Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman

cold war creatures

You know that I love horror movies and film noir, but I also have a soft spot for really low-budget science fiction flicks, especially those made in the 1950s. I love alien invasions from space and giant creatures made from atomic radiation. Way back in October of last year I reviewed a three-film boxed set from Arrow Video. It is filled with giant birds, atomic brains and crazy zombies. Check it out.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema IX

film noir

Kino Lorber released two of their film noir sets in October which seemed weird to me since Noirvember was just a month later. But maybe they wanted to get them on the shelves a few weeks before the holiday so that fans would be ready to watch once November rolled around.

I watched these so long ago I had to read my own review just to remember if I liked this one (I did). You can do the same here.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema X

film noir

I’ve fallen behind in posting links to my reviews over at Cinema Sentries. I wrote this one for Kino Lorber’s latest film noir boxed sets back in October, but what better time to share it than the tail end of Noirvember? To be honest this set was probably my least favorite one they’ve done. Mostly because the three films are boxing movies and not really noir. But whatever, you can read my review here.

The Flash (2014): The Complete Eighth Season

the flash season 8

I’ve mentioned before that we are big fans of The Flash in my house, and I believe I also mentioned that the show was starting to wear thin. Season Eight furthered my thoughts in this regard. It is really starting to become a chore to sit through and that’s not good for any show. Season Nine will be its final season and I’m definitely glad. I’m sure I’ll watch it because I’d like to see it through to the end, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, which is such a shame.

Anyway, here’s my review of the entire season eight.

Sorry For the Lack of Posting

My family and I were down and out all last week with…something. We ran light fevers, had heads full of gunk, felt achy and our heads hurt, and we coughed our bloody lungs out. It wasn’t COVID, we tested negative for that. I’m guessing it was a mild case of the flu since that’s been going around. Whatever it was it made me not want to do anything more than lay on the couch and moan. Luckily I had already planned on a four-day weekend so I didn’t miss too much work. Unluckily that four-day weekend coincided with Thanksgiving and I spent it doing the aforementioned moaning on the couch.

I’m feeling quite a bit better now, though I am still coughing quite a bit. So, I’ll try to resume some regular posting again. I had several more Noirvember postings that I wanted to get to, but at this point, I’ll probably just do some kind of overview of what I watched in a few days. I know at least two of you will be interested in that LOL.

I do not have a movie theme for December yet. I’m not a huge fan of Christmas movies so I won’t be doing that. I might not do anything. After two theme months it might be nice to just watch whatever I want. I’ll still do the occasional review, and I’ll definitely be making public my old reviews again.

On the music organizational front, I can officially say I am done with Bob Dylan. If I remember I’ll post a list of all my Bob shows for you all to look at with envy. I’m now working my way through various other artists that I’m moving off of a hard drive that will be solely dedicated to Bob. Then I’ll finally get to that hard drive my friend sent me many years ago. That’s the Peter Gabriel, Queen, Pink Floyd, etc. drive that I’ve been feeding off of for a long time. So, I am making good progress.

I’m still aiming to be done in April when my Amazon Drive goes dark. Then I’ll start posting music downloads again, at least in some fashion.

Anyway, I hope everyone else is well and happy.

Noirvember #11: The Dark Corner (1946)

the dark corner

I love me some William Bendix. He’s one of those great character actors that you don’t necessarily notice at first but then he keeps showing up in small parts in all sorts of films and you go, “oh there’s that guy again.” And he’s always good. I probably first noticed him in The Glass Key (1942) where he played a jovial gangster who rather enjoyed beating up on Alan Ladd.

He’s a heavy in The Dark Corner as well, but he’s smarter and more crafty, but not nearly as fun to watch. He’s been hired by the film’s true villain to spy on the hero of our picture, Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens). He intentionally does a bad job of it so that Bradford will know someone’s keeping an eye on him. And then later trying to kill him.

Lucille Ball plays Galt’s secretary, but she doesn’t quite fit. Obviously, she was a gifted comedienne and a true treasure, I just wish they’d done something different with her character. They could have used her comedic talents and made something like The Thin Man where she wisecracks her way through the film. Or they could have made her the smartest person in the room. That’s what all the descriptions indicate she’ll be. I was expecting the Galt character to be rather dim-witted and she’s the smart secretary secretly solving all the crimes. Instead, she’s just a regular secretary and the love interest but is given very little of interest to do.

The story is fine, there are some good twists and it has the look of a good noir. But it never quite did it for me.

This makes yet another Noirvember film this month put into the just OK category. I fully expected this to happen as I intentionally picked relatively obscure films to watch instead of the well-known classics, but I have to admit I’m ready for something really good.

The Friday Night Horror Movie: The House of the Devil (2009)

the house of the devil

I’ve been hearing good things about Pearl and X, both films that were directed by Ti West and came out this year, and so when I saw that his 2009 film House of the Devil was on The Criterion Channel I decided to give it a shot.

I mostly loved it and I’m gonna try not to spoil anything as this is definitely a film that’s best if you go into it not knowing very much. It is also a film that clearly takes its influences from late 1970s/early 1980s horror. It is definitely a slow burn, that only gets “exciting” in the last twenty minutes. I put exciting in quotes because I found the rest of the film exhilarating, but not a whole lot happens in that build-up.

Joceline Donahue plays Samantha, a college student in need of help. Her roommate is terrible and she desperately wants to move. She’s found a place to rent, but she’s got to come up with the first month’s deposit, and she’s unemployed and broke. When she sees a flyer for someone needing a babysitter she immediately gives it a call. Despite the guy who answers the phone sounding like a creep and standing her up on their first meeting, she takes the job.

She gets her friend (Greta Gerwig) to drive her out to the isolated (and close to a cemetery) house where she meets Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan). He is strange, and kind of creepy. The house is big, old, and creepy as well. He tells her he lied, that this isn’t a babysitting job, but rather a looking after his elderly mother-in-law job. She is healthy and gets around just fine, so really all Sam has to do is make sure no emergencies happen and it will be smooth sailing. Especially since the mom is a private person and will likely stay in her room.

Despite the creepiness, and the warnings from her friend Sam stays. It should be easy, and besides the guy is offering $400 for one night’s work.

This is a horror movie called The Devil’s House so we are primed for Mr. Ulman to be a serial killer, or the mother-in-law to be a holy terror, or for devil worshipers to try to get into the house. Ti West knows this expectation and plays with it. For most of the film’s run-time literally, nothing happens. Sam sits in the house alone and bored. She watches TV. She orders a pizza. She plays pool while listening to her Walkman. She explores the house. But the way the film is shot. The way the camera lingers in certain places. The way it was shot in 16mm giving it a grainy look. The way the music acts like a creepy horror movie score. The way the house looks with its weird rooms, and deep shadows. The way Sam is perpetually scared. All of these things build up unrelenting tension.

There is one scene, relatively early on, that happens to someone who is not Sam, that lets you know all this tension building isn’t for naught, but mostly it’s just playing with your expectations. I loved it. So much so that I was actually kind of disappointed when things actually started to happen.

I’ll stop myself there. I have a few reservations about the ending, but mostly I really liked this one.

Noirvember #10: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

beyond a reasonable doubt

I’m generally not the type of person who complains about plot holes in a movie. I’m a firm believer that cinema is much more than the plot. I can easily overlook holes in a plot or problematic bits of a story when the acting, direction, cinematography, music, etc, are doing it for me.

Fritz Lang is a fantastic director. He came up making silent films in Germany so he knows how to tell a story visually, without a lot of audible or written language. But I almost turned Beyond a Reasonable Doubt off because the story was so ridiculously dumb.

Dana Andrews plays a guy who, along with his soon-to-be father-in-law hatch a plan to expose the inadequacies of the district attorney and the death penalty. The idea is to find a murder case that the police can’t solve, then plant a bunch of evidence making it look like Dana Andrew’s character is guilty. At the same time, they’ll take some photos and stuff proving they planted it. The police will catch him, the DA will prosecute him, and the jury will convict but just before he’s executed the father-in-law will reveal the plan and all will be saved. Also, they’ll expose how easy it is to convict and execute an innocent plan.

Anyone with half a brain can see how terrible this plan is. Nobody in their right mind would intentionally get convicted of a crime they didn’t commit expecting the justice system to correct itself when proof of innocence is procured. Anybody who has ever seen a film before will know that something will inevitably go wrong leading to a panic that our hero will actually face the gas chamber. Everyone will guess he gets saved at the last minute.

What I’m saying is this movie is dumb. Dana Andrews does his best to carry the plot on his shoulders. Fritz Lang does a decent job of adding what tension he can to the story. But I could not get past how stupid it all is.

Did I mention that the two men decide not to tell Andrews’s character’s fiance about this stupid, stupid, plan because they don’t want to worry her? Because apparently letting her believe her fiance is going to be wrongfully executed is no big deal. That’s how dumb this plot is.