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I also write for Influx Magazine--where many of my opinions and reviews are also posted.
Why was Anne so nasty in this one? I have no idea...and it sure didn't help the story.
One thing I hate in series films is when characters behave inconsistently. An example were the Blondie films of the 1940s. In a few, Blondie just seemed inexplicably nasty--accusing poor Dagwood of being unfaithful and treating him like dirt throughout the film...even though he was a very loving husband. Well, the same problem occurs here in "Joe Palooka in The Counterpunch". While Anne has been Joe's love interest from the beginning, here she is uncharacteristically nasty...so much so that it's obvious the writers were either lazy or using second-rate material.
The story begins with Knobby arranging a fight between Joe and an apparently punch-drunk Latin American champ. This means they'll have to cruise down to fight in the opponent's neck of the woods. And so, most of the film takes place on this cruise ship. One plot involves Anne seeing Joe grabbing a woman. She thinks he's being unfaithful...but Joe was just grabbing her to prevent her from falling. Throughout most of the rest of the film, Anne is nasty and goes to work as a newspaper reporter covering the case!! Does this make sense? Of course not. The other plot involves crime...with Joe and Knobby helping authorities capture folks in a counterfeiting ring.
In addition to Anne behaving oddly in the film, it's also quite unusual because so little of the movie is actually about boxing. It's more like a typical B-mystery set on the high seas than a boxing picture. This isn't necessarily a complaint...but I am pretty sure some viewers were left baffled by all this. As for me, I didn't mind the mystery...but I really minded Anne's nastiness as it showed little consistency or loyalty towards the character. As a result, it felt like a second-rate installment of the series. Worth seeing if you've seen the previous films but otherwise not one of the more distinguished movies in the series.
By the way, at the big fight at the end of the film the referee must have been drunk, as the Latin American boxer punched Joe 10 seconds AFTER the round ended and delivered many illegal blows. Realism, I guess, wasn't a major concern here.
Joe Palooka in the Big Fight (1949)
One set up after another after another...
In this installment in the Joe Palooka boxing series from Monogram, Joe's the subject of many dirty tricks. FIrst, a guy comes to the guy pretending to be a down and out fighter needing the money by sparring with Joe...and after whispering to Joe to 'take it easy', he knocks the champ down with a sucker punch...and lots of folks with cameras are on hand to photograph it. Soon, all sorts of people are pushing to have this guy take on Joe in his next fight. Eventually, when the two are matched up, all sorts of dirty tricks take place....and it's obvious some sort of organized crime is afoot in order to control the outcome of the fight. Using a bad B-movie cliche, Joe escapes police custody after he's found with a corpse--and he and Knobby seek out who is behind all this and why. What follows is a lot of punching.
While the plot is a bit hard to believe, it is interesting and enjoyable to watch. After all, it is different and viewers don't want to just see Joe box! Worth seeing and nice to see Leon Errol back playing Knobby, as for some odd reason, William Frawley played him in the previous film.
The F.B.I.: The Daughter (1968)
The case of the lady who was a complete knucklehead!
In "The Daughter", a communist cell is coming apart rapidly and the remaining members are incredibly blood-thirsty!
The episode begins with a man learning that he's been helping communist spies in order to get his girlfriend out of an East German prison....and she's actually been dead for months! Not surprisingly, he's angry and not about to continue spying for them. After he is murdered, the spy ring starts to fall apart and soon one spy after another either takes cyanide or are trying to kill folks to keep things quiet. Into the midst of this bloodbath is a very stubborn AND dumb lady. When the FBI tell her about the danger she's in for, she ignores them and blunders into harm's way anyway. What's next? See the show.
Like most of the espionage episodes, this one is very good...though I must admit that the young lady was annoyingly dumb. Still, it wasn't like the show was poorly written...she was just a very hard-headed person and you almost hope the FBI don't rescue her!
The F.B.I.: The Dynasty (1968)
Ed Asner's character made this one just a bit better.
When the story begins, a guy is pulled over by a police car. However, the folks are not cops and they kidnap the guy. It's soon apparently why they did it...his father is a rich industrialist and they want the ransom. But there are a few problems. First, the industrialist suffers a severe stroke and he cannot do anything to help his son...let alone himself. Second, his other son is not about to pay the ransom. To top it off, the main kidnapper is a real sociopath and he's anxious to kill the guy and be done with it. Only his partner is willing to keep waiting...and hoping.
Like many episodes of "The F.B.I.", this one features some actors who went on to greater things--Ed Asner and Martin Sheen as the kidnappers. Of the two, the most riveting performance is Asner, as his character is cold and evil...and not exactly a guy who would leave any loose threads. Very tense and well worth watching.
Columbo: Columbo Goes to College (1990)
Sort of like Leopold and Loeb...but with more of a motive.
Back in the early 20th century, on of the first of many 'trials of the century' took place in America. Two very spoiled rich young men decided to murder someone...just for the thrill of it. Despite being 100% guilty and that the murder was completely premeditated, they had a good lawyer and lots of money...and ultimately both were given amazingly light sentences for their crime. Leopold and Loeb's case must have in some way influenced "Columbo Goes to College" as their are certainly a lot of similarities between the story and the famous murder trial.
The story centers on two very spoiled rich kids who you know committed the murder of their professor. But, considering they were sitting in on a lecture with Lieutenant Columbo leading the class during the moment when the man was murdered, the crime seems fool-proof. But Columbo often does what he does with narcissists he suspects of the crime...he gets them to help with the investigation. One of the punks even gets his daddy (Robert Culp) involved in the case...all in an attempt to prove to himself how smart they are and how dumb Columbo is. Naturally, they've underestimated this crime fighter!
This is a generally enjoyable story but it's not without some flaws. First and foremost, the way they killed the man is incredibly farfetched and easily could have misfired. Getting everything to work perfectly is the problem...and it's a case where the crime is so complicated that you cannot imagine anyone actually doing this. Also, the whole angle about the dumb security guard who lets one of the young men man his station....well, that also comes off as ridiculous. If you can ignore the problems with the plot, then you'll likely enjoy yourself. After all, it IS "Columbo"!
Columbo: Murder in Malibu (1990)
Not among the better episodes...in fact, it's pretty bad.
"Murder in Malubu" is among the worst episodes of "Columbo"...and it's a shame because I like the shows. But the writing was just terrible and the story made little sense.
Theresa Goren is a very successful romance writer. However, despite her many accomplishments, she is a sucker for Wayne (Andrew Stevens)...a compulsive womanizer who really knows how to use and seduce women. When Goren is found murdered, Lt. Columbo is on the case and soon it becomes apparent that the woman was shot twice--and the second time they know that Wayne did it. But she was already dead....so who killed her the first time?
The plot to this one is way too complicated and the murderer's plan just seemed ridiculous. Add to that some characters who really make no sense at all (Brenda Vaccaro's character) and you have an episode that really leaves the viewer cold and disappointed. In addition to being nonsensical, the episode also lacked the usual charm and fun (an odd word for murder mysteries, I know) you'd expect.
Hunted Men (1938)
Like a schmaltzy version of "The Desperate Hours".
"Hunted Men" is not a bad film. But, it certainly was formulaic and schmaltzy. This is all the more obvious when you compare it to the similar classic film, "The Desperate Hours"...a film with pretty much the same plot but unlike "Hunted Men" it doesn't pull its punches.
When the story begins, mobster Joe Albany (Lloyd Nolan) confronts his business partner. It seems the guy's been embezzling...and soon this confrontation turns violent. Albany plugs the guy and almost immediately the police come looking for him. In desperation, Joe hides out with an unsuspecting family...and instead of leaving the next morning, things are still hot and Joe's right hand man tells him to stay put. So, Joe has no choice but to tell these nice folks who he is and that he's NOT leaving. And, if they tell the cops, Joe's men will make them pay!
Now this set-up is nearly exactly what's in "The Desperate Hours". But what happens next is a disappointment. While Joe is supposed to be a hardened criminal, the film tries to humanize him and make a sort of final redemption...something that just seemed false and a wimpy way out of a tough situation. In particular, the bits involving the 'cute kid' and Joe...well, they're just too saccharine to be believable. Still the basic plot IS very good....and you can see how they'd later recycle it and gave it a noir edge.
The Witness Vanishes (1939)
Oddly, this should have been more exciting to watch.
During the early to mid-1930s, Edmund Lowe was a rather popular American actor. However, his popularity began to wane and here in 1939 he's overseas...starring in a British mystery film.
About 20 years ago, Lucius Marplay was placed in an insane asylum by his business partners who wanted his share of the newspaper. Apparently, Marplay's a very patient man because he suddenly escapes in order to enact his complicated plans of revenge. It seems that he's intent on killing these four men who knew he was sane...and the plans are very detailed and even detail the exact moments of their deaths. Amazingly, though the men know this, there seems to be nothing they can do to prevent it. Soon, only Mark Peters (Lowe) is left and it seems like his days are also numbered.
Despite a neat plot, this film really isn't that good...mostly because so much of the action takes place off camera. Not a bad film....just not a particularly good one either.
Big Train (1998)
A great comedy....provided you really do NOT want to laugh or smile or enjoy yourself..
When you look through the reviews for the sketch comedy show "Big Train", you'll likely notice either glowing reviews with scores of 9 or 10...or reviews by folks who hate the show and give it a 1 or 2. It's rare to see such a show...with no reviews in the middle. Well, I love British comedy (such as "Little Britain", "The Vicar of Dibley", "Monty Python" and "Mr. Bean"), so the fact I was so unimpressed by "Big Train" is saying something. What didn't I like? Well, the writing....as I never smiled nor laughed while watching a few episodes. I also found the laughtrack annoying as I heard guffaws again and against when NOTHING funny is happening. I finally just gave up on the show. Now I know some say season two was better, but season one was so dull and unfunny, I cannot see giving the show another chance. Life is too short to waste my time and I actually LIKE comedy that is funny...go figure.
If you insist on watching the program, the DVDs are available from Netflix here in the States.
Columbo: Uneasy Lies the Crown (1990)
A very interesting episode.
The previous installment of "Columbo" ("Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo") was extremely weak and had several plot holes. Fortunately, the series was back in form with "Uneasy Lies the Crown".
Dr. Corman is a jerk...and a second-rate dentist. His favorite thing in life is gambling...not his wife. So, she begins having an affair. He knows about it but plays dumb....and concocts a plan to kill his wife's lover, frame her for the murder AND convince his father-in-law to keep him at his dental practice! It's a very clever plan and involves a lethal dose of Digitalis administered under a crown he implanted in the boyfriend's mouth! Will he get away with it and fool Columbo? Yeah, right!
This is a very enjoyable episode. I am not at all sure of the chemistry and if it's real...though the show made it seem plausible. Fascinating to watch and well worth seeing.
That lady has issues!
"Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo" is a strange episode, as the format and style of the show is quite different from earlier shows. First, it's non-linear in format...bouncing back and forth in time. Second, you can hear the inner workings of some characters' minds as they attend a funeral...quite unique.
Vivian (Helen Shaver) is a screwball who harbors a grudge against Columbo. Apparently, some time ago, her husband committed a murder and Columbo was the man who brought the man to justice. After going to jail, Pete had a heart attack and Vivian puts all the blame on Columbo for her husband's death. To further emphasize that Vivian is mentally imbalanced, you hear a message on her voice mail from her psychiatrist* at the beginning of the show..
In order to get back at Columbo, Vivian concocts a complicated plot requiring her to kill a co-worker. At the same time, she creates a seemingly air-tight alibi for her actions at that time. Where exactly all this is going and why she felt a need to kill this innocent guy, you'll just have to see when you watch the show.
One thing my wife and I both noticed in the film is that there was a lot of filler and the thing could have been an hour...like the earlier "Columbo" episodes. The worst filler was the scene that made my skin crawl--when Vivian was dancing and writhing about as she projected a slide of her dead husband on the wall! Embarrassing and it went on way too long. We get it...she loved him! It also was VERY obvious that the lady wanted to meet Mrs. Columbo...and she mentioned this too often to Columbo and acted like she wanted to be friends with them...even after Columbo told her he knew who her husband had been. Strange, that's for sure and lacking subtlety.
So is it any good? Yes....just not compared to other episodes of "Columbo". The writing could have been better and subtlety was lacking. Perhaps I disliked it more because the mental illness issue could have been handled better. But I certainly did NOT think the show merited all the 9s and 10s it received in other reviews. In particular, the funeral scene was shot poorly..making such high scores . In early flashbacks, it's pouring rain on everyone...absolutely pouring. Yet, later they show the end of the service and although it's a bit wet and had apparently rained, the sky is blue and it's very sunny. Surely the funeral didn't last several hours and the sunny sky made no sense! Nor did they have giant blow dryers there to dry off all the folks there. Sloppy....though I really, really liked how Columbo traps the woman at the end...that was pretty cool.
*Obviously the person who wrote this show never consulted with a psychiatrist or psychologist. Had they done so, they NEVER would have had the phone message you hear on the show. The therapist (Roscoe Lee Browne) tells Vivian that she can call him at his office....or HOME. No therapist would ever give out their private home number to a patient and therapists actually do a lot to conceal their home address and phone number. As an ex-therapist, I can attest to this and I never, ever was inclined to give this information to any client. The only way he MIGHT give her the number is if they are having an affair....and there's no indication of this in the show.
The Spider (1931)
Great style...though not always logical.
During the 1930s, murder mysteries were a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Apart from westerns, I honestly think they made more murder films than anything else! So, when I tell you that "The Spider" is a murder film, don't immediately assume it's just like all the rest!!
The setting for the crime is a theater. Chartrand (Edmund Lowe) is a stage magician whose tricks are huge, spectacular and real crowd pleasers. During one of his performances, something strange happens. Chartrand's assistant, who has amnesia, sees someone in the audience he recognizes. At that moment, the lights go off and shots ring out. The assistant's mean uncle is now lying dead on the floor...and none of the many folks in the theater saw much of anything. Unfortunately, the police investigating seem to be like MOST cops in these mysteries...they're idiots who keep jumping to conclusions. And you know the cops are a mess when Warren Hymer plays one of them!! So, it's up to Chartrand to try to help the police figure out who really is behind the murder.
The best thing about the film is the wonderful sets and style...they are wild and breathtaking. The second best thing is Edmund Lowe, who is excellent as usual. What isn't so wonderful are some of the supporting characters who mostly are unncessary and were apparently added for comic relief. The worst is El Brendel...who usually is very annoying. Also, all the psychic mumbo jumbo wears thin after a while. While Chartrand is obviously supposed to be a great magician, at times he seems to have god-like powers...which is pretty silly. Overall, a mixed bag that at least has the distinction of being unusual and it will definitely keep your attention.
By the way, one silly cliche in this one is one I've seen too many times. The magic show, which is almost completely a visual medium, is at one point being broadcast over the radio!! As silly as this sounds, it could be worse--I've seen film supposedly having them broadcast dancing and dancing lessons on the radio! Huh???!!!!
The Crooked Road (1940)
Far better than you'd expect from a cheap B-movie.
Back in the early to mid 1930s, Edmund Lowe and Henry WIlcoxen were both big stars in Hollywood. However, by 1940 both were in the latter part of their careers...with their best and most productive years behind them. So, it's not surprising that the pair were reduced to playing in B-movies by 1940. What is a surprise is that it's a particularly good B-movie...an intelligent one well worth seeing.
John Vincent (Lowe) is a very successful man. So successful that he is a prime target for a blackmailer. It seems that long ago, Vincent was known as Danny Driscoll...and he escaped from a prison in England. Now the blackmailer gladly admits that although Driscoll isn't really guilty of the crime that sent him to prison, he's still more than willing to bleed Vincent/Driscoll financially...or else.
As for Vincent, he's not going to accept this....and in a similar situation, most wouldn't either. So he concocts a complicated but brilliant plan to murder the blackmailer and pin in on someone else. Now the man who was wrongly blamed and convicted is no saint...and Vincent relies on this leading to a quick arrest, conviction and execution. Is it really going to be THIS easy and will he get away with it?
Although the film is under an hour in length, it's very well written and works very well. It doesn't hurt that the acting was also very good. Too bad this film didn't restart Lowe's and Wilcoxen's careers...they were both excellent. It also didn't hurt that there was a neat twist ending!
Show Girl in Hollywood (1930)
They don't come any dumber or more unlikable than Dixie Dugan!
The story opens as a play is closing on Broadway...the same week it opened. Out of work, Dixie seems to get her break when a Hollywood director (John Miljean) offers her a contract. However, when she arrives in Hollywood, she learns that the director is always telling women this...much like Harvey Weinstein. And, this temperamental director doesn't realize it but he's about to get fired! Well, the producer (Ford Sterling) feels sorry for Dixie and he offers her a big break.
So, Dixie has gone from a nobody to a budding star. But there is a problem....she's a complete idiot. Despite that director being a lech and a liar, she continues to take advice from him and she becomes the ultimate diva. The problem is that without a single film to her credit, she's simply more trouble than she's worth and she's fired....and deservedly so. So what's to happen with ditsy Dixie as well as her very nice but often mistreated boyfriend, Jimmy? See the film and find out for yourself.
To me, the film is both very good and very bad. The good is seeing all the behind the scenes looks at the studio and how films were made. Of particular interest were the giant shed-like structures that were used to house the cameras. Why? Because they were so loud that it interfered with the early sound equipment. I also loved the set for the film--with the giant head through which all the dancers danced...it was surreal! But on the other hand, the film made Dixie so obnoxious, so difficult to like that it seriously impacted on enjoyment of the story. Who wants to see a story about a nasty, spoiled jerk of a woman making it big...or not?! You can't help but hope she fails...which is sad, as in real life it mirrored Alice White's career...a woman who was all but washed up in films by the mid-late 1930s despite some very big successes during the days of early talkies.
By the way, if you watch the movie, doesn't it seem as if there is a HUGE and IMPORTANT scene missing just before the big premier at the end (such as a big contrition scene)? It just seems to come from out of no where and makes no sense they way they did it. For this and the general likability of Dixie, I think one earns a paltry 3. It's a shame because with a few changes it could have been great.
The Best Man Wins (1935)
What choice did Toby have?
When the film begins, there is an accident and Nick (Jack Holt) is nearly killed while diving to unsnare the ship's anchor. In the process of saving him, fellow diver Toby (Edmund Lowe) ends up losing his arm! After this, Toby finds he's unable to find work and is flat broke and hungry. Then he learns of some crooks who will hire him for some very lucrative dives...no questions asked. Now, however, this puts him on a collision course with Nick, as Nick now works for the harbor police.
When you watch this film, it is incredible to see that back in the 1930s, if you got maimed on the job there wasn't a lot of recourse other than to starve. Given this, it's easy to see why Toby gave in for the easy money. Overall, a decent film and a chance to see Bela Lugosi play a real mean character! Nothing brilliant here...just brisk entertainment.
Joe takes care of a 22 year-old 'boy' and gamblers try to manipulate the odds.
Leon Errol played Joe Palooka's manager, Knobby. However, inexplicably, he's been replaced in "Joe Palooka in WInner Take All" with William Frawley. And, for some reason, Errol's back for most of the rest of the Joe Palooka movies. Now I can easy forgive him for not finishing the series, as he died before they filmed the final movie, but why did Frawley play Knobby in this one in particular? I have no idea.
The premise for "Joe Palooka in Winner Take All" is kind of dumb. One of Joe's friends is overseas and he asks Joe to watch his son. This 'son' turns out to be fully grown...not the baby Joe anticipated. However, having Stanley Clements (soon to replace Leo Gorcey in the Bowery Boys films) playing a 'kid' is ridiculous since he's 22 years-old and seeing him with lots of kids at a birthday party just seems creepy.
In addition to dealing with the 'kid', the plot involves crooks trying to influence the odds as well as outcomes of Joe's fights. Later, after several unsuccessful tried, the enlist the help of the 'boy'.
I agree with the summary on IMDB that says that there's more actual boxing than plot. Also, Clements was just all wrong for the part--a part that should have, perhaps, gone to a 12 year-old!! Overall, an odd misfire....and I STILL would love to know why Frawley starred as Knobby. Perhaps Errol was sick?
Joe Palooka in Fighting Mad (1948)
Joe is a bit dim in this one!
Many of the Joe Palooka films from Monogram Pictures are posted on YouTube currently. So far, I've seen the first and second film, though the third is not available. This fourth installment is called "Joe Palooka in Fighting Mad" and features Joe going blind in the first few minutes of the movie!!
After his latest fight, Joe's vision vanishes. The doctor says this is due to damage from a concussion...a pretty common thing considering boxers are bashing each other in the head all the time! Following surgery, Joe is told not to box for at least a year in order to allow his body to heal and so Knobby decides to use his energy to coach another boxer in the interim. Naturally, problems result after Joe announces his retirement...and it's up to Joe to save the day by returning to the ring. Oh, and oddly, Joe and Knobby never even mentioned his eye problems in regard to all this!
I am glad this is only a movie, as the plot is insane. Imagine going back to boxing after losing your vision! Still, it is a decent installment of the series and worth seeing.
Gentleman Joe Palooka (1946)
"Mr. Palooka Goes to Washington"
This second installment of the Joe Palooka series from Monogram Pictures picks up where the first one ended...with Joe becoming the boxing champ. Now that he's champ, he has two goals....to defend the title as often as possible, taking on all comers...and to do some good with his new celebrity status. The first part is easy...and Joe easily defeats everyone he boxes. However, the second,...well, it's no so easy. Joe is above all things quite naive and when some 'nice people' approach him about supporting some legislation, he agrees...and only later realizes he's been used and instead of doing good, he's helped some jerks get rich at the expense of the taxpayers! Despondant, Joe simply quits...heading back to his home town and refusing to make any public appearances or box! Not surprisingly, Knobby goes to work trying to do anything he can to give Joe a reason to return to the ring.
In many ways, this is reminiscent of the classic film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"...and, the leader of the jerks is played by Guy Kibbee...who was also in this earlier film playing a similar role. Fortunately, it's different enough that it isn't a remake nor rip-off of the Frank Capra classic. It's more inspired by "Mr. Smith" than a copy.
While I'd never call "Gentleman Joe Palooka" a great film, it is different...something the first in the series really wasn't. And, it is enjoyable.
Joe Palooka, Champ (1946)
Competently made.....and not much more.
In 1930, Ham Fisher brought out the strip "Joe Palooka" and it almost instantly became a success...so much so that it led to a 1934 film starring Stu Erwin as the titular character. The strip remained popular for many years after this...so many that Monogram Studios created a new Joe Palooka series which ran from 1946 to 1950...all starring Joe Kirkwood Jr. as the boxer. The first of these 11 Monogram films is "Joe Palooka, Champ" and in addition to Kirkwood, the movie featured Leon Errol as Joe's manager and mentor, Knobby. Incidentally, Kirkwood also starred in a television version of Joe Palooka after the movie series ended!
When the story begins, Joe is already the champ. Knobby then talks to his friends and describes the story of how the great boxer was discovered as well as his advancement through the boxing world.
Apart from the first punch Joe lands in his first fight (which is almost cartoonish), the film is a by the numbers boxing film....neither great nor terrible. And, most importantly, it establishes the characters and sets it up for subsequent films. Worth seeing if not particularly inspiring.
By the way, early in the film look for a cute cameo with Joe Lewis. When Knobby is looking for a hot prospect, he sees Lewis fight...and soon goes with Joe Palooka instead.
Prison Farm (1938)
Sort of like "I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" set on a work farm.
Larry (Lloyd Nolan) is a complete jerk...and a crook. But his girlfriend, Jean, is convinced he's on the level and her faith in him leads to disaster. After he is involved with a robbery in which someone is killed, she believes Larry that they must leave town asap in order for him to begin a new job in Canada....even though he's picking up in the middle of the night to head there. He claims he wants to marry her and live in Winnipeg with her...whether or not this is true is uncertain because they both walk into a problem neither did anything to cause. A perverted sheriff attacks Jean and tries to rape her...and Larry stops him. The sheriff lies about what happened and both Jean and Larry are sent to a work farm for six months. Larry is able to handle it (after all, he deserves much more punishment than this) but Jean is starting to crumble apart due to the awful working conditions. What's next?
In some ways, "Prison Farm" reminds me of the classic reform film "I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang", though the work farm isn't quite as awful. Still, you can easily see that the folks making the film were also working to reform the system.
Overall, this is an entertaining story that keeps your attention throughout, though the film seemed a bit uncertain about the work farms. At times, it seemed to say they were cruel and evil...and at others they seemed less sure of this.
I Love That Man (1933)
A little schmaltzy and tough to believe, though the actors did their best.
"I Love That Man" certainly isn't one of Edmund Lowe's better films, though despite a difficult to believe and schmaltzy plot, it is worth seeing.
When the story begins, Roger (Lowe) is a con man who delights in taking advantage of suckers. When he meets Grace (Nancy Carroll), however, he pretends to be a nice guy because he knows she's awfully nice and wholesome. They soon fall in love. Then, he learns that he's a wanted man and before running away, he tells Grace who he really is. Inexplicably, she STILL agrees to run away with him.
In a new part of the country, Grace helps Roger set up a new business and become a part of the community. Despite his intentions to staying a con man, she molds him into a respectable guy. But then a couple 'friends' from Rogers past arrive...and they demand he pay them the $20,000 he owes them or else! What follows is a very dark version of the Edward G. Robinson comedy "Larceny Inc.", believe it or not.
So is this film believable in any way? Absolutely not. But the acting is good, the story is engaging and the ending with the knife pretty brutal. Worth seeing but far from a logical picture.
Guilty as Hell (1932)
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is a Pre-Code picture!
The early 1930s up to July of 1934 was an interesting time in Hollywood. In this so-called 'Pre-Code' period, the Production Code governing what content was and wasn't allowed in films was generally ignored. Sure, there was a Code, but it meant almost nothing to the studios. If you see many of these films today, you might be shocked to see content they never would have allowed up until the 1960s or later. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, abortion, extreme violence and occasional nudity were what you might see in a Pre-Code film....though of course not all Pre-Code films were so salacious.
When it comes to "Guilty as Hell", you have a great example of a movie that clearly belongs to the Pre-Code. After all, you could rarely ever curse in films after mid-1934 and only then if you received special dispensation, such as with Rhett Butler's famous last line in "Gone With the Wind".
The story starts with a graphic strangling..seen in the glasses of the murderer. When the police and medical examiners arrive, so does a snappy-talking reporter, Russell Kirk (Edmund Lowe). His bloodhound instincts brought him here and it soon becomes apparent that he's a bit of a jerk with a sick sense of humor. Soon it becomes apparent that this is a film like so many during the 1930s and 40s, where a non-professional ends up working on the case and makes the cops look like idiots. These idiots manage to catch the wrong man who ends up getting convicted for the killing...and it's up to Kirk to make things right and catch the real killer.
This role is a bit unusual for Lowe, as he generally played sophisticated, well-dressed guys. Here, he is dressed in a crummy wrinkled suit with a battered hat! And, he seems about as cultured as moldy cheese! The film also suffers a tad because the identity of the real murderer seems a bit obvious. But the film still is quite good...enjoyable albeit familiar.
Rome Express (1932)
I'd watch this one simply to see Conrad Veidt's performance!
"Rome Express" is a familiar sort of film...a murder mystery aboard a train going from Paris to Rome. And, like these sorts of films, there is a cast of many folks who are passengers on this journey.
It all begins with the theft of a valuable Van Dyck painting. Someone aboard likely has the painting. However, the killings don't start until much later...when you realize that the man with the painting has cheated his partners and they will stop at NOTHING to get that painting.
The best reason to watch this movie is to watch Conrad Veidt. This German actor is chilling and simply superb here as the baddest of the bad guys in the movie. Apart from that, there are a few decent performances here and there, though Gordon Harker's performance as a really annoying guy is perhaps too good! You can certainly see why the other folks aboard find him tiresome!! Overall, a very good film that is worth your time.
The Adventures of Jane Arden (1939)
Jane is sort of like Lois Lane...but with no Superman to save her.
Jane (Rosella Towne) is a reporter on a city newspaper....and like lady reporters, she's spunky and fearless. So, when a society lady is murdered, she decides to investigate by going undercover and joining a diamond smuggling ring! The job takes her to Bermuda...and the baddies rather quickly figure out who she really is! The biggest problem now is that her only help is an idiot lady reporter named 'Teenie'...and she has no Clark Kent standing by in case (or, more likely WHEN) she gets in over her head.
I read one other review that said that this film was originally intended to be the first of several Jane Arden films. I have no idea if that's true, but it does have a B-series feel to it...like the Torchy Blaine or Nancy Drew films of the 30s-40s. It wasn't a bad film at all...so perhaps this is true....perhaps it isn't.
A decent script but only pedestrian acting from Rosella Towne, the film is worth seeing but far from a must-see.
The Devil Is Driving (1932)
Exciting and very strange!
"The Devil is Driving" is one of the stranger films of its era. First, it's unusual because the usually dapper Edmund Lowe is cast as an auto mechanic! Lowe was much like Adolph Menjou--a fashion plate and sophisticated sort of guy and seeing him in overalls is unusual...though he was such a good actor, it worked anyway. Second, the setting is very strange. The story unfolds in the oddest hot car outfit imaginable. Think about it...a multistory highrise in the big city...with a parking garage and garage....and hidden garages in the higher floors where the repaint and strip the cars they steal! The bosses (and this is pretty weird) are in the floors above...one of which is a mute who is murderous and might just be the big boss covering as the other man's servant! Weird is definitely the word for all this.
Problems occur when the bosses hire two particularly stupid and unsavory characters. The pair end up nearly blowing everything because they aren't careful and later they run over the head mechanic's son! But it gets worse...and I don't want to say more since it would ruin the exciting (and brutal) finale.
Overall, this is a great film because it's so unusual and shockingly violent at times...and will never bore you! See this one.