Category Archives: humphrey bogart
I Saw What You Did ~ Back in the old days, before video rentals, before OnDemand, even before cable television, there was only one way to see a particular film – you waited and waited for it to finally show up on standard six channel television. When it was a movie you’d never seen and only heard about, it became sort of an event, and a special memory. I saw The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon this way, and also Mothra and the Matt Helm films. There was a certain mystique to the movies you had to watch and wait for each week by scouring the TV Guide.
The original 1965 (it was later a terrible telemovie in the late 1980s that is best forgotten) version of I Saw What You Did was one of those movies, and in recent times it has been made even rarer by its on-again-off-again video and DVD releasing. In an age where almost everything is available, this is indeed a rare film. It’s a lucky thing that occasionally TCM gives it a run, usually when honoring its star Joan Crawford, or its genius director William Castle.
Its full title gives a bit of a hint what it is really about. Two teenage girls on a sleepover amuse themselves by making random prank phone calls and saying to the answerer, “I Saw What You Did! And I Know Who You Are!” You can imagine the bedlam that ensues when they call the man who has just murdered his wife. There’s the set-up and trademark William Castle hilarity and horror follow. You can understand how the plot of this one can become whispered legend among those watching the TV Guide every week.
In a role originally meant to be only a cameo (although she got top billing and pay) and originally offered to Grayson Hall, later to be known as Dr. Julia Hoffman on “Dark Shadows,” Joan Crawford eats up the screen like the film goddess she was in every scene. Her appearance, dressed for flash in the middle of the night, is kinda odd, but then again she’s Joan Crawford after all. She proves without a doubt she could easily be the kooky neighbor in a sitcom from any age, and do it with pizzazz.
The two girls, and one’s little sister, are terrible, but their kids, so give them a break. John Ireland as the killer is stone-faced and fierce, his looks alone inspiring scares. Some of the shocks and the violence are a bit over the top for the time, and surprising when you think about it in hindsight. It’s not Friday the 13th, but it’s a bit much for 1965. The initial killing is an ironic turn on the shower scene from Psycho and actually quite well done.
This is, despite what others may tell you, William Castle at his best. I love this flick, and watch it whenever it presents itself. Must see for horror fans, movie fans, and camp fans – funny, scary, quirky, what more could you want? So keep a lookout, just like in the old days, for the next time I Saw What You Did airs, it’s worth it.
Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem ~ Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Freddy Vs. Jason, and even this movie’s predecessor – the monster team-up/fight is a staple of cinema horror fantasy, heck, Godzilla has even made a career of it. This type of event movie is almost a surefire hit, especially considering the combination of two blockbuster franchises like Alien and Predator. This sequel just goes to show it can miss, and miss bad. The special effects and built-in audience are already there, all that is needed is a good story and good characters – and that is where AVP: R fails. When the monsters are introduced before any human characters a precedent is set; the human cast is made secondary. And that secondary cast, rather than a strong team of adventure templates like in the first AVP, is typical slasher flick fodder, and that’s just not how it should be done with this specific facet of the genre. Even when this flick attempts to be what it should it fails in the attempt. As promising as it could have been, don’t bother with this one.
Swing Vote ~ What could have been a clever political satire or a touching father/daughter drama ends up simply being yet another preachy whiny Kevin Costner flick. Sigh. It has its moments, but wait for free TV for this one.
Black Legion ~ Infamously known as Humphrey Bogart vs. the Ku Klux Klan, this underrated flick is a period piece that’s very telling of the era in which it was made. Bogie is excellent as the anti-hero Frank Taylor in this one that got an Oscar nom for veteran screenwriter Robert Lord. The best part of this DVD package however is the inclusion of a full afternoon at the movies – trailers, a newsreel, a cartoon, and the main feature. Great stuff.
Zombie Honeymoon ~ All things considered, not all that bad for a Z-grade zombie flick. It has its unintentionally funny moments, which are much better than the scripted ones. And it seems to me that a lot of the trouble in this flick could have been avoided had the zombie husband not been such a sloppy eater.
The Proud Family Movie ~ I’ve never seen “The Proud Family” TV series, so this was my first exposure and I have to say I was impressed. Yes, it did take a bit for me to get my mind right with an evil Dr. Washington Carver and cloned-from-peanuts super-soldiers, but I made it through. It’s actually quite a bit of fun, and the soundtrack’s not bad either.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets ~ The only thing worse than conspiracy theories are conspiracy theories that don’t make sense. The Lincoln conspiracy equals Mount Rushmore equals the lost city of gold? Riiight. While it tries very hard to be clever it’s just as predictable as it is improbable. It’s also about an hour too long. Some shining moments but on the whole, so not worth it.
The Affair ~ This early Spelling/Goldberg television production from 1973 is proof positive that even an amazing cast – in this case, real life married couple Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, along with Bruce Davison – can’t save a bad script with inept direction. The possibly adlibbed, music-less scenes between Wagner and Wood are almost unbearable, as was her singing voice. Avoid this like the plague.
I discovered something a couple months back. At our local National Amusements theater, Showplace at the Ritz in Voorhees NJ, they have a weekly feature called “Silver Screen Classics” where every Monday they show a classic film from yesteryear for only two bucks, including popcorn and a soda. What a bargain!
Some of the films shown that I’ve seen so far:
The Time of Your Life ~ A quirky little flick that was a labor of love for James Cagney and his wife Jeanne. Based on a William Saroyan play and shakily brought to the screen, it’s more of a series of character studies set in a bar rather than an actual story, and yet it’s quite entertaining. William Bendix shines as Nick the bartender, Tom Powers plays the heavy and crazy old James Barton steals the show as Kit Carson. Enjoyable.
Busy Bodies ~ Classic Laurel and Hardy, this time as sawmill workers. Offered as a pre-show to the above flick, this was a wonderful reminder of the comedic genius of the team. Great gags and stunts sure to entertain children and adults of all ages.
At War with the Army ~ This first Martin and Lewis film was a bit of a disappointment. First the print wasn’t so hot, but also because it just wasn’t that funny – to me at least. The audience was roaring. I just never found Jerry Lewis to be all that funny with Dean, he was annoying if anything, and here he does his finest annoying. Dean is good here and the bits of him, without Jerry, being funny were good I thought.
Wine, Women and Bong ~ Shown before the above movie, this was a pleasant surprise. And it should be noted that the pre-shows for the Silver Screen Classics are sometimes the best part. Directed by Three Stooges veteran Jules White this short featured the short-lived comedy team of Max Baer and Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom. What was interesting was that they were both ex-boxers, but it was only Rosenbloom who acted punch drunk most of the time. Rosenbloom actually sounded much like Michael Rispoli in Death to Smoochy. They were no Three Stooges and some of the gags were a bit predictable, but I laughed harder at this than at Martin and Lewis. Great stuff.
Beat the Devil ~ An all-star cast and great folks behind the camera, this flick never lives up to what it could have been. I can easily see this remade as a suspenseful caper, but here it never gets up to a lukewarm drama. Directed by John Huston and written by Truman Capote and starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley and Gina Lollobrigida, there is much promise, but as I said, no impact, in this flick about conmen out for oil-rich property in Africa. A big part of the problem is Jennifer Jones, acting as an amateur here, and also that Bogart was sick at the time and not up to his usual antics. The pacing is also deadly dull. This could be good, as I said, it’s just begging for a remake.
Call It Murder ~ Originally released as Midnight (actually a much more logical title), this was pushed as a Humphrey Bogart film even though he’s only peripherally in it. Obviously it was repackaged after Bogie made it big in gangster films. Still, it’s a nice little stage drama. It borders on preachy in a few places when talking about the death penalty but for the most part delivers the goods.
Second Chorus ~ Never been a Fred Astaire fan but this was a surprise. The biggest surprise was Burgess Meredith out of “Twilight Zone” and “Batman” mode. The man has quite a range – here he’s Astaire’s best friend and rival for the girl and a job with Artie Shaw’s orchestra. He might lose that contest but he certainly steals the film from Fred Astaire and his dancing feet.
For the latest schedule of upcoming films, please check out the Silver Screen Classics website.
A Video Review of The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
The third screen version from 1941 of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” is quite possibly the best film noir ever made. Not only is director John Huston’s screenplay nearly word for word identical to the novel the film has a nearly perfect ensemble cast.
The famous story involves private investigator Sam Spade on the track of both his partner’s killer and an elusive jeweled statuette called the Maltese Falcon. Where the 1941 version succeeds over its predecessors is in the casting. Hammett’s work is about off the wall, colorful characters that just weren’t properly brought to life previously.
Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade. He plays it with a cynical disconnection almost giving the effect of not actually living his life but watching and enjoying the ride. The female lead is Mary Astor one of the few actresses to make the leap between silents and talkies successfully. Her Brigid O’Shaughnessy isn’t as tough as she should be but still exquisitely done.
The skill demonstrated here is immaculate. Gladys George as Spade’s partner’s sexy wife Iva, Barton MacLane as big time prick Dundy, Peter Lorre in one of his most famous roles as Joel Cairo – all wonderful and flawless in their parts. I didn’t care much for Lee Patrick as Effie but that’s just my personal preference. I found her foxy but unconvincing at times, not as charming as previous Effies.
The parade doesn’t stop there. Sydney Greenstreet is the sinister fat man Kaspar Gutman perhaps his most memorable role, Ward Bond famous for TV’s “Wagon Train” plays amiable cop Tom Polhaus and film noir veteran Elisha Cook Jr. known as Hollywood’s lightest heavy is the decidedly evil Wilmer Cook. Blink and you’ll miss the director’s dad Walter as Captain Jacoby. As I said this is a perfect ensemble cast.
It’s rare that such a combination of perfect script and cast happens but when they do it’s a joy. Add in the beautifully fitting score by legendary composer Adolph Deutsch and you’ve got possibly one of the best film noirs ever made and probably one of the best of that decade. 1941’s The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece.
A Video Review of Satan Met a Lady also known as The Man in the Black Hat
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
This was the second try at making a film version of Dashiell Hammett’s classic The Maltese Falcon. The first attempt was the wonderful Dangerous Female from 1931. This 1936 version features a young Bette Davis in a story where the names and plot devices have been changed to prevent any confusion with a really good film.
At first glance Satan Met a Lady is a lark. It’s almost a tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre. It is a lot of fun, yes, but more than meets the eye in some places. Perhaps the best way to describe this one is The Maltese Falcon meets Bringing Up Baby. And if that sounds good to you, you’re expecting too much.
The story, which might sound slightly familiar, has private investigator Ted Shayne hired by a Valerie Purvis to follow a Madam Barabbas who in turn hires him to locate a jeweled ram’s horn. Substitute some names and stuff and you got The Maltese Falcon. Hammett even got a credit as in ‘based on a book by.’
William Warren as Shayne is no Humphrey Bogart and he definitely ain’t no Sam Spade. He is highly entertaining however with an almost Clark Gable-esque slickness. Warren was renowned as one of the best villain actors of the 1930s. Bette Davis is adequate but not doing her Bette Davis best. Blink and you’ll miss Arthur Treacher also collecting a check just like Miss Davis.
The highlight of Satan is Marie Wilson as Shayne’s secretary Miss Murgatroyd. She is an absolute delight. Marie is such the perfect ditsy blonde that she puts rank amateurs like Marilyn Monroe and Suzanne Somers to shame.
Satan Met a Lady lives up to its literary origins in a few places but not many. This is only worth watching for its novelty value and of course Marie Wilson.
THE ORIGINAL BLACK BIRD
A Video Review of “Dangerous Female” also known as “The Maltese Falcon” (1931)
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
Really no one but film buffs know that Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” was made into a motion picture twice before the famous 1941 classic starring Humphrey Bogart. Bette Davis starred in Satan Met a Lady in 1936 but Dangerous Female was the original.
The story sticks pretty close to the Hammett novel. Private investigator Sam Spade seeks both a rare jeweled statuette and the murderer of his partner unaware the cases are related. Dangerous Female is classic film noir from Hammett, the original master of the literary genre.
The cast for the time is phenomenal. As Sam Spade is Ricardo Cortez who was originally considered to be Rudolph Valentino’s successor. While this is an interesting turn from his usual smirking Latin lover routine he makes for an entertaining if most un-Bogart-like Spade. It is harder to get past his bizarre cigarette gestures than the idea of a Hispanic Sam Spade. This is however ironic because Cortez is actually Austrian. That’s right, he’s more Arnold Schwartzenegger than Jennifer Lopez.
Bebe Daniels who plays Ruth Wonderly worked with Harold Lloyd as a teenager but is probably better known for her parts in classic musicals like Rio Rita and 42nd Street. Otto Matieson as Cairo proves he is no Peter Lorre here in a bad bit of casting. Dwight Frye, most infamous as Renfield in the 1931 horror classic Dracula, shines as the baby-faced but menacing Wilmer Cook. Longtime character actress Una Merkel plays a nice counter to Cortez’ Spade as secretary Effie. She’s a treat in any role.
As Iva Archer, the widow of Spade’s dead partner, is the beautiful Thelma Todd. This blonde bombshell also known as ‘Hot Toddy’ is a Hollywood legend. At the peak of her success she was also a businesswoman and one of Tinseltown’s brightest stars. She did however have a tendency toward bad boys. It is believed her relationship with mobster Lucky Luciano led to her being found dead at the wheel of her car in her own garage. As you can see from this role it was quite a loss.
Despite the cast Dangerous Female is stagy in places and seriously lacks a proper soundtrack although soundtracks were rare at the time. Other than the 1941 Bogart classic this is the best version of “The Maltese Falcon.” If you can find it definitely check it out.