That Old, Familiar Song: MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (MGM 1934)


cracked rear viewer

The plot of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA will certainly be familiar to movie lovers: there’s two kids, one rambunctious, the other studious. Rambunctious grows up to be on the shady side of the law, while Studious represents law’n’order. There’s Girl in the Middle, who loves Rambunctious but always winds up with Studious. Rambunctious perpetuates some evil deed, and Studious must now bring his old pal to justice. Girl in the Middle is torn between the two. In the end, justice prevails, and Rambunctious pays for his crimes, but not before making peace with Studious.

Sound familiar? Sure it does, having been rehashed umpteen times in countless westerns, gangster sagas, wartime dramas, and other genres. But MANHATTAN MELODRAMA was the first, even winning an Oscar for Arthur Caesar’s Best Original Story. Too bad Caesar didn’t copyright the idea; he’d have been a very rich man! The film also has that MGM shine going…

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Film Review: Do or Die (dir by Andy Sidaris)


So, imagine this.

You and your BFF are at a luau in Hawaii.  Fires are being spun.  People are dancing.  Drums are being beaten.  It’s almost time to eat the pig and suddenly, you discover that a mysterious old man wants to speak to you.  The man is surrounded by armed guards but you’re used to that.  Both you and your BFF work for the government.  You blow things up and save the world for a living!

Anyway, the old man informs you that he is a master criminal named Kane.  He’s one of those “I’m going to take over the world” types but apparently, you keep thwarting his plans.  He’s a little bit upset about that and why not?  It’s hard enough trying to conquer the world without having somebody continually blowing up all of your friends.  He says that he’s going to have you killed.

Uh-oh!

But fear not!  Kane isn’t going to kill you right there and then.  It turns out that Kane has a code of honor that he lives by.  He may be evil but he believes in fair play.  So, Kane says that he’s going to kill you later.  Apparently, he’s hired six different teams of assassins.  Over the next couple of days, they’re going to try to kill you.  Fortunately, the team’s aren’t going to work together or anything intelligent like that.  That wouldn’t be fair.  Instead, they’re going to come at you one at a time.  Once one teams fails to kill you, they’re out of the hunt.

How would you react?  What would be the first thing that you and your BFF would do?

Would you make sure your guns were loaded, lock the doors, and then wait for the first team to make their move?

Would you try to make the first move, maybe trying to take out Kane right then and there?

Or maybe you would leave the country and try to start a whole new life under a new identity?

I’d probably go with the third option but that’s not what Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) do when Kane (Pat Morita) tells them that they’ve been targeted.  Instead, they get topless and relax in the hut tub while discussing how much it sucks that someone wants to kill them.

Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The 1991 film, Do or Die, was directed by Andy Sidaris.  In a Sidaris film, a topless hot tub party plays much the same role as the family get togethers that often end the Fast and the Furious movies.  Still, it’s hard not to be a little bit disappointed by their sudden passivity.  After all, Donna is the same agent who previously used a rocket launcher to blow up Erik Estrada at the end of Guns.

Speaking of Erik Estrada, he’s back.  However, he’s playing a different character than he played in Guns.  Now, he’s a heroic agent named Rico.  When Donna and Nicole finally get around to letting their boss, Lucas (William Bumiller), know what’s going on, Lucas recruits Rico to help protect them.  Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) and Shane Abilene (Michael Shane) are also brought in as well.  Shane still has terrible aim.  I know that’s a running joke in all of the Sidaris films but you really do have to wonder why the government continues to employ someone who sucks at a huge part of his job.

Anyway, Donna and Nicole eventually head for the mainland but that doesn’t do much good because Kane put a tracking device on her watch and Donna apparently lost several IQ points between the end of Guns and the start of this movie.  At first, they go to Vegas but eventually, they end up in Louisiana.  This leads to the usual remote-controlled boats and helicopters, the same ones that appear in nearly every Sidaris film.  Needless to say, a lot of stuff gets blown up.

And it’s all pretty boring, to be honest.  It sounds like it should be fun, what with all the different assassins showing up and Kane getting more and more frustrated as Donna and Nicole continue to survive.  But, unfortunately, none of the assassins are that interesting.  Most of the film takes place in Caddo Parish.  My family lived in Shreveport for a year and a half.  I like Caddo Parish.  But it really can’t compare to Hawaii as far as photogenic locations are concerned.

Do or Die had potential but it got lost in the hot tub.

Book Review: Dr. No by Ian Fleming


Having survived his creator’s attempt to kill him off at the end of From Russia With Love, British secret agent James Bond returned in the 1958 novel Dr. No.

When Dr. No begins, M is concerned that his top agent might no longer have what it takes.  After all, James Bond barely survived his previous mission.  The doctors say that he’s recovered,  Bond has spent months in rehab.  Bond is desperate for a new mission but M still has his doubts.  So, he gives Bond what should be an easy assignment.  He sends 007 to Jamaica, to investigate the strange disappearance of John Strangeways and his secretary.  (Strangeways previously appeared in Live and Let Die.)

It turns out to be anything but simple.  As soon as Bond arrives, it becomes obvious that the mysterious Dr. No was somehow involved in whatever happened to Strangeways.  Dr. No lives on a remote island and has made a fortune through the cultivation of bat guano.  (Eck!)  With the help of the loyal Quarrel and the beautiful Honeychile Ryder, Bond sets out to find out what Dr. No is actually up to.  Of course, the natives say that Dr. No is protected by a dragon.  Bond says that’s foolish but then the dragon shows up…

But it’s not just the dragon that Bond has to look out for!  There’s Dr. No himself.  When we finally meet Dr. No, we discover that he’s basically a cyborg.  Oh, he’s never called that, of course.  I don’t even know if “cyborg” was a word in 1958.  But Fleming delights in telling us about Dr. No’s metal hands and the way that he glides across the floor.  Fleming also delights in telling us all about the ins and outs of bat guano.  Fleming came up with many creative deaths for his Bond novels but Dr. No is the first to feature suffocation by bat shit.

Dr. No is a departure from Fleming’s previous books, all of which may have featured villains with odd names but, at the same time, remained somewhat realistic.  Dr. No, on the other hand, is so fanciful that it almost reads as being satire.  Everything from Dr. No’s megalomania to Honeychile Ryder’s first appearance on the beach suggests that Dr. No is intentionally written to take place in a bigger-than-life fantasy world.  That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad book.  In fact, it’s one of Fleming’s more entertaining novels.  But it’s almost as if, having brought Bond back to life, Fleming was determined to take a break from the real world with his next novel.

Interestingly, Dr. No started life as a non-Bond related screenplay.  Though Fleming ultimately abandoned the script, he used it as the inspiration for his next book.  It’s appropriate that, from such beginnings, Dr. No went on to serve as the basis of the first Bond film.

Music Video of the Day: Do or Die (remix) by Afrojack featuring 30 Seconds To Mars (2014, dir by ????)


 

Afrojack vs. Thirty Seconds to Mars?

Well, Thirty Seconds To Mars has Jared Leto.  But Afrojack is Afrojack.  My money has to be on the guy who didn’t appear in the worst movie to come out of the DCEU so far.

Anyway, enjoy!