Bravo for RIO BRAVO (Warner Brothers 1959)


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If there’s such a thing as the quintessential “John Wayne Movie”, RIO BRAVO may very well be it. Producer/director Howard Hawks created the perfect blend of action and humor, leading an all-star cast through this tale of a stand-off between the good guys and the bad guys. RIO BRAVO’s theme has been done over many times, most notably by John Carpenter in 1976’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Hawks himself remade the film, with Wayne again starring, as EL DORADO and RIO LOBO, but the original remains the best of the bunch.

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The plot itself is pretty basic. When disgraced deputy Dude (called Borrachon, Spanish for ‘big drunk’) walks into a saloon looking for booze, no-good Joe Burdette tosses a silver dollar into a spittoon for kicks. Sheriff John T. Chance stops Dude from embarrassing himself, only to receive a whack in the head for his efforts. Dude goes after Joe and a fight breaks out, and Joe kills…

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“Sign ‘O’ The Times” : Prince Ascends To The Throne


Trash Film Guru

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In recent days I’ve emerged from my funk by feeling the funk — leave it to Prince to have provided his fans with the one sure-fire way of getting over his death which is, of course, by getting into his music. He wouldn’t want us to feel too blue for too long, after all — he’d rather have us all feeling decidedly purple. And what better way to not only remember, but celebrate, his extraordinary life than by witnessing the magic he created at the very height of his powers?

Granted, one could argue that said “height” lasted for decades, but for my money the best filmed record of it came in 1987 with the release of his flat-out monumental concert movie, Sign “O” The Times, directed (with a considerable amount of flair and confidence, I might add) by Prince himself with uncredited assistance from his former manager/business…

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The Fabulous Forties #19: Whistle Stop (dir by Leonide Moguy)


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The 19th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1946’s Whistle Stop and I’m sad to say that I ran into some trouble when I tried to watch it.  As much as I love the Mill Creek box sets, the DVDs within are somewhat notorious for getting easily damaged.  That was the problem that I ran into when I tried to watch Whistle Stop.  From the minute I hit play, the film would randomly pause.  The picture would randomly pixelate.  The sound would randomly vanish.  As you may have picked up, it was all very random but it also made it impossible for me to watch Whistle Stop.

However, like almost every other film that’s ever shown up in Mill Creek box set, Whistle Stop is in the public domain and, therefore, it’s been uploaded to YouTube by dozens of different accounts.  Once I realized that the DVD wasn’t going to work, I switched over to YouTube and I finally got watch Whistle Stop.

Really, I probably shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble.  Of the 19 Fabulous Forties films that I’ve watched so far, Whistle Stop is perhaps the least interesting.  Half of the film is a film noir and the other half if a small town melodrama but, with its convoluted plot and uninspired direction, it really doesn’t work as either.

Mary (Ava Gardner) grew up in a small town but, eventually, she left and went to the big city, hoping to make a new life for herself.  Apparently, she didn’t succeed because, two years later, she returns to the small town.  (The town is so small and obscure that it’s mostly known for its train stop.  Hence, it’s a “whistle stop.”)  When she returns, she discovers that her ex-boyfriend, Kenny Veech (George Raft) has become a loser in her absence.  Kenny is still in love with her but he’s also bitter at her for leaving town.

Making things even worse, from Kenny’s point of view, is that Mary is now dating a sleazy nightclub owner named Lew Lentz (Tom Conway).  Kenny’s best friend, Gitlo (Victor McLaglen), comes up with a plan, in which he and Kenny will kill Lew and make it look like a robbery.  However, Lew has plans of his own and…

You know what?  I’m probably making Whistle Stop sound more interesting than it actually is.  This is one of those films were the plot manages to be absurdly complicated without actually adding up to much. On the plus side, Ava Gardner, one of my favorite of great femme fatales, is beautiful and sultry as Mary and reminded me of why, for several years, Film Noir Femme Fatale was my default Halloween costume.  Tom Conway makes Lew Lentz so amazingly sleazy that you can’t help but admire his commitment to the role.  On the other hand, George Raft is totally miscast and way too handsome and naturally rakish to play a total loser like Kenny Veech.  Watching the film, you can tell that he wasn’t particularly comfortable playing such an insecure and passive character.

Whistle Stop wasn’t particularly memorable but if you want to watch it, you can do so below.  It’s free!

The Fabulous Forties #18: The Chase (dir by Arthur Ripley)


The_Chase_1946_posterThe 18th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1946’s The Chase, which turned out to be a pretty nifty little film noir.  Did I actually just use the word nifty in a film review?  Yes, I did but then again, everyone should use the word “nifty” at least once in their lives.

The Chase tells the story of Chuck Scott (Robert Cummings), whose life is anything but nifty.  When we first meet him, he’s standing outside in the rain, staring into a restaurant, and enviously watching the people eating inside.  Chuck is a returning serviceman.  He helped to win World War II but he’s now returned to a society that has changed in his absence.  He has no money, he has no home, and he suffers from what we would today call PTSD.

Things change for Chuck when he finds the wallet of a man named Eddie Roman (Steve Cochran).  He returns the wallet, discovering that Eddie not only lives in a mansion but he also has a sinister henchman named Gino (Peter Lorre!).  Eddie is so impressed that Chuck returned the wallet and didn’t try to steal any of the money that he offers to put Chuck on the payroll.

Soon, he is working as Eddie’s driver.  Of course, Eddie has an accelerator installed in the backseat, so that he can control how fast the car is going.  Eddie enjoys freaking Chuck out by randomly speeding up the car.  Along with being a spectacularly bad passenger, Eddie also turns out to be a gangster.

When Chuck meets the mysterious Lorna (Michele Morgan), it’s love at first sight but there’s a big problem.  Lorna happens to be married … to Eddie!  Chuck and Lorna flee to Cuba, with Eddie and Gino in pursuit…

Or do they?

Chuck, it turns out, has been suffering from nightmares since he returned from the war.  Often times, he wakes up with amnesia.  Are Eddie, Gino, and Lorna real or are they just figments of Chuck’s dream state?  Is Chuck really living in a film noir or is he just dreaming that he is?

The Chase is an effectively dark little film noir, one that will keep you guessing.  Steve Cochran appears to be having a lot of fun as the cheerfully sociopathic Eddie (and it’s interesting to note that, in the same year as The Chase, Cochran had a supporting role in another film about the struggles of returning servicemen, the Oscar-winning Best Years Of Our Lives) and, of course, Peter Lorre is great as Gino.  Michele Morgan is both sympathetic and enigmatic as Lorna and Robert Cummings does a good job of playing a man who is never quite sure whether he’s awake or he’s asleep.

The Chase is a classic mix of film noir and psychological melodrama.  Watch it below!