Horror on the Lens: Without Warning (dir by Greydon Clark)


For today’s horror on the Shattered Lens, we have 1980’s Without Warning.  

In this horror/sci-fi hybrid, humans are hunted by an alien hunter who uses a variety of weapons and … what was that?  No, we’re not watching Predator.  We’re watching Without Warning.  For the record, Without Warning and Predator may have almost exactly the same plot but Without Warning came out long before Predator.

(Interestingly enough, Kevin Peter Hall played the intergalactic hunter in both films.)

Anyway, Without Warning is probably the best film that Greydon Clark ever directed.  Some would say that’s not saying much but seriously, Without Warning is a surprisingly effective film.  It also has a large cast of guest stars, the majority of whom are killed off within minutes of their first appearance.  That alien takes no prisoners!  (I especially feel sorry for the cub scouts.)

Of course, the main characters are four teenagers.  One of them is played by David Caruso, which I have to admit amuses me to no end.

Enjoy!

Diamond in the Rough: RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (Allied Artists 1954)


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Back in 1951, movie producer Walter Wanger (rhymes with danger) discovered his wife, actress Joan Bennett , was having an affair with her agent, Jennings Lang. The enraged husband tracked them to a parking lot, where Wanger shot Lang in the groin. That’ll teach him! Wanger was subsequently arrested, and sentenced to serve a four-month bid in a Los Angeles county farm. His stint in stir, though brief, affected him profoundly, and he wanted to make a film about prison conditions. The result was RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11, a ripped-from-the-headlines prison noir that’s tougher than a two-dollar steak.

Wanger hired Don Siegel to direct the film. Siegel was gaining a reputation as a director of muscular, low-budget features, and RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 is a great early example of his harsh, brutal style. The movie’s sparse, shadowy setting was filmed on location at California’s infamous Folsom Prison thanks to…

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The Perfect Crime Film: KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (United Artists 1952)


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My friend Rob suggested I review KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL awhile back, and I’m sorry I waited so long. This is a film noir lover’s delight, packed with tension, violence, double-crosses, and a head-turning performance by John Payne in the lead. Made on an economical budget like the same year’s THE NARROW MARGIN , director Phil Karlson and George Diskant create a shadowy, claustrophobic atmosphere brimming with danger at every turn.

I knew Payne mainly from his 40’s musicals and his idealistic lawyer opposite Maureen O’Hara in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, but he’s a revelation here as Joe Rolfe, a florist truck driver who’s set up as a patsy by a gang of armored car robbers. He can dish out (and take) beatings with the best them, and delivers the tough-talking dialog with aplomb. KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL helped Payne shed his lightweight image, and he went on to do other dark crime films and rugged…

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The Fabulous Forties #12: D.O.A. (dir by Rudolph Mate)


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The 12th film contained in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set is the classic film noir D.O.A.  Before I get into reviewing this film, there’s an oddity that I feel the need to point out.  According to the back of the Fabulous Forties box, D.O.A. was released in 1949.  However, according to Wikipedia, imdb, and almost every other source out there, D.O.A. was released in 1950.  In short, it’s debatable whether or not D.O.A. actually belongs in the Fabulous Forties box set but it really doesn’t matter.  D.O.A. is a classic and, along with Night of the Living Dead, it is undoubtedly one of the best B-movies to ever slip into the public domain.

D.O.A. opens with a lengthy tracking shot, following a man named Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) as he walks through the hallways of a San Francisco police station.  Frank walks with a slow, halting movement and it’s obvious that he is not a healthy man.  When he finally steps into a detective’s office, Frank announces that he’s come to the station to report a murder — his own.

Frank is a small-town accountant who came to San Francisco for a vacation.  After a long night of drinking, Frank woke up feeling ill.  When he went to a doctor, he was informed of two things.  Number one, he was in overall good health.  Number two, he only had a few days to live.  Sometime during the previous night, Frank was poisoned with a “luminous toxin.”  There was no antidote.

The rest of the film follows Frank as he attempts to figure out who poisoned him and why.  It’s an intriguing mystery and I’m not going to ruin it by going into too many details.  Over the course of his investigation, the increasingly desperate Frank comes across a gangster named Majak (Luther Adler).  This leads to a lengthy scene in which Majak’s psychotic henchman, Chester (Neville Brand), repeatedly punches Frank in the stomach.  It’s a scene that, even in our far more desensitized times, made me cringe.  I can only imagine how audiences in 1950 reacted.

(There’s also a shoot-out at a drug store that can stand alongside almost any modern-day action sequence.  Regardless of whether the film was made in 1949 or 1950, it still feels like a movie that could have just as easily been made in 2016.)

But really, the mystery is secondary.  Instead, D.O.A. is truly about Frank and how he deals with the knowledge that he is going to die.  Before being poisoned, Frank is the epitome of complacent, middle-class suburbia.  He’s engaged to Paula (Pamela Britton) but he’s in no hurry to marry her.  He’s got all the time in the world.  When Frank goes to San Francisco, he epitomizes the bourgeoisie on vacation.  He goes to the 1940s equivalent of a hipster nightclub, not because he’s actually interested in what the scene is all about but because he’s a tourist looking for a story to tell the folks back home.  When he checks into his hotel, he leers at every passing woman with a casual sexism that would not be out-of-place on an old episode of Mad Men.  Frank is floating through life, confident in his own complacency.

It’s only after he’s poisoned that Frank actually starts to live.  He goes from being passive to being aggressive.  Knowing that he’s going to die, he no longer has anything to lose.  Only with death approaching does Frank actually start to live.  Frank’s realization that he waited to long to live makes his final line all the more poignant.

D.O.A. is a classic!  Watch it below, you won’t be sorry!

The Fabulous Forties #1: Port of New York (dir by Laszlo Benedek)


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This last Christmas, along with several other wonderful and sexy gifts, I received The Fabulous Forties DVD box set.  Released by the good people at Mill Creek (who have yet to come across a single public domain film that they couldn’t repackage as being a classic), this box set contained 50 films from that wonderful decade.

Since my proclivity for serial reviewing is well-known, you’re probably not surprised that I’ve decided to watch and review all fifty of the films to be found in the Fabulous Forties box set.  And, once I’ve finished with the Fabulous Forties, I will move on to the Nifty Fifties, the Sensational Sixties, the Swinging Seventies, and the Excellent Eighties!  Since each box set contains 50 films, I will have watched and reviewed 250 films by the time this is all finished.  It might take a while but that’s okay.  Arleigh keeps us well-supplied with energy drinks here at the Shattered Lens bunker and I am determined to keep going until the job is done.

(And, if need be, there’s always Dexedrine…)

Let’s get things started with the first film in the box set, 1949’s Port of New York!

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This low-budget, black-and-white film opens with a series of shots of cargo ships sailing into New York Harbor.  A narrator, speaking in the type of tone that one would usually associate with an old educational film, informs us that, every day, thousands of ships sail into New York Harbor.  Most of those ships are delivering important supplies and conducting important business.  However, occasionally, the harbor is used by drug smugglers.  (GASP!)  Fortunately, both the federal and the state government employ brave and honest men who will stop at nothing to battle the scourge of opium.

(And, fortunately, since this film was made in 1949, they can do whatever they want without having to worry about the Supreme Court getting in the way.)

If it’s not already apparent, Port of New York is a bit of a time capsule.  The drug smugglers are unambiguous in their villainy and the decency and honesty of law enforcement is taken for granted.  Port of New York was filmed on location in New York and I enjoyed getting a chance to see what New York looked like in 1949.

As for the film’s plot — well, it’s nothing surprising.  The port authority discovers that a shipment of morphine, which was meant to be delivered to a pharmaceutical company, has instead been stolen.  A million dollars worth of narcotics is missing and the U.S. Government is going to find it!  Meanwhile, Toni Cardell (K.T. Stevens) approaches a narcotics agent and says that she has information that could take down one of New York’s biggest gangster.  However, before she can tell all the she knows, Toni is murdered.

(The detective who failed to keep Toni from leaving his office and going off to get killed looks down at her body, shrugs, and says, “This one’s on me.”)

Who killed her?  That’s what Mickey Waters (Scott Brady) and Jim Flannery (Richard Rober) spend the movie figuring out.  However, we already know that Toni was murdered by her boyfriend, a suave gangster named Paul Vicola.  Paul is played, in his film debut, by Yul Brynner and he gives a charismatic performance, turning Paul into a memorable monster.  Brynner still had a full head of hair when he did this movie, though his hairline was definitely moving backwards.

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Over the course of their investigation, Waters and Flannery discover that a second-rate comedian named Dolly Carney (Arthur Blake) is being supplied by Vicrola.  The scenes where they interrogate Dolly, who is going through withdraw, are some of the best in the film and are distinguished by Blake’s empathetic performance.  However, beyond those scenes, there’s really nothing surprising to be found in Port of New York.  It’s a thoroughly predictable police procedural that’s distinguished by the presence of Yul Brynner and not much else.  That said, the action in this 82-minute film moves quickly and I enjoyed it as a historical artifact.

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Horror On The Lens: Killdozer (dir by Jerry London)


killdozerA bunch of manly men are building an airstrip on an island off the coast of Africa.  Two of them come across an oddly glowing meteorite and they make the mistake of trying to move it with a bulldozer.  Needless to say, the bulldozer gets possessed by an alien presence and soon, the men are all being pursued by the … Killdozer!

My boyfriend and I recently sat down and watched this 1974 made-for-TV movie.  Jeff enjoyed it while I thought Killdozer was perhaps one of the silliest films I have ever seen in my life.  That’s not surprising, however.  Killdozer is a guy film all the way, celebrating both the destructive power of machinery and the ability of men to tame that power.

Killdozer may not be a great film but it’s a film that feels rather appropriate for October.