’t have the same ideas about films and the value of good stories.

Enter the Michael Eisner era…remaking classics and making part 2 stories of classics that have no basis in classic books and WERE released direct to video or DVD. Even marginal animated hits got sequels made. Actual hits like Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, got several (part 2 of Aladdin was a real turkey).

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Several of the older Disney films were remade for a ‘revived’ TV program. The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes was one of the better attempts. I would say only a handful were watchable in their ‘updated’ form. They made kids have to act like adults while the adults act like kids (this might be a clever plot line in ‘Freaky Friday’, but when it enters into other stories, it’s hard to make out who is supposed to be adult and who are kids.

No wonder kids today are forced to face problems beyond their years. They can’t even escape it in the so-called ‘escape films’ on TV or in the movies these days (with rare exceptions).

It takes exceptions like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Chronicles of Narnia to remind Disney that people still like well-made escape films that are wholesome and uplifting for the whole family.

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