Cleaning Out The DVR: Let Us Live! (dir by John Brahm)


In the 1939 film, Let Us Live!, Henry Fonda plays Brick Tennant.  Brick is a poor but honest taxi driver who has always lived a law-abiding life and who is looking forward to marrying waitress named Mary Roberts (Maureen O’Sullivan).  However, when a taxi is used as a getaway car in a violent robbery that leaves a policeman dead, Brick finds that he’s a suspect.

At first, Brick isn’t too worried.  It turns out that every taxi driver in Boston is apparently being considered a suspect.  Brick is just 1 out of 120.  However, when the police bring Brick in to take part in a lineup, one of the witnesses insists that Brick and his friend, Joe Linden (Alan Baxter), were involved in the robbery.  Despite the fact that Brick and Mary were at a church, planning their wedding, during the robbery, Brick and Joe are arrested and put on trial for murder.  Despite Brick’s initial faith in the system, he and Joe are convicted and sentenced to die.

On death row, Brick faces the inhumane reality of American justice.  He watches as other prisoners slowly lose their mind as a result of neglect and abuse.  He watches as another prisoner drops dead in front of him, to the indifference of the guards.  Even when Mary tells him that she’s still looking for evidence that will exonerate him, Brick says that he no longer cares.  The state of Massachusetts is determined to kill him and he doesn’t believe that there’s any way stop them.  As Mary puts it, Brick is now dead inside.

Still, Mary continued to investigate.  Helping her is a police detective named Everett (Ralph Bellamy).  Everett comes to realize that two innocent men are sitting on Death Row but will he and Mary be able to find the real culprits before the state executes Brick and Joe?

While watching Let Us Live, I found it impossible not to compare the film to The Wrong Man, another film in which Henry Fonda played an innocent man being railroaded by the system.  Both The Wrong Man and Let Us Live were based on a true stories, though Let Us Live takes considerably more liberty with its source material than The Wong Man does.  Whereas The Wrong Man is a docudrama that’s full of moody atmosphere courtesy of director Alfred Hitchcock, Let Us Live is much more of a fast-paced, melodramatic B-move.

That said, Let Us Live! is still a definitely effective look at how an innocent man can be railroaded by a system that’s often more concerned with getting a quick conviction than actually searching for the truth.  Sadly, the issues that Let Us Live deals with are just as relevant today as they were in 1939.  The film’s power comes from Henry Fonda’s performance as Brick.  It’s truly heart-breaking to watch Brick go from being a cheerful optimist to a man who has been so broken down by American justice that he can’t even bring himself to celebrate the news that he might be released.  The film ends on a grim note, a reminder that some damage cannot be undone.

Let Us Live! is another good but obscure film that I discovered through TCM.  Keep an eye out for it!

4 Shots From 4 Films About The London Fog: The Lodger, A Study In Terror, Murder by Decree


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we celebrate the horrors of the London Fog!

4 Shots From 4 Films About The London Fog

The Lodger (1927, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Lodger (1944, dir by John Brahm)

A Study in Terror (1965, dir by James Hill)

Murder By Decree (1979, dir by Bob Clark)

Horror on TV: Thriller 2.19 “A Wig for Miss Devore” (dir by John Brahm)


For tonight’s televised horror, we have yet another classic episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

In the Wig for Miss Devore, Sheila Devore (Patricia Barry) is an actress looking to make a comeback.  She’s recently been cast in a film about a real-life witch who was executed centuries ago.  Sheila’s so determined to make the part her own that she’s even willing to wear a wig that once belonged to the dead witch.

Needless to say, that proves to be a mistake for her.

However, it’s enjoyable for us!

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.31 “A Good Imagination” (dir by John Brahm)


In tonight’s episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller, Edward Andrews plays a bookseller who discovers that his wife has numerous lovers.  Fortunately, he has a collection of books that is just full of good ways to take care of the competition!

This episode was written by Robert Bloch and was based on his short story.

Enjoy the little tribute to the power of literature!

 

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.23 “Well of Doom” (dir by John Brahm)


For tonight’s televised horror, here’s another episode the Boris Karoloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

This episode, Well of Doom, shows what happens when two demons kidnap two men on their way to a bachelor party and force them to slog across the moors, to a mysterious castle.  This episode is full of atmosphere and it also features great work from Henry Daniell and Richard Kiel as the two demons.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.10 “The Prediction” (dir by John Brahm)


For tonight’s episode of televised horror, we have the tenth episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller!

In this episode, Boris Karloff not just hosts but also plays the main role, a mentalist named Clayton Mace.  Mace has always been a self-admitted fake but suddenly, he starts to have real visions, all dealing with the death of people that he knows.  Even worse, his predictions keep coming true…

As we all know, Karloff’s was the best and he definitely elevated this episode!

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.8 “The Watcher” (dir by John Brahm)


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

In this episode, a religious fanatic in a named Freitag (Martin Gabel) lives in a resort community and targets young people who he believes have failed to live up to his standards.  His latest targets are played by Olive Sturgess and Richard Chamberlain.  This is actually a rather grisly little episode.  With its theme of religious hypocrisy, I can only imagine how people reacted when it was first aired on November 1st, 1960.

Enjoy!

Horror on the Lens: The Lodger (dir by John Brahm)


Today’s horror on the lens is 1944’s The Lodger, a remake of Hitchcock’s silent classic.

This creepy little story of paranoia and murder in the London fog features an excellent performance from Laird Cregar and is definitely one of the best films ever made about Jack the Ripper!

Enjoy!

Horror on the Lens: The Undying Monster (dir by John Brahm)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have 1942’s The Undying Monster!

It tells the story of the Hammonds, a noble British family who, for centuries, have been haunted by suicide, murder, and rumors of a curse.  When a mysterious creature attack Oliver Hammond, Scotland Yard dispatches a scientist to figure out what’s going on.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the local villagers insist that it’s the curse.  The scientist, however, is convinced that it has to be something else…

Clocking in at 63 minutes and made on an obviously low budget, The Undying Monster is actually pretty good.  Director John Brahm emphasizes shadows and darkness, taking an almost film noir approach to this tale of gothic horror.  The Undying Monster is a hidden gem of 40s horror and here it is!

Enjoy!

The Fabulous Forties #5: Guest In The House (dir by John Brahm)


Guest_in_the_House_Poster

The fifth film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1944’s Guest In The House.  Before I get around to actually reviewing the film, there two important things that I need to share.

First off, according to the imdb, when Guest In The House was released into theaters, it ran a total of 121 minutes.  The version that was released on video — the version that I watched for this review — only runs 100 minutes.  Having watched the film, it’s hard for me to guess what could have been included in those 21 minutes.  There’s no major plot holes in the 100 minute version or any unanswered questions.  It’s hard for me to imagine that there could be anything in those 21 minutes that would have made Guest In The House a better film than the version that I watched last night.  If anything, even at just 100 minutes, the version that I saw still felt too long!

Secondly, Guest In The House was re-released several times.  At one point, the title was changed to Satan In Skirts!  That has got to be one of the greatest titles ever!  Seriously, Guest In The House is such a boring and mundane title.  But Satan in Skirts — I mean, that sounds like something that you just have to watch, doesn’t it?

Anyway, Guest In The House is about a guest in the house.  Shocking, right?  Evelyn (Anne Baxter, playing a character similar to her classic role in All About Eve) is a mentally unstable woman with a heart ailment and a morbid fear of birds.  She has recently become engaged to Dr. Dan Proctor (Scott Proctor) but she spends most her time writing nasty things about him in her diary.

Dan takes her to visit his wealthy Aunt Martha (Aline MacMahon).  Also staying at Martha’s is Dan’s older brother, an artist named Douglas (Ralph Bellamy).  Douglas is married to Ann (Ruth Warrick, who also played Kane’s first wife in Citizen Kane).  Also living at the house is Douglas’s model, Miriam (Marie McDonald).

(“I used to have to hire one model for above the neck and one model for below the neck,” Douglas explains as Miriam poses for him, “But you’re the whole package!”)

When Evelyn has a panic attack upon seeing a bird, Douglas calms her down by drawing a woman on a lampshade.  (Yes, that’s exactly what he does.)  This leads to Evelyn becoming obsessed with Douglas.  Soon, she is manipulating the entire household, trying to drive away Dan and Miriam while, at the same time, try to break up Douglas and Ann’s marriage….

So, does this sound like a Lifetime film to anyone?  Well, it should because Guest In The House is basically a 1940s version of almost every film that aired on Lifetime last year.  Normally that would be a good thing but, unlike the best Lifetime films, Guest In The House isn’t any fun.  It should be fun, considering how melodramatic the storyline is.  However, Guest In The House takes a prestige approach to its story, marking this as one of those films that was made to win Oscars as opposed to actually entertaining audiences.  Other than a few time when Evelyn imagines that she’s being attacked by invisible birds, the film never allows itself to truly go over-the-top.

Lovers of The Wizard of Oz might want to note that the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton, plays a maid in this film but, in the end, Guest In The House is mostly just interesting as a precursor to Anne Baxter’s performance in All About Eve.