Benny’s From Heaven: Jack Benny in THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT (1945)


horn11Jack Benny claimed 1945’s THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT killed his movie career. After rewatching it, I can’t understand why. This comedy/fantasy is just as good as any Bob Hope or Red Skelton film of the era. Yet the critics of the time savaged it, and Benny spent the rest of his life cracking jokes about what a turkey the movie was. I disagree, and think THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT deserves a second look.

Jack plays Athanael, a third rate trumpeter playing third trumpet for a radio show sponsored by Paradise Coffee (“the coffee that makes you sleep”). Lulled to sleep himself by the dulcet tones of the show’s announcer, Athanael dreams he’s playing his trumpet in a heavenly orchestra. Beautiful harpist Elizabeth (Alexis Smith) recommends him to the chief angel (Guy Kibbee) for an important mission. It seems Earth has been acting up, with “persecution and hatred everywhere”, and The Big Boss (aka God) has decided to eliminate it. Athanael is sent to play “the first four notes of the Judgment Day Overture” precisely at midnight and signal the end of the world.

Our hero lands at a swank hotel, where he’s spotted by two fallen angels (Allyn Joslyn, John Alexander) who’re comfy with their corrupt lives. Athanael saves a desperate cigarette girl (Dolores Moran) from suicide and misses his chance to blow at midnight. He loses the trumpet when he can’t pay for a meal and Elizabeth is sent to straighten out the mess. The fallen angels conspire with a slick thief (Reginald Gardner) to steal the horn. A merry mix-up ends with everyone hanging from the hotel’s rooftop scrambling for the horn.

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I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say Athanael wakes from his dream to deliver the punchline. There are lots of historical and heavenly puns (seeing people jitterbugging on the dance floor, Athanael exclaims “I must tell St. Vitus about this”)and plenty of silly sight gags. The score by Franz Waxman adds to the fun, aided by music cues you’ll surely recognize from Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes (an uncredited assist from cartoon maestro Carl Stalling).

The cast is loaded with comic actors like Franklin Pangborn, Margaret Dumont, ex-wrestler Mike Mazurki, and Hollywood’s favorite souse Jack Norton. And then there’s Jack. He’s perfect in the role, and his impeccable timing, comic delivery, and that unmistakable mincing walk are on full display. Director Raoul Walsh was better known for his tough, manly films (THE ROARING 20’S, HIGH SIERRA, WHITE HEAT), but handles the comedy with a sure hand.

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While THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT is no classic, it’s not as bad as you may have heard. It’s certainly not as bad as Jack Benny made it out to be all those years. He certainly got some mileage out of making fun of it, though. Watch and judge for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Then again, I’m a huge Jack Benny fan, in case you haven’t guessed, so I may be a little biased.

Here’s the Trailer For Joy


Here’s the trailer for the latest David O. Russell/Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper/Robert De Niro film, Joy!

Joy is scheduled to be released in December, just in time for Oscar consideration and, judging from this trailer, it looks like it may just get it.  After watching this, Joy has gone from being a film that I was barely aware of to being one of my most anticipated films of the year.

(That said, I still think the first trailer for American Hustle is the best trailer of Russell/Lawrence/Cooper/De Niro trilogy…)

Supermen dönüyor/The Return Of Superman (1979, dir. Kunt Tulgar)


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Seeing as so many franchises are being continued this year and the next, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the knockoff and parodies of these films. I already covered Lady Terminator. While that was from Indonesia with American actors, this is from that glorious land of Hollywood blockbuster ripoffs: Turkey. People probably just refer to this as Turkish Superman and that’s fine because it came out the very next year after the Christopher Reeve film. However, I’ve done some poking around and I think I’ve found five other Turkish films with Superman or just the Flying Man. I believe I even found one that combines Superman and Batman into a single superhero. I hope I can find subtitles for that one.

By the way, see how Superman stands like he’s a living wall. Get used to it because you will see it a lot. He will frequently just stand there, take it, then quickly dispose of whoever has decided to waste their time trying to bring him down.

This Turkish Superman begins with Christmas ornaments against a black background. It’s supposed to be space, but they’re Christmas ornaments. Just look at them.

Superman comes from a Christmas ornament.

Superman comes from a Christmas ornament.

One of these ornaments is Krypton. It’s destroyed when “gasses that mixed suddenly caused explosions and wiped it out of the Universe.” Superman is sent away to make his way to Earth. Then Tayfun comes home to his family. In this one Clark Kent is a man named Tayfun. In short order, his family tells him how they found him and give him a green stone. He says he kind of already knew because this Superman is psychic. He types using telekinesis, but that’s later on. Now Superman sets off to follow where the stone leads him. It leads him into some Turkish caves that almost look like abandoned mines. Then a far cry from Marlon Brando appears to tell Superman he is his son.

Brando?

Brando?

Yeah, he does also say he is Superman. I don’t think it’s the subtitles because he then goes on to talk about being from a race of Supermen. Don’t get me wrong, there are some issues with the subtitles. Tayfun smells his Mom’s food, says it’s great, then says I feel like starving. Papa Superman then lays out just how “strong, mighty, and virtuous” Superman is. Here it goes:

“The genious of King Solomon.
Hercules’ might…
Atlas patience…
Zeus’ health…
Achilles’ courage…
Mercury’s speed.”

These are your qualities says Papa Superman. What happened to faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Well, he can fly and he’s at least as fast as a speeding boat.

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Thought it looked fake when Christopher Reeve flew? Look again. Now come the Lex Luthors. That’s right, there are two of them who work together. One is the main man and the other is his second. In this Superman the destruction of Krypton is known about and the Luthors want to turn Kryptonite into a weapon that can be fired at things to make them gold. (Full confession, it’s been many years since I watched the Reeve Superman.) Lois Lane…I mean Alev has a father who has some formulas that he needs. It’s a flimsy excuse to put her in danger so Superman has a reason to kick some butt. They try and kidnap her, so this happens.

Superman springs into action.

Superman springs into action

I gotta admit, even though this is a Turkish knockoff, I was still excited to see that happen. I mean the bad guy told Alev “we’ll incubate you honey.” That’s just going too far and we need Superman to fly past bridges, factories, and buildings before showing up on the scene to save her. They drove her car into the back of a truck that they then send off to crash on it’s own on a mountain road. Superman shows up, sees it, and leaps into action literally. You might expect that he would just fly up to it and stop it with his bare hands, but no. He’s a practical Superman. He lands on the roof, gets into the driver’s side, and stops it.

The rest of the movie is just a series of the bad guys talk, Alev is put in danger, and Superman rescues her until he finally stops the Luthors altogether. With that in mind, let’s just look at a few of the highlights.

Superman is a perv.

Superman is a perv

He can catch bullets.

He can catch bullets

Knife to the back? No problem!

Knife to the back? No problem!

Superman laughs at threats to "bisect" him.

Superman laughs at threats to “bisect” him

A test of strength.

A test of strength

I could go on with more great shots, but let’s wind down. I have to mention the music. The Superman theme is used several times, but there’s something you wouldn’t expect. How about some music from James Bond movies. No joke. You’ll recognize them immediately.

At this point, I am sure you have three big questions on your mind:

Q. Does Superman hit anyone so hard they fly into the air?
A. Yes, he flies right up in the air and grabs onto a tree branch.

Q. Once the bad guys get the info they need to create their weapon that turns things into gold, then do they try it on a cat?
A. Yes, but the cat walks off target and they miss.

Q. Since we know the Turks do the greatest death scene faces, is there a comparable one here?
A. Yes!

Almost looks like you caught him doing something naughty, but actually Superman just hit him and he's going down.

Almost looks like you caught him doing something naughty, but actually Superman just hit him and he’s going down.

Superman does get briefly stopped by the Kryptonite, but it’s ultimately just an excuse so Tayfun can reveal to Alev that he is Superman. Superman catches up with Luthor #1 and lifts the back of his car like Schwarzenegger in Twins. Then he squares off with him in a scene that reminded me of the final standoff in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Except Superman doesn’t dodge any bullets. He simply grabs his arm, takes the gun, crushes the gun, and turns him over to the authorities. They all want Superman to stay, but apparently he must leave to “search for my country Krypton which disappeared seven light years ago.” There’s so much wrong with that sentence.

I liked it! I was a little disappointed that they didn’t take more liberties with the character. I want to see something akin to Darth Vader turning into a scorpion in Star Wars on the Famicom. The question is whether it is worth your time? I think that’s an especially important question when it comes to these kinds of movies. It’s not as good as Lady Terminator, which is definitely worth seeing. This is camp, cheese, and low budget. However, since it is Superman, there is something special about seeing him in something so familiar and yet different. It’s only a little over an hour so it won’t take up too much time. Check it out.

The look on my face when I discovered there are things like a Mexican Batwoman, Filipino Batman, and Turkish Batman.

The look on my face when I discovered there are things like a Mexican Batwoman, Filipino Batman, and Turkish Batman.

Note: I would have loved if the upcoming Superman movies had a cameo appearance from the Turkish Superman, but unfortunately he is dead. In fact, he died one year before Reeve passed away. Also, I am well aware of the unfortunate first name of the director and the last name of the actress who plays Superman’s Mom: Kunt and Çokseker.