Take the Money and Run: GUN CRAZY (United Artists 1950)

cracked rear viewer


GUN CRAZY is a thrill ride that will have you hanging on for dear life as it takes its protagonists on a downward-spiraling roller coaster ride that turns straight downhill into rock bottom. This is the ultimate noir, moving at breakneck speed towards its inevitable conclusion, a sordid tale of sex and violence that’s second to none. GUN CRAZY was a huge influence on many later films, especially 1967’s BONNIE & CLYDE, right down to the fashion style of lead Peggy Cummins.

Bart Tare loves guns. So much so that, as an adolescent, he smashes a store window to steal one. Busted by the cops, he’s sent to reform school until he’s of age. After a stint in the Army, Bart returns to his hometown, and with old pals Dave and Clyde, attends a carnival. It’s there he meets Annie Laurie Starr, a trick-shot artist. There’s immediate heat between the two, as their mutual…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Supermen (1970), Superman (1987), Star Jjangga II: Super Betaman, Majingga V (1990), Three Supermen at the Olympic Games (1984)

Sometimes when you are trying to find Superman and Batman knockoffs you come across ones where you just can’t track down English subtitles. Here are four of them. The first and last are from a long running series of Supermen movies. The second is one of at least three 1980’s Indian Superman movies. The third is some sort of Batman like movie from South Korea. Despite not having any idea what they are saying, I can still take screenshots!

Supermen (1970, dir. Bitto Albertini)

Supermen (1970, dir. Bitto Albertini)

Superman (1987, dir. B. Gupta)

Superman (1987, dir. B. Gupta)

Star Jjangga II: Super Betaman, Majingga V (1990, dir. Yeong-han Kim)

Star Jjangga II: Super Betaman, Majingga V (1990, dir. Yeong-han Kim)

Three Supermen at the Olympic Games (1984, dir. Italo Martinenghi)

Three Supermen at the Olympic Games (1984, dir. Italo Martinenghi)

Cleaning Out The DVR #4: Four Daughters (dir by Michael Curtiz)


Last night, after I finished watching My Sweet Audrina, I decided to watch one more film off of the DVR.  Seeing as how I had already watched a coming-of-age drama, a classic war film, and a Lifetime melodrama, I decided that my final film of the night would be 1938’s Four Daughters.  According to the plot description, it was the story of four musically talented sisters and their father.  It sounded nice and undemanding.

I recorded Four Daughters off of TCM, where it was shown as a part of the 31 Days of Oscar.  When it originally aired, I was warned about it by some of my fellow Oscar fanatics.  They all told me that it was an okay movie but it was nothing special.  “Don’t let the best picture nomination fool you!” they all said.  And, it’s true that the Four Daughters is one of the more forgotten best picture nominees.  Go check out the list of external reviews on the imdb and you’ll see that only a handful of reviews have been posted for Four Daughters.

But you know what?  I liked Four Daughters.  Yes, when compared to some of the other films that have been nominated for best picture, Four Daughters may seem rather slight.  Just compare it to some of the other films that were nominated for best picture of 1938: Grand Illusion, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Jezebel, and the winner, You Can’t Take It With You.  Interestingly enough, Michael Curtiz directed both The Adventures of Robin Hood and Four Daughters.  Curtiz was nominated for directing Four Daughters, though Robin Hood is certainly the better regarded film.

And yet, with all that in mind, Four Daughters is still a perfectly charming and rather sweet movie.  Adam Lemp (Claude Rains) is a musician who loves classic music.  He has four daughters, all of whom are musically talented.  The oldest, Emma, is played by Gale Page while the other three daughters are played the Lane Sisters, who were apparently a very popular singing act in the 30s.  Lola Lane plays Thea Lemp, Rosemary Lane plays Kay Lemp, and the youngest daughter, Ann, is played by Priscilla Lane.

While the film was obviously designed to capitalize on the popularity of the Lane Sisters, it’s not all just music and performing.  The Lemps also own a boarding house, which is frequently visited by potential suitors.  While Kay Lemp struggles with whether or not to accept a music scholarship and leave home, Emma is pursued by Ernest (Dick Foran) and Thea is courted by Ben (Frank McHugh), a wealthy older man.

And then there’s Ann, the youngest daughter and the one to whom I most related.  Despite saying that she never wants to marry, Ann finds herself being pursued by two men.  One of them is a composer named Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn).  The other is Felix’s best friend, Mickey (John Garfield).

John  Garfield was one of the first Method actors to make the transition from stage to screen.  (It’s generally argued that, in the beginning, Paul Muni begat John Garfield who begat Montgomery Clift who begat Marlon Brando who begat Robert De Niro who begat Leonardo DiCaprio.)  Four Daughters was one of his first major roles and it also provided him with his first Oscar nomination.  It’s interesting to contrast Garfield’s brooding and internalized performance with the somewhat more bland actors who play the other suitors.  He grounds Four Daughters, giving the film a necessary jolt of reality.

However, I have to admit that my main reason for liking Four Daughters is a personal one.  I am the youngest of four sisters and there was so much about Four Daughters that I related to.  (I saw a lot of myself in Ann Lemp.)  From the opening scenes of the sisters fighting and laughing at the same time to the countless scenes of the sisters supporting each other, Four Daughters gets it right.  The film may have been made in 1938 but sisterhood is eternal.

In the end, I glad that I took the time to record and watch Four Daughters.  It’s a sweet movie, one that will be enjoyed by sisters everywhere.

Cleaning Out The DVR #3: My Sweet Audrina (dir by Mike Rohl)


After I finished watching The Bridge on The River Kwai, I decided to watch a more recent film that was on my DVR.  I selected My Sweet Audrina, a film that made its debut, this January, on Lifetime.  Would My Sweet Audrina prove to be as good a film as The Bridge on the River Kwai?  Read on to find out…

I have to admit that, despite my well-known love for over-the-top Lifetime melodrama, I was not particularly enthusiastic about watching My Sweet Audrina.  Though I missed the film when it was originally broadcast, I did see the commercials leading up to it.  “From the author of Flowers In The Attic,” the commercials announced, which led me to believe that My Sweet Audrina would be yet another installment in the Flowers saga.  And don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed Flowers In The Attic and I thought If There Be Thorns had some good moments but, after four movies about that messed up, incestuous family, I was ready to move on.

However, once I started watching the film, I quickly discovered that — despite some definite similarities — My Sweet Audrina has nothing to do with Flowers in the Attic.  True, it does deal with family secrets and sexual repression and a young woman who is never allowed to leave her family’s Victorian mansion but other than that, it has absolutely nothing to do with Flowers In the Attic.

Audrina (India Eisley) believes that she is nine years old but she is actually a teenager.  She spends almost all of her time isolated from the rest of the world.  Her father (James Tupper) refuses to let Audrina interact with the outside world, convinced that she will suffer the same fate that happened to a mysterious figure known as “the first Audrina.”  Audrina’s older sister, Vera (Toni Atkins), is jealous of the attention that their father devotes to Audrina.  She deals with her anger by intentionally injuring herself and having sex with everyone she meets and then taunting the repressed Audrina with the details.  When a handsome piano teacher shows up to give her lessons, Audrina is ashamed when she feels attracted to him and then is angered when Vera steals him away.

Fortunately for Audrina, a very understanding neighbor named Arden Lowe (William Moseley) has fallen for in love with her.  (In what world does a handsome young man fall in love with a strange girl who has no friends, no understanding of the world, and is totally terrified of sex?  The world of Lifetime, of course!)  However, even after marrying Arden, Audrina is still haunted by disturbing nightmares and is incapable of enjoying sex.

Of course, it all comes down to the mystery of what happened to the first Audrina.  And fear not!  All questions are eventually answered.  Of course, the answers don’t really make any sense but I guess that’s kind of the point.  The melodrama of My Sweet Audrina is so pure and unapologetically over the top that it doesn’t have to follow any logic other than its own.

Visually, My Sweet Audrina follows the lushly gothic pattern previously established by Flowers In The Attic.  The sets are elaborate, the clothes are to die for (even Audrina’s supposedly drab outfits have a definite flair to the,), and all of the performers are nice to look at.  India Eisley does a good job as Audrina but, for me, Toni Atkins stole the entire film as the obsessively self-destructive Vera.

For lovers of over-the-top melodrama, My Sweet Audrina is a lot of fun.

And if you’re not a lover of over-the-top melodrama … well, then you probably wouldn’t be watching Lifetime in the first place!

(But, to answer the question I asked at the start of this review, My Sweet Audrina is not as good as The Bridge on The River Kwai.  But it’s still pretty entertaining!)

Cleaning Out The DVR #2: The Bridge on the River Kwai (dir by David Lean)


Last night, after I watched Captains Courageous, I continued to clean out the DVR by watching the 1957 film, The Bridge On The River Kwai.

The Bridge On The River Kwai is a great film but it’s not necessarily an easy one to review.  It’s always easier to review a film when you can be snarky and dismissive but The Bridge On The River Kwai is one of the few films that can truly be called great.  Everything about it — from the directing to the cinematography to the script to the acting (especially the acting!) — works.  It’s a 3 hour film that never drags.  It’s a rousing and exciting adventure story that also works as an anti-war film.  As directed by David Lean, it’s probably about as perfect as a film can get.

The Bridge On The River Kwai takes place during World War II and really, it’s two films in one.  One film tells the story of Shears (William Holden), a POW at a Japanese prison of war camp in what was then Burma and what is now Myanmar.  Knowing that, under the rules of the Geneva Convention, officers are exempt from manual labor, Shears pretends to be a commander.  However, when the camp’s commandant, the harsh Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), announces the all prisoners — regardless of rank — will have to build a railway bridge over the River Kwai, Shears manages to escape.  With the help of local villagers, Shears makes it to an Allied hospital.

It’s at the hospital that Shears has a two-scene romance with a nurse because the film’s producer, Sam Spiegel, was worried that the film was too male dominated.  It’s also at the hospital that Shears is informed that he will be returning to the POW camp, with a group of British commandos, on a mission to destroy the bridge.  When Shears explains that he’s not even an officer, British Maj. Warden (Jack Hawkins) explains that’s why the Americans have agreed to let the British use Shears for their mission.

The film’s 2nd storyline deals with Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness), the senior British officer at the POW camp.  When we first meet Nicholson, he’s in a battle of wills with Saito.  When Nicholson insists that no officer will work on the bridge, Saito first forces all of the British officers to spend an entire day standing in the heat.  When that doesn’t work, Saito has Nicholson locked in an iron box.  However, Nicholson refuses to back down and becomes a hero to the other prisoners.  Realizing that the bridge will never be finished on time and that he will be required to commit suicide because of his failure, Saito decides to take a different approach to dealing with Nicholson.

After releasing Nicholson from the iron box, Saito shows him the poor job that the British prisoners have been doing on the bridge.  Saito appeals to Nicholson’s vanity.

And it turns out that Col. Nicholson is a very vain man indeed.

Soon, Nicholson is ordering his men to do a good job on the bridge, announcing that they are going to show the Japanese what the British can accomplish.  Nicholson claims that the project will be a morale booster and that the bridge will be a permanent monument to British ingenuity.

This part of the film is an unexpectedly nuanced character study and Guinness gives a brilliant performance.  For the film’s first hour, Nicholson is our hero but then, just as suddenly, he reveals himself to be a far more complicated character and our feelings towards him become much more mixed.  We’re forced to reconsider everything that we previously felt towards him.  Was Nicholson standing up for his men because it was the right thing to do or was he doing it because he desired the camp’s adulation?  His motives are complicated and difficult to figure out and the implications are, at times, rather frightening.  About the only thing that can definitely be said about Nicholson is that he becomes so obsessed with showing what the British can do that he loses sight of what the Japanese are going to do with that bridge once it is complted. Nicholson’s short-sightedness become a metaphor for blind nationalism and war in general.

When these two storylines finally intersect, it leads to one of the most justifiably climaxes in cinema history, one that leads one of the film’s few surviving characters to exclaim, “The madness, the madness!”

As I mentioned earlier, The Bridge On The River Kwai won the Oscar for best picture and for once, not even I can disagree with the Academy.

Cleaning Out The DVR #1: Captains Courageous (dir by Victor Fleming)


For the last few days, I’ve been desperately trying to clean out my DVR.  Ever since this year began, I have been obsessively recording movies and now, I suddenly find myself with just a few hours of space left!  Now, I know that the simple solution would be to just start erasing stuff but that’s just not the way I do things.  I recorded that stuff so you better believe I’m going to watch and review every single minute of it!

Last night, I did a quick count and discovered that I have 38 movies to watch before I can officially declare the DVR to have been “cleaned out.”  While that may sound like a lot, it’s not if you consider that — by watching and reviewing 4 movies a day — I can have the whole job done by the end of the next week!  That’s my plan and my challenge to myself.  Can I watch and review 38 movies in 10 days?

Let’s find out!

So, I started things out by watching the 1937 film, Captains Courageous.  Captains Courageous was aired on TCM as a part of their 31 Days of Oscar.  Not only was Captains Courageous nominated for best picture but it won Spencer Tracy his first Oscar.  Tracy was one of the quintessential American actors so it’s interesting to note that he won his first Oscar for playing a Portuguese fisherman who speaks in exaggeratedly broken English.

Spencer Tracy may have won the Oscar for Best Actor but his role is really a supporting one.  Instead, Captains Courageous is about an extremely spoiled, obnoxious, and annoying 15 year-old named Harvey Cheyne (Freddie Bartholomew).  From the minute that Harvey first appears on screen, it’s difficult to like him.  The son of a rich businessman (Melvyn Douglas), Harvey is hated by everyone.  His family’s butler rolls his eyes whenever Harvey calls for him.  His classmates (and, of course, Harvey attends a snooty private school) want nothing to do with him.  When his father takes him on a trans-Atlantic cruise, even the sailors seem like they want to toss him overboard.

However, before they get a chance to give him one quick shove over the railing, Harvey does their job for them.  He falls overboard and he nearly drowns before being rescued by a fisherman named Manuel (Spencer Tracy).  Manuel takes him back to the fishing schooner, where that ship’s captain (Lionel Barrymore) refuses to believe that Harvey is rich.  Since the rest of the crew quickly decides that they dislike Harvey as much as everyone else does, the captain saves Harvey from being thrown back overboard by “hiring” him as a fisherman.  And, of course, the captain makes Manuel responsible for him.

Though initially hostile, Harvey and Manuel slowly start to bond.  Harvey learns about the importance of hard work and starts to grow up.  And, eventually, it all leads to tragedy.  That’s just how things work in the movies.

As you can probably guess from the plot description above, there’s not a subtle moment to be found in Captains Courageous but, as is so often the case with 1930s Hollywood, that’s actually what makes the film appealing.  Captains Courageous wears its sentiment on its sleeve and it makes for an interesting contrast to the more cynical films of today.  While it takes a while to get used to seeing Spencer Tracy giving such a theatrical performance, he does eventually win you over.  Freddie Bartholomew is vulnerable enough to you can forgive his character for being so obnoxious.  Meanwhile, Lionel Barrymore and Mevlyn Douglas are well-cast in their supporting roles and, if you keep an eye open, you’ll see everyone from John Carradine to a young Mickey Rooney working on the schooner.  Ultimately, Captains Courageous is a well-made and likable coming-of-age film that still holds up today.