Cinema Sunday: The Lodger (1944)

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Title: The Lodger

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Barré Lyndon

Director: John Brahm

Producer: Robert Bassler

Starring: Merle Oberon, Laird Cregar, George Sanders, Sir Cedric Hardwicke

Released: January 1944

MPAA: Approved

 

 

I’ll come right out and say that I love the lore surrounding Jack the Ripper. No, I’m not a fan of murder, but the fact that the killer evaded detection, while performing his hideous deeds is quite remarkable. It’s always been a fascination of mine, even to the point of watching and liking films that are loosely based (if that in some cases) on the murders in Whitechapel, London.

Another to be clear about is that none of these names ring a bell with me. Perhaps I’ve seen a film or two with one of the actors before, but the names definitely don’t seem familiar to me. One thing is for sure though, after watching this one, I’m a big fan of Laird Cregar! Alright, now for the movie!

 

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The film begins after a couple of murders have already taken place. London (especially the Whitechapel area) is full of panic. Outside a pub, two locals read a paper posted about the murders and a reward for help leading to the capture of the murderer known only as “Jack the Ripper!” A couple of Bobbies (cops), begin to patrol the area. We then see a few more of them on horseback. Close by, a few inebriated patrons spill out of a pub, singing and dancing in the street. One woman in particular walks by, and tells them that she lives just around the corner, so they let her go alone. A few others call out to “Katy’ to tell her goodnight. She sings playfully on her way home. As she turns around a corner (where we cannot see her, but only hear her), where she’s apparently run into by someone unknown to her. A few seconds later she cries out in horror, and she is presumably dead. A crowd gathers around the police as they arrive to find her dead body. A few people talk of how it must’ve been the Ripper again, as she’s apparently been cut up quite badly.

 

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The following day, a newspaper boy is selling copies of the latest edition, warning of another Ripper murder in Whitechapel. A woman supposedly got a look at him, but due to the darkness, couldn’t be of much help with a description. The people in that area are quick to buy copies to read about the horror. Out of the shadows, we see a man, “Slade,” walking towards a home. A man, Robert Bonting (Sir Cedric Hardwicke – image below) comes out of that home to buy a copy of the paper. Just as he returns inside, a knock on the door occurs. His wife, Ellen Bonting (Sara Allgood – image below), answers, and lets Mr. Slade (Laird Cregar – image above) into the house after he inquires about a room for rent. She tells him they do have one, and then she takes him upstairs to show him. He asks if there is any other rooms, and she says nothing except the attic. He gets visibly aroused when he sees how inconspicuous the room is and that there’s a back door to which he can use since he works late at night…

 

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Ellen also remarks that their niece lives in the house as well, and that she’s an “actress” singing and dancing in a cabaret. Afterwards, Ellen returns downstairs and informs her husband that Mr. Slade will be renting the room and attic, beginning tonight. He’s more interested in the Ripper murders, and theorizing about them. He’s had a nervous breakdown after losing his job, but knows they need money. A while later, Ellen brings some food to Mr. Slade, and she finds him very irritable, and turning over all the pictures in the room (they’re all of gorgeous actresses). He tells her that he doesn’t like actresses, but she hopes he’ll change his mind because her niece, Kitty (Merle Oberon – image below), is one. As the week winds on, one night Mr. Slade is on his way out to “work,” and runs into Kitty, Ellen, and Robert, as they’re exiting to go see one of Kitty’s performances. They ask him where he goes at night, but he’s quite mysterious about it. He seems to be smitten with Kitty, but most men probably would be (I know I am!).

 

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At the theater, Kitty is getting ready, when a former actress, Annie Rowley (Helena Pickard), comes to see her. She just wants to see her old dressing room again, as she apparently does every time a new girl gets to perform at this theater. Kitty appeases her, and invites her to stay, but Annie tells her she has other plans. Kitty throws her a few bucks, and Annie tries to refuse, but Kitty insists. The show goes on, and Kitty gets a thunderous applause. The show is a success, but during the performance, Annie Rowley is brutally murdered by the Ripper, in a nearby alley. One man, Inspector John Warwick (George Sanders), seems to be a bit ahead of the curve, and might just have a chance to figure out the riddle of Jack the Ripper!

The fear and panic are almost at a height where people are hysterical. There are hundreds of police combing the streets every night, but it seems they are at a loss to stop this fiend. Can Inspector Warwick and Scotland Yard catch the murder, or will he keep slaying unsuspecting women in London?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

So, anyone with half a brain will obviously know that “Slade” is the killer 20 minutes into the film. Of course, they do a great job of keeping the illusion alive in the movie itself, so that makes it watchable. There are several good performances in the film, but none better than that of Laird Cregar. His portrayal of Jack the Ripper is exquisite. His cool demeanor when he’s trying to hide who he really is when the lights go down is excellent. The opposite is very menacing too, as he’s an extremely scary dude, due to his facial expressions and size. It sort of reminded me of Spencer Tracy in the 1941 classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde.” Yeah, it’s that good.

 

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Merle Oberon is also very good. She excels at being a strong female character (for the time), and is also extremely vivacious (see image below). Hardwicke and Allgood also do a fine job at their parts. Even the maid, Queenie Leonard, is fantastic at playing a quirky secondary character. A standard soundtrack does lend a hand in some parts, but isn’t necessary to be honest. The atmospherics and acting lift this film above any other film about this subject that I’ve ever seen. Quite easily, to be perfectly honest.

 

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Hit up your local big box store or online at Amazon or some such sites. The film is definitely worth asking price!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Shock (1946)

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Title: Shock

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writers: Eugene Ling, Martin Berkeley (screenplay), Albert Demond (story)

Director: Alfred L. Werker

Producer: Aubrey Schenck

Starring: Vincent Price, Lynn Bari, Frank Latimore, Anabel Shaw, Stephen Dunne

Released: January 10th, 1946

MPAA: NR

 

 

Getting back into the swing of things this new year, I thought it appropriate to lift high the name of Vincent Price, as he is one of the masters of horror! Looking through his catalog, you see quite an array of films, but of course, the horror films are the ones we most remember. Why is that? Because he was born for it. He could act well enough for any genre, but is performances in horror films are more than just memorable, they’re magnificent. This film is more of a thriller than horror, but Price is a fantastic villain!

I could go on all day about him and his films, but instead, let us get to this wonderful film. It’s not easy to find a decent copy, but the usual video sites have copies for a viewing (I own a set with it on, and the quality is slightly better than online). Here we go!

 

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The film begins with a woman, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw), who is entering a hotel (in San Francisco). She asks the desk clerk if her husband has arrived yet, but he tells her no. Her husband is returning from the military (serving overseas), and supposedly has booked a room at his hotel. The man at the desk tells her that no one has check in under that name. He tells her that they’re completely booked. But after she starts sobbing, the manager finds her accommodations for the night.

 

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Later, Janet is thinking about how great it will be to finally see her husband after him being away for so long. She falls asleep and dreams of him returning. It soon turns into a bit of a nightmare though, but she eventually wakes up. She calls the front desk and asks if her husband arrived, but he hasn’t. She then heads out on to the balcony for some fresh air. She then hears the voices of a man and woman (presumably husband and wife) arguing. The husband, Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price), tells his wife that he wants a divorce because he’s in love with his nurse. She laughs at him and threatens to call and rat him out for his infidelity. He gets enraged, and then picks up a candlestick, and bludgeons her with it. Anabel is horrified, and falls to the couch.

 

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The next morning, Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore) shows up at the hotel, and rushes upstairs to meet his wife. As he walks through the door, you can see Anabel hasn’t moved an inch from the spot where we last saw her. Paul rushes over to her, but within a minute, it’s obvious that she’s in a trance-like state, and nothing seems to be getting her out of it. He immediately calls for a doctor, and luckily there’s one close. He examines her and tells Paul that she’s in a deep state of shock. He recommends a very good neurological doctor that goes by the name of Dr. Richard Cross!

 

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The doctor shows up and examines Janet. He tells Paul that she’s had a nervous breakdown from something traumatizing. Dr. Cross then heads out to the balcony for a cigarette, and notices that her balcony can see directly into the room where he murdered his wife. He realizes that there’s more than a good chance she witnessed the murder, so he suggests that Janet be transferred to his sanitarium in the country (so he can keep a close eye on her). Dr. Cross’s naughty nurse/lover takes Janet to the hospital, and tells her to give her an injection to keep her calm.

 

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After a while, Janet begins to respond slightly to Dr. Cross’s voice. It’s almost like she’s under hypnosis. He questions her about what she saw the night before, and she admits that she saw him kill his wife. Janet’s eyes open , and as she recounts the event, Cross realizes she must be kept from telling this secret. Later that night, Nurse Elaine (Lynne Bari) comes over to the Doc’s house for some hanky-panky, and the two plot to keep Janet under their sway so she doesn’t spill the beans.

 

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The following day, Dr. Cross brings Paul to see his wife. She’s very groggy and almost seems worse. Cross informs him that his time missing in action in the war has disturbed his wife’s mind, and that she may never recover. He informs the good doctor that he went to the local military base and got a second opinion. Later, Dr. Cross and Nurse Elaine are mentally torturing Janet to drive her further into insanity.

 

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Will the new doctor be able to help Janet awaken from her nervous breakdown? Can Janet ever live a normal life again? Will Dr. Cross and his sinister nurse get caught and pay for their crimes? All will be answered…maybe.

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

If you think about it, this is one whacked out film. Imagine a doctor this sinister. Killing his wife, then using drugs, and any other means possible to drive someone insane. I’m sure a plot like this was quite shocking (no pun intended) back in 1946 for the audience. Obviously in today’s reality, this kind of thing is old news, sadly. The supporting cast isn’t all that stellar, but Price is on point once again. At certain moments, he’s truly evil, but once in a while, he’s conflicted. This sets in motion the thought: Is Price’s character insane or just tormented? Sure, he bludgeoned his wife, but that was in a fit of rage, the textbook definition of insanity. And when it comes down to actually killing another, he’s torn about it because he loves the nurse, but realizes killing is wrong.

We do see a solid performance by Anabel Shaw (Janet). She does a pretty good job at portraying someone fight for their sanity. The sets were pretty much standard fare, as was the soundtrack (it did have its moments, but overall it was average). Another classic that any fan of Vincent Price must see. It almost has a vibe to it like “The Fly,” as far as the conflicting emotions go. Hit up any video site, as I believe this one has fallen into public domain.

 

Click here for a clip!

Cinema Sunday: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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Title: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: Edmund H. North (screenplay), Harry Bates (novel)

Director: Robert Wise

Producer: Julian Blaustein

Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe

Released: September, 1951

MPAA: Approved

 

After reviewing some crazy films leading into Halloween, I felt it necessary to check out one of the all-time classics! The sci-fi genre never saw greater heights than in the 1950s. Such films as this one, Forbidden Planet, and others, set an amazingly high bar, that few films have ever even come close to. Why is that? I have no idea, other than to say that I believe as the years went by, filmmakers relied more and more on style than substance, but also because these early films had a charm to them. Even though they might be considered cheesy and have some dialogue that was shall we say interesting compared to more modern times, they always left you feeling exhilarated.

This movie is a must see for anyone that is a fan of classic cinema, regardless of it being sci-fi. It’s on Netflix right now, so if you have that, there’s no excuses. If not, I’m sure the big box stores have copies relatively cheap (check the $5 bins). Alright, let us commence with the film!

 

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The film begins with a military base getting a reading from their radar that something is circling the Earth at an incredible speed. Radio stations around the world are broadcasting the news, and people look frightened. They make a weak attempt to calm the people down, but then suddenly, over Washington D.C., we see a flying saucer circling the area. People run in fear, and the UFO lands in an open field. Of course, the police show up, along with some bystanders, then finally the military. After two solid hours of nothing, the ship stirs, and a hatch opens. A figure (sort of humanoid) walks out, and informs them that they come in peace. As it comes down towards the crowd, everyone is on edge. The alien has a device of some kind, and it clicks, agitating one of the soldiers. He shoots the alien and blows the object out of its hand! Just then, a giant robot appears from inside the UFO, and you know the crap is gonna hit the fan.

 

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, Michael Rennie, 1951, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. CREDIT: Everett Collection

It marches towards the crowd, and the people run away screaming. A visor on the robot’s face opens, and a beam of energy shoots out at the weapons, disintegrating them totally. The soldiers can’t believe their eyes, and look like even they are about to panic. Just as it appears the robot is going to go off on them, the humanoid tells “Gort” to stop. He obeys, and then the humanoid tells the military that it was a gift for the President, and not a weapon. They take the humanoid to the VA for a check-up and then some questioning. The humanoid (Michael Rennie), who identifies himself as “Klaatu,” tells the officials that he has an urgent warning for the leaders of this world, and he demands that they assemble to listen to his words. They tell him it’s near impossible to get everyone together, but he tells them it would be in their best interest to make it happen.

 

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Over at the UFO, the robot is being examined, but nothing they try is giving any answers. We then again see Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy), the Secretary to the President, as he informs Klaatu that the worlds leaders wont be meeting together any time soon. This angers him at first, but then he suggests that he gets out and spends some time among the people of Earth, to try to help him understand them better. Mr. Harley tells him that it’s not going to happen, and walks out. Klaatu just smirks. Later that evening, a nurse and a soldier bring some food to Klaatu, but he’s vanished.

The military begins to comb the area, searching for the alien. The radio has everyone in a panic. We then see Klaatu walking around a neighborhood, and that he’s stolen a bag, and some clothes from one of the officers at the hospital. He spots a sign that says “room for rent,” and investigates. He walks in and scares the beejeesus out of the people in the boarding house. He explains that he wants to rent the room, and the elderly woman is a little worried, but then comes around.

 

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One of the boarders is Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), and she has a son, Bobby (Billy Gray). The youth thinks “Mr. Carpenter (Klaatu)” is a FBI agent, searching for the alien. After a couple of days, we see the hysteria growing, thanks in part to the media (imagine that). At the breakfast able, Helen tells the others (who are skeptical about the alien and his motives), that maybe it just wants peace. They kind of scoff at her, and then her boyfriend arrives. Tom Stephens (Hugh Marlowe) has a day planned for the two of them, but Helen doesn’t have anyone to watch Bobby. Mr. Carpenter volunteers, and at first, Helen seems unsure. Tom assures her it will be OK, and then they all part ways.

 

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During the day, Bobby shows Mr. Carpenter around the city. They visit Arlington national Cemetery, and specifically the grave of Bobby’s father. The Lincoln Memorial is the next stop, and we see Mr. Carpenter’s reaction to the words inscribed on the memorial. He wishes he could talk to him instead of the people of today. Mr. Carpenter asks Bobby who the world’s greatest philosopher is, and he tells him that the smartest man is Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe). Mr. Carpenter wants to meet him, but Bobby wants to go see the UFO first. It’s still a zoo around the spaceship, and Bobby has a ton of questions, most of which Mr. Carpenter answers.

 

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The two head over to the residence of Professor Barnhardt, but he’s not home. Mr.Carpenter sees a mathematical equation on a blackboard, and solves it for the professor. Just as he does, the professor’s secretary comes in. She admonishes them , and tells them to leave. Mr. Carpenter leaves his address for him, and later that evening a Federal Agent shows up and takes him to see the Professor. He reveals who he really is, and that if Earth doesn’t stop with their atomic program and their space program, the other planets will destroy Earth!

Can the professor get the people of Earth to listen? Or will Klaatu and Gort incinerate the planet!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

I usually don’t care for morality plays in movies when they are this over-the-top, but honestly, this one doesn’t bother me at all. The lead character, played by Michael Rennie, is fantastic. His He really makes you believe that he’s an alien, and that we as people are heading down a destructive path. The relationship he has with the boy is absolutely incredible. The way he shows the boy what the really important things are in life regarding humanity, is spot on. Patricia Neal also does a fine job with her portrayal of the fearful mother.

The sets aren’t anything to crow about, but they really aren’t the point and couldn’t add anything regardless. The soundtrack is decent, and adds some tension to the film for sure. The special effects are quite crude, but for the time, they were just fine. I did like the way they showed the eye beams from Gort, destroying the tank. He turned it to ash in a matter of seconds, and for 1951 special effects, it looked pretty cool!

This film is required viewing for fans of the genre, plain and simple!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Terror Train (1980)

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  Title: Terror Train

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Writer: T. Y. Drake

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Producer: Harold Greenberg

Starring: Ben Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, David Copperfield

Released: October 3, 1980

MPAA: Rated R

Welcome, to my first (of many hopefully) movie review on my new blog! You know, I’d planned on doing something a bit older than  this movie, but I started watching this one for the thousandth time, and thought, “hey, why not?” It’s not the most elaborate plot, and not the best acting, but it still holds up for slasher fans around the world. The evidence being its recent release to Blue-ray (above)!

The film begins at a frat party, and we see a few friends, Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis), Mitchy, Doc, Mo, and Jackson, as they pull a prank on another student. Well, the prank has an adverse effect on Kenny, and it sends him to the psychiatric hospital. Fast forward a coupe of years later, and the friends are taking a trip on an excursion train as part of a graduation party. The costume party doesn’t even get started though, as one of the group is killed before boarding the train. The rest of the students think nothing of it though, as he’s the class clown type.

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As the train gets moving, the typical drinking, smoking, and all around craziness ensues. The killer assumes the disguise of his victim, so no one notices anything out of sorts. He begins to systematically eliminate students, and Alana begins to realize that the group that pulled the prank years earlier is being targeted. Alana attempts to get the help of the other students and the conductor to investigate who the killer might be.

As the train ride keeps going, the bodies pile up, and then only Alana remains. She thinks she figures it out, and the blame shifts to the magician (David Copperfield) that was hired for the party. The students are taken off of the train out in the frigid, wooded area, and the train is searched by the conductor (Ben Johnson) and his crew. They find nothing, and force the students back on to the train, because the temperature is well below freezing, so staying out there isn’t an option. Alana wanders into the magicians compartment, and discovers his body, impaled by his own swords.

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After a while, even the crew of the train begins to be slaughtered, and it’s up to Alana and the conductor to figure out who’s doing the killing, where and when he’ll strike next, and ultimately, how to stop him!

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OK, thoughts on this film are as follows. Overall, the film is a good slasher flick. It has everything you could want if you’re a fan of this genre. Unfortunately, if you’re not, you’ll probably think it stinks. Personally, I think it holds up well, and I can cite two reasons. First, Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s a great actress for flicks like this, and obviously, she expanded her roles and abilities over the years. Honestly though, I think her talents lie in the horror genre, and lets face it, you don’t get a nickname like “The Scream Queen”, for being miscast! Secondly, the film definitely has a creepy factor to it, that is still…well, creepy! So, while the earnings at the box office were modest, if you like slasher films, but haven’t yet seen this one, grab a copy!