Horror on TV: Thriller 2.1 “What Beckoning Ghost” (dir by Ida Lupino)


For today’s adventure into the world of televised horror, we have another episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

In this episode, a concert pianist (Judith Evelyn) is haunted by visions of mysterious piano and the sound of someone playing.  Is she losing her mind, is she being set up, or is her house truly haunted?  This enjoyable episode was directed by actress Ida Lupino.

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A Movie A Day #155: Out of the Fog (1941, directed by Anatole Litvak)


When two aging fishermen (Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen) attempt to buy a new boat, they run into a problem with local mobster, Harold Goff (John Garfield).  As Goff explains, if they do not pay him $5.00 a week, something bad could happen to their boat.  When one of the fisherman’s daughter (Ida Lupino) falls in love with Goff, she makes the mistake of letting him know that her father is planning on giving her $190 so that she can take a trip to Cuba.  When Goff demands the money for himself, the fishermen attempt to go to the police, just to be told that there is nothing that the authorities can do.  Goff tricked them into signing an “insurance” contract that allows him to demand whatever he wants.  The two fishermen are forced to consider taking drastic measures on their own.  Out of the Fog is an effective, early film noir, distinguished mostly be John Garfield’s sinister performance as Harold Goff.

Out of the Fog is also memorable as an example of how Hollywood dealt with adapting work with political content during the production code era.  Out of the Fog was based on The Gentle People, a play by Irwin Shaw.  In the play, which was staged by The Group Theater in 1939, Harold Goff was obviously meant to be a symbol of both European fascism and American capitalism.  In the play, the two fisherman had Jewish names and were meant to symbolize those being persecuted by the Third Reich and its allies.  In the transition for stage to film, Jonah Goodman became Jonah Goodwin and he was played by the very talented but definitely not Jewish Thomas Mitchell.   The play ended with Harold triumphant and apparently unstoppable.  Under the production code, all criminals had to be punished, which meant the ending had to be changed.  Out of the Fog is an effective 1940s crime thriller but, without any political subtext, it lacks the play’s bight.

One final note: while Out of the Fog had a good cast, with up and comer John Garfield squaring against old vets Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen, the original Broadway play’s cast was also distinguished.  Along with contemporary film stars Sylvia Sidney and Franchot Tone, the play’s cast was a who’s who of actors and directors who would go on to be prominent in the 1950 and 60s: Lee J. Cobb, Sam Jaffe, Karl Malden, Martin Ritt, and Elia Kazan all had roles.

 

Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 11: Five from the Fifties


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The 1950’s were a time of change in movies. Television was providing stiff competition, and studios were willing to do anything to fend it off. The bigger budgeted movies tried 3D, Cinerama, wide-screen, and other optical tricks, while smaller films chose to cover unusual subject matter. The following five films represent a cross-section of nifty 50’s cinema:

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BORDERLINE (Universal-International 1950; D: William A. Seiter)

BORDERLINE is a strange film, straddling the borderline (sorry) between romantic comedy and crime drama, resulting in a rather mediocre movie. Claire Trevor plays an LAPD cop assigned to Customs who’s sent to Mexico to get the goods on drug smuggler Pete Ritchey (Raymond Burr , being his usual malevolent self). She’s tripped up by Ritchey’s rival Johnny Macklin (Fred MacMurray , channeling his inner Walter Neff), and taken along as he tries to get the dope over the border. What she doesn’t know is he’s also…

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Horror on TV: Thriller 2.17 “La Strega” (dir by Ida Lupino)


For tonight’s excursion into televised horror, we have an episode of Thriller!

This episode is called T and it deals with an artist (Alejandro Rey) who saves a young woman (Ursula Andress) from drowning.  It turns out that the local villagers believe that the woman is a witch.  The artist has no time for superstition and takes the woman back to his home.  She starts as his model and then becomes his lover.  She may not be a witch but her mother (Jeanette Nolan) definitely is…

And, of course, this episode is introduced by the one and only Boris Karloff!

The episode premiered on January 15th, 1962.

Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 9: Film Noir Festival Redux


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Welcome back to the decadently dark world of film noir, where crime, corruption, lust, and murder await. Let’s step out of the light and deep into the shadows with these five fateful tales:

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PITFALL (United Artists 1948, D: Andre DeToth) Dick Powell is an insurance man who feels he’s stuck in a rut, living in safe suburbia with his wife and kid (Jane Wyatt, Jimmy Hunt). Then he meets hot model Lizabeth Scott on a case and falls into a web of lies, deceit, and ultimately murder. Raymond Burr  costars as a creepy PI who has designs on Scott himself. A good cast in a good (not great) drama with a disappointing ending. Fun Fact: The part of Scott’s embezzler boyfriend is played by one Byron Barr, who is not the Byron Barr that later changed his name to Gig Young.  

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THE BRIBE (MGM 1949, D:Robert Z. Leonard) Despite an…

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Horror On The Lens: The Devil’s Rain (dir by Robert Fuest)


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Satanic priest Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) has spent decades pursuing the Preston family.  The Prestons, it turns out, have a book of powerful Satanic magic in their possession.  After Corbis causes the Preston patriarch to melt in the rain, Mark Preston (William Shatner) decides to confront Corbis and his followers…

Released in 1975, the Devil’s Rain was presumably made to capitalize on the success of films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.  The film itself is a bit incoherent but it’s worth watching just to see shameless overactors William Shatner and Ernest Borgnine acting opposite each other.  The cast also includes Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynn, Tom Skerritt, and Eddie Albert, which means that there’s not a single bit of scenery that doesn’t get chewed at some point.

If watch carefully, you can spot John Travolta making his screen debut towards the end of the film.

Horror On TV: Twilight Zone 5.25 “The Masks”


In “The Masks,” a group of greedy relatives gather at the New Orleans home of Jason Foster (Robert Keith).  Foster is on the verge of death and the relatives are eagerly waiting their chance to claim their inheritance.  However, as Foster informs them, they will only get paid if they wear masks that are meant to reflect their inner natures…

This episode of the Twilight Zone first aired on March 20th, 1964.  As written by Rod Serling and directed by Ida Lupino (making her the only woman to direct an episode of the original Twilight Zone), this episode is full of gothic Southern atmosphere and it’s a perfect addition for any Halloween viewing marathon.

Add to that, the masks are really creepy!