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Gunsmoke: Carmen (1958)
Season 3, Episode 37
23 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Don't get me wrong, I love the 30 minute Gunsmoke episodes but this one was just about the worst one I've seen.

Robert Patten plays Nate Brand, a crackshot, who ambushes two cavalrymen from far away at the beginning of the episode and takes a secret stash of money they've been transporting unknowingly. Jennie Laine, played by Ruta Lee, is his beautiful but shocked girlfriend.

She goes to Dodge, while he hides out and starts entertaining men at the Longbranch. Meanwhile, the cavalry threatens Matt with marshall law because of the killings. Meanwhile, Jennie tries to seduce Matt.

Somehow, Kitty hears the whole subplot of Jennie sneaking off to Turkey Creek to be with her boyfriend Nate Brand, as well as her cavalry friend who is an accomplice.

The end is where everything falls apart. Matt takes Jennie's bait and accompanies her alone on a ride to of all places Turkey Bend. He talks her into admitting the situation and in the end, Nate Brand, standing hidden in the woods, closer to Matt than he was to the original cavalrymen, fails to take a shot at him until Matt separates from Jennie. In that scene, Brand shoots first, misses and then Matt shoots twice and kills him.

It was one of the poorer efforts but as always, the relationships and action keep the series going.
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Gunsmoke: Minnie (1961)
Season 6, Episode 30
16 July 2015
I have the entire 30 minute series of "Gunsmoke." Just watching it brings me back to a simpler time where there was justice.

As the series progressed, James Arness was put in charge of the production and he delivered somewhat inferior quality episodes.

The first sight of the main character Minnie shows her walking her horse through town. She's an annoying ragamuffin character and is accompanied by an opening musical motif of flutes and clarinets.

The overly fancy musical flourishes in this episodes were not appreciated by this viewer.

Then, grizzled Buffalo hunter Alan Hale Jr., the skipper from Gilligans Island, rides into town looking for his wife Minnie. He is dressed in a big wooly vest and angry.

Now I can't separate myself from his role of the skipper and this unfortunately takes away from the viability of the episode, through no fault of the producers. But the overly ornate music continues and the episode wears out its welcome rather quickly.

The show was near the end of the 7 year run as a 30 minute TV show and about to go to an hour format. It was shows like this one that made me feel that the producers had run dry and were running for the bus.

But of course the show reincarnated itself an an hour-long and it went on for 20 years...
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Gunsmoke: There Was Never a Horse (1959)
Season 4, Episode 35
Jack Lambert is the star of this show
19 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I wanted to start out saying I own all of the Gunsmoke DVDs for just the half hour shows. I feel many of these episodes are worth repeating for the action and the unexpected twists and turns as well as the family type relationships between Matt, Chester, Kitty and Doc. I feel the hour long episodes -- some of them were good -- focused too much on "relationships" and slowed down the show. Plus I'm not a big fan of Festus.

This episode starts off great. Jack Lambert is a swaggering sneering, squinty-eyed gunman named Kin Creed who rides into town and immediately starts throwing his weight around. He is truly an astounding villain and one of the very top ones in the history of the show. What a face! (and voice)

He goes into the Long Branch and kills a drunk then starts trying to intimidate Matt to fight him, in order to add to his reputation as a gunfighter. Matt will have none of it; he enforces the law, he doesn't get into fights with every gunman that rides into town.

There's a good comic exchange between Matt and Chester at Delmonicos until Creed spies them eating and comes in and stands uncomfortably close to Chester. Creed starts to bully Chester, but Chester gets some zingers in himself, adding fuel to the fire.

A fight is brewing and he townspeople are starting to whisper that maybe Matt is scared of this desperado with a reputation for a fast gun.

Creed is puzzled. Matt won't fight him. So he finally figures out that he can force a fight by breaking the law. He unexpectedly cracks an old man over the head with his gun and starts to laugh at the fallen drunk like a homicidal maniac. Chester sees this and calls Matt.

Then there's the confrontation where Creed outdraws Matt and shoots him in the arm. He won't kill him because of an unwritten code of not killing a cripple. Matt gets patched up and heads out to a final gunfight...

Now you know it can't be the end of Matt because that would be the end of the series. But I must say the conclusion of this episode was a cop out. I will not divulge what happens but to me, it was an easy out and quite random and unsatisfying.

It was actually a very enjoyable episode but mostly for the performance of Jack Lambert, a heavy-type more well known for Dick Tracy v The Claw. You can tell that he relishes the Kin Creed role as an actor.

It was one of those episodes that the writers couldn't seem to figure out how to wrap things up and so at the end it seemed implausible which takes points away from this fascinating but flawed episode.
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Hugo (2011)
A Pedagogue's Guide to Film Preservation -- and Boredom.
6 December 2011
When I walked in the theater to see this, my first 3D film in a theater for several decades, there were eight people populating the entire theater to watch this grand homage to Mr Melies. Two people left during the film, so one-quarter of the audience walked out.

I love early cinema so Scorsese was preaching to the choir with me, but as entertainment, this film falls flat. The visual wonders of the film gave way to incredible boredom. The story is convoluted and after awhile one stops caring because the film has no heart; the mechanical animations are the films heart, not the characters, who are wooden props. The sole redeeming feature of this film is Ben Kingsley as George Melies, who plays the mysterious, forlorn character.

After seeing Kundun in 1997, the Gangs of New York in 2003 and now this, I think that Scorsese has lost his way. It looks like he's taken an unofficial retirement from his Italian/ gangster films that he was so good at, only to focus on trying to impress audiences with how eclectic and balanced of a filmmaker he is.

He is out of his zone again and his annoying practice of preaching about film preservation comes into full bloom here, especially the scene when the book is opened at the library. It truly was vomit-inducing, as are what seem to be the paid shills who are lining up to give over-the-top praise to this $170 million clunker.
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People are stupid.
3 July 2008
I would never see a film like this normally. First the trailer looks like a total flyover. Just frantic action in a VHS store. I hated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film that somehow got awarded an Oscar for French writer Michel Gondry, who directed this horrible excuse for a film. Please note on a previous review, I described "Spotless Mind" as "ripping off a bandaid very slowly."

I just despise Jack Black. He's the ultimate ham and he's awarded in film after film with starring roles. I just don't understand why any of these people in particular have been chosen to be given millions of dollars so they can perpetrate this mindless chaotic slime on to the American scene.

I'm sure there was no script to this movie. It was made up as they went along, with Jack Black allowed to make his usual stupid faces and bound about like a sweaty ape. Def Load, whoever he is, looked like he was unwillingly dragging his feet in this picture and everyone I saw looked like they were just doing it for the money. Danny Glover, Sigourney Weaver, Mia Farrow, shame on you for cashing in on this mess. I wish I was there with a blow gun.

God did I hate this movie and for the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would rate it over a one.

Another thing I find completely disgusting is that apparently stringers are hired by some of these films to write favorable reviews in IMDb. I can tell the superlative reviews for this film in IMDb are entirely fake. IMDb, get with it!
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Ahhh - brand new carpeting!
24 December 2006
I enjoyed this surprise of a picture. I read that it was China's most expensive movie ever, at a "scant" $45 million. It certainly seemed the director eschewed realism for sensationalism. I was OK with that. It was between going to see Rocky Balboa or the new CIA movie and frankly American films have begun to bore me, so I took a chance, because I saw a newspaper article that rated Golden Flower highly. I was thoroughly entertained although not for one minute did I believe the rainbow-colored palace or the low-cut women of the palace. I didn't care. It was a lot of fun to look at. What the end of the movie said to me was kind of a day-glo Alexander Nevsky. Just like Nevsky, I see this film is a warning to foreign armies. No matter what you do, you can't beat the Chinese. They're too huge and they're ruthless. And as soon as they're finished engulfing and devouring you, they'll wash your blood away and cover it with brand new carpeting.
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Meet John Doe (1941)
Beware Heelots!
13 July 2006
This is the populist film to end all populist films. This is what 'everyman' means.

One of the impressive things to me is how hilarious Gary Cooper is in this movie. His facial expressions, the bashfulness, the surprise, the innocence, it's all so very unexpected, natural and funny. As the plot progresses, the down on his luck ex-pitcher gains popularity and slowly realizes that he can make a difference.

The plot is fascinating and the picture just zooms along even after all these years. Barbara Stanwyck is in top form, luminous and smart, although her shrill encouragement gets to be a bit much, especially at the end. Walter Brennan is bitterly funny and foreboding as Cooper's hobo buddy and the rest of the cast are pretty much pitch perfect as is the timeless script.

Of course the howling mob scene looks like the real thing and is frightening.

The only false note is the end. But how do you end a movie like this??
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King Kong (2005)
Shamefully bloated.
30 January 2006
This shamefully bloated self-indulgent work by Peter Jackson illustrates what is so bad about modern day films and what is so great about old movies.

The original Kong, my favorite film of all time, got into and got out of the story in lightning fashion, with excitement to spare and no flat parts.

The new one just lingers like a huge wart on the screen. I can't tell you how contemptuous I am of this film. Whether it's Jack Black (is that his real name?) non-stop mugging -- was he on drugs? "Ann Darrow's" "heartbreaking relationship" with the ape: is the vaudevillian juggling going to add any insight to this? And of course the gag-a-minute appearance of Adian Brody, who is the effeminate Jack Driscoll. The eye-rolling natives, the PC multi-national crew, there were so many flat spots here. I had to laugh when Ann Darrow magically appeared in Manhattan, in silhouette, to reunite with Kong.

The CG effects were good but it took way too long to get there. It seems the director Peter Jackson is much more comfortable with the CG monsters than making any kind of human interest story. It looks like his set building of NY in the thirties in New Zealand was a calculated move to attract more filming to NZ. That's pretty much what this film was, a power play.

I was actually hoping for a comet to destroy the earth at the end of the picture. That might have saved it. But the whole experience just showed what a superior work of art the original Kong is, and how everything now, at least 99 percent, is just dumbed-down, watered down slop for the masses.
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Brought up right.
4 May 2004
I'm normally a pretty sensitive guy but rare is the time, especially with movies these days (I'm in my early 40s), that I feel joy or sorrow or anything at all, for that matter, at a movie. I think most of them are made by people who have nothing to say.

This film is different. I actually found myself a couple times with tears rolling down my cheeks and I was happy to have that feeling. And there were times that my heart soared here too.

I must first say that I have always loved Edward G. From Little Caesar to The Sea Wolf and more, this is an actor's actor. He is authoratative here for sure, but in a tender and fair way. It made me see him in a completely different and more sympathetic light. He is a real "little guy" here. When he balks

at physically punishing his daughter for being selfish with the roller skates, I wish I could make every parent today see that scene.

Strange as it may seem, Agnes Moorehead is an idea match wife for Edward G.

Known for "Bewitched" or Orson Wellesian weirdo-type characters, we usually

see her as kind of a cold loser whose life has passed her by. She is so credible and so good here, you can see a light shine from within. When she expresses

pride in the children, it is real. Robinson and Moorehead are what make this

movie real and are the forces of good who influence children to grow up right.

Now a word about the courtroom scene when the girl offers her calf and

everyone starts offering increasingly valuable parts of the farm to give to the stricken farmer. To say this scene reflected communism is like saying It's a

Wonderful Life reflects communism. It's totally ridiculous. It is Capra-corn of the highest order and is just one of many scenes in a movie performed by people

who believe every word the screenwriter wrote, directed by a person of vision and written with a heart.

So if you are a bit more sentimental and want a film that is real and has a heart, and is far enough removed from all the ADD and ritalin and child abuse we

have now, this one will make you forget about the regrettable way things go

today and the way things should be.
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Like ripping a bandaid off a wound, very slowly.
25 April 2004
I have seen literally thousands of movies and only walked out of one, (2001 A Space Odyssey) and that is because I one of a group of teens who walked out. Now I didn't walk out on "Spotless Mind" but it is the closest I've come to independently walking out.

I entered the movie on a false note: there was nothing else to do and I knew I had no interest, and thought the movie was a stinker when I saw the preview. I was painfully right, but I hung in there, hoping for a good laugh. I got one where the older doctor character gave a such a look of total exasperation to the camera, it seemed to express the completely annoying experience of the movie.

I felt like jumping through the screen and choking the Kate Winslet character. She seems to justify the bizarre sexual practice of asphyxiation. Jim Carrey, who I think is one of the funniest men on the planet, looks like an AIDS victim here and has had all his comic feathers stripped from him. It seems the only reason he's in this film is because the director told him he could sport his grungy stubble through the film and look like "an artiste".

The movie navigates like a ship without a rudder. The story and editing look completely improvised. I tried to exact my revenge on the lemmings in the audience who though this piece of garbage was funny by "fake laughing" several times in the movie, in moments when no one laughed.

The last time I got this angry at a film was "Blair Witch". I just can't believe there are that many people who form an audience for this kind of dreck. And to vote it #44 out of 250 movies on IMDB doesn't give me much hope for intelligent audiences. It took several hours to get this movie out of my system. It was a movie I wish I was programmed to forget.
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Manhattan (1979)
A maddening tribute to an egomaniac
1 February 2004
I used to hold this film as somewhat of a sacred cow when I first saw it in 1979. I was a proscribed Woody fan and

although I still like a few of his movies, this is no longer one of them, on recent review.

I recently purchased copies of Manhattan and Annie Hall.

I watched the latter first and it charmed my socks off again. One classic scene after another signals the height of Allen's art in this hilarious masterwork. Manhattan is a different story.

Perhaps my recent viewing of Wild Man Blues has hipped

me to what an whining, pampered egomaniac Mr. Allen is.

Perhaps it's the irony of his Chaplin-like dalliances with young women that have set me against him. But I now watch Manhattan

and see a pathetic, overblown Allen literally feeding lines to his

fellow actors to give him some smarmy comeback that never fails to show how intellectually superior he is. Different from Annie Hall, Allen is no longer the underdog but an ugly, obnoxious


His characters in Manhattan, are cardboard. They are not real and

the situations are not real. I have no feeling for anyone in this

movie, except Woody, who I feel contempt for, given his massive

and unfunny self-indulgence. It's pathetic to see Allen set up

Hemingway with lines that a teenager would never say in a million

years, just to trump up his flaccid ego. Everyone in this movie actually feeds him lines to trump up his ego.

Like Stardust Memories, this one shows Woody at his self- indulgent worst. This movie looks wonderful and sounds wonderful with the Gershwin score, but on further review, this

one's hollow and ultimately a maddening tribute to an egomaniac.
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Crackerjack Entertainment of a Bygone Era
24 August 2003
When I was a little kid in the sixties, I was taken to a double feature with King Kong and The Most Dangerous Game at the Rivoli Theater (now torn down) in Buffalo NY. It was an event that changed my life. For a kid of six or seven, it was an excitement-packed into Saturday afternoon. The Most Dangerous Game was a warm-up to the majestic Kong, which I've seen at least 100 times since. The lost ship, the mysterious island, Count Zaroff and his creepy kossacks, the dungeon, the hero and heroine, the chase....It all adds up to pulp fiction at its finest and crackerjack entertainment of a bygone era. t works because it just zips right by and it's a fun ride. Everything is perfect in this picture, including that wonderful da-da-da....da-da-da-da-da-da-da Steiner theme. I am sad to report however that some VHS copies do NOT have the shot with the floating head. Feh. For best results, play on a double feature with King Kong.
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The Big Lie.
15 August 2002
First I wanted to say how appalled I am at the number of Nazis who have felt compelled to exercise their twisted logic on this forum. Seek help--you are truly sick people.

Der Ewige Jude is a hate-filled propaganda film from a failed ideology. The Jews in the film were forced at gunpoint to portray their scenes and were shipped to concentration camps and killed. Nazis used demonic hatred as their cornerstone belief and all the hysteria and the insanity and the cruelty of the Nazis is clearly observed in the lie-filled film. The lowest of the low: animals were made to suffer in the slaughterhouse scenes for mere effect. The film shows that we have not come far as a civilization.
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White Zombie (1932)
A chilling vision.
26 April 2002
Like it or not, this film has earned legendary status. Produced on a miniscule budget by the Halperin Brothers, otherwise known for shlocky poverty-row films. This film creates its own eerie universe with a combination of filmmaking elements, like the black spiritual music track, the satanic Bela Lugosi and his motley crew of zombies, fairy-tale like sets and wonderful black and white photography. The extreme age of the movie has also added a lot of texture to the experience, with at times barely recognizeable sound and ubiquitous film grain. The hammy style of acting is unloaded by the truckload. Included here is the plastic love story of nebbishy Neil and his idiotic bride Madeleine, the hand-wringing jealousy of Beaumont, the evil treachery of butler Silver, the uncanny Dr. Bruner and Clarence Muse who also makes an appearance in this film in an uncharacteristic "scared black" role. Then of course, there is Lugosi. He is the very eyes of Satan in this movie and also scores big points with a sick sense of humor (of the zombies working in his Sugar Mill: "They don't mind working long hours".)

One of the highlights of this picture is Lugosi's introduction of the zombies. FREDERICK PETERS, ("Chauvin, the High Executioner, who once almost executed me!") represents a watershed mark in cinematic ugliness. The overall hammy and el-cheapo aspect of this film makes it even more amazing how creepy it is.

Like Carnival of Souls, it seems to thrive BECAUSE of a thimble-sized budget.
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King of Jazz (1930)
Mesmerizingly frenzied entertainment
25 April 2002
One of the types of odd films that I cherish for some reason are early sound films. To me it's fascinating to see the kind of near- frenzy shown by the performers and filmmakers to get it right before the other studio did and make the big score, like The Jazz Singer. How American. The King of Jazz was perhaps the most ambitious film of its time. For sure it throws in the kitchen sink. One of the first things I noticed about this highly unusual film is that it seems alot more ancient because it tries too hard, it's capabilities were too limited to do justice to make a timeless piece of entertainment. Technically the film has all the elements of a creaky classic--washed-out color, sound that pops and hisses, the exhaggerated film grain and jumps, and some pretty strange staging and dialogue. The results are wildly uneven. The high points are hugely entertaining. The snake hips dance, Ragamuffin Romeo and the spectacular original version of Rhapsody in Blue with an unbilled Gershwin sitting in on piano and the show-stopping finish, Happy Feet. It is shocking to see a young, almost unrecognizeable Bing Crosby warbling along with The Rhythm Boys. This being said, you must understand that this musical variety show was made in 1928, three or four years before the perfection of musicals by Busby Berkeley. There are some skits and numbers that are absolutely shrill and unbearable too.

The drunk comes to mind, played by an actor whose name escapes me. He also plays a high-voiced baby character that sent me scurrying for the fast forward button. The attempts at humor are very dated, and there doesn't seem to be one intentional laugh that has made it to 2002, although there are unintentional ones galore. Paul Whiteman is a highly over-rated figure in Jazz...there were so many others that were infinitely better to fill the role of King of Jazz...Fats Waller for one. But times such as they were, blacks were very limited. In all this is highly grotesque, let-it-all-hang-out entertainment. Be prepared to get mesmerized by this time tunnel of a film, but keep the fast forward handy.
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Eraserhead (1977)
Gawk now, sleep later.
27 July 2001
When I first saw this bizarre film, I was a gawking teenaged Syracuse University film major at a midnight movie fest in 1978. I couldn't believe the images being put before me. That baby. The Cornish hen dinner. The fat-cheeked dancing girl squishing the gunk-filled worms. I couldn't believe my ears either. There were sound effects that I'll never forget. The squeaky sound while rubbing the eyes. The baby constantly crying and gurgling. And of course the Thomas "Fats" Waller soundtrack, an eerie, echoing jazz organ from another world that ever since converted me into a Fats Waller freak. There were plenty of other thrills in this movie; the sheer ugliness of it all was such over-kill,> it provoked sick laughter.

But alas, I rented the film almost 20 years later, a freaked-out couch potato film fanatic, all psyched up to relive the madness... and fell asleep.
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Maniac (1934)
Twisted fun from the 30s
14 July 2001
For those of you who enjoy bad films from the 30s, this is a can't miss. There is so much that is bad about this film (in a fun and mesmerizing way) that it's hard to know where to start. It is a disjointed experience for sure but very inspired. Just when you think there's some semblance of a story, there's a totally unrelated film title expounding the particulars of Dementia Praecox and there's an unrelated shot of a badly exposed fight between a cat and a mouse. (Subtle metaphors anyone?) This film is made by the Meirschulz and Don Maxwell comedy team. Meirschulz (Horace Carpenter, a stock character of 30s poverty row films--check the hilariously inept western The Irish Gringo sometime) is the prototype laughing and hand-wringing German mad scientist. Maxwell (Bill Woods, a Kramer from Seinfeld ringer) is the failed vaudeville "impersonator" who slavishly does the mad dr's bidding. I'll leave the rest of the story for your viewing, but believe me, this film has all-time classic moments. Take the otherwise meek Mr. Buckley, bring him into Meirschultz's office and deliver a shot of superadrenaline. Buckley's seething, slobbering reaction and his inspired "brain on fire" speech is worth the price of admission.
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Crime Wave (1985)
The Top!
1 April 2001
I happened to catch part of Crime Wave on CBC late one night in the 80s and I was hypnotized by it's underground feel and truly offbeat humor. Then I didn't think about it again for about fifteen years until I came across a used copy in a video store that was going out of business.

I have watched it a few times and each time my eyes widen like a little child. John Paizs as Steven Penny is a deadpan delight, future anchorwoman Eva Covacs is perfect as the precocious Kim. And of course there's Dr. Jolly. The cornfield scene is probably the weirdest scene of any film I've ever seen.

Overall if you appreciate low-budget comedy miracles, this is a prototype.
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