The Watch List For 2/26/13
THE LIQUIDATOR (1965) --- A James Bond copy if you were standing outside the theatre (and looking at the one-sheet shown here), but something very different once you paid admission and got in. 007 imitators tried too often to undercut their model by making secret agents buffoonish or ineffective. Others were plain cheap looking. I remember walking out on a Matt Helm at one saturation point (of many). The Liquidator has wit, a pretty good concept, but we're there to see Rod Taylor do actionful things, not be a counterfeit agent buffeted by heavies till almost an end. You can watch and wonder how
AFFECTIONATELY YOURS (1941) --- Warner comedy rendered by heaviest hands. This company's efforts at laugh-making could be that way, and often were, thanks to factory application of bumps that had played funnier via more expert and elsewhere hands. There is borrowing from betters throughout. Whatever doesn't amuse can at least be louder. People fall down lots, and slapstick at times reaches violence of Three Stooge level. I kept expecting Jack Carson to walk in any minute, but others of Warner stabling are reliably there. Domestics Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen are larded with the stalest of shtick as Ralph Bellamy does a photo-finish on parts he had in The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday. The trio at romantic odds are Merle Oberon, Dennis Morgan, and Rita Hayworth, none with a gift at farce, so they tend toward excess effort. Affectionately Yours was Mark Hellinger-produced, with Hal Wallis supervising. I understand they hated each other. Could that be part of problem here? I'll confess to hitting the 2x button for quicker exit from set-pieces that seemed to have no end otherwise. Say what we will, but I still bet Affectionately Yours raised roofs in crowded enough houses, but to a lone sitter, can be plain murder.
THREE BAD MEN (1926) --- John Ford directs a super-western going several which (narrative) ways, but resolves to one of three bad men righting a wrong done his sister by a villain who mostly emerges as such during the second half. Ford said he was interfered with, thus a story and characters cast over too wide a landscape, especially as this had not epic potential to begin with. Still enough action and good performing though, to assure ninety minutes pleasingly spent, and there's a whopping land rush saved for a final third. George O'Brien is the star, but disappears for long stretches, and a pair of leading ladies seem at odds as to which will dominate. Watching this made me wish again that John Ford had done westerns exclusive from The Iron Horse on, instead of this being the only one between that 1924 hit and Stagecoach in 1939. Three Bad Men looks OK on Fox's DVD, but aren't there better elements for it somewhere?
|Monty Banks, Second From Right, Among UK Director Colleagues, Including First at Left Alfred Hitchcock|
PAY OR MOVE (1924) --- Monty Banks was the comic mid-point between Keystone grotesque and dapper fit of Charley Chase, Raymond Griffith, and other progressives. In other words, you'll almost believe he could get the girl. Gags are elaborate and must have been a labor to put over. Banks was another of those who struggled to remain on second tier, chances pretty remote he'd vault to a first, despite outstanding work here and there (see Play Safe, aka Chasing Choo Choos). A garden party and mistaken identity is Pay Or Move's familiar device. There's another of those "secret societies" that menaced silent comics and seem to have disappeared after talkers came. Banks was creative enough to stay gainful in the biz, his credits extending well into the 40's and association with funnymen who could rely on his plentiful expertise (directing Laurel and Hardy in Great Guns, among others). He'd also helm
BULLETS FOR O' HARA (1941) --- If a humble B tells its story in 50 minutes, why extend length further? Bullets was filmed but five years before as Public Enemy's Wife, which causes me to figure audiences then for shorter memories, or perhaps just inundated with so many pics that they couldn't keep account of yarns already seen. Bullets is fast here, foolish there, as with so many from its basement level, being the improbable story of a nice girl married a year before discovering her husband's a gangster (that all the more incredulous when he's patent-leather malefactor Anthony Quinn). Warners did such as this by the yards. Once during a WB tour in the 70's, I pointed out that stages once used for classics like Jezebel and The Maltese Falcon were now host to lowly TV shoots, to which the girl guide properly put me in place by pointing out that likes of Jezebel and the Falcon were way outnumbered during the Gold Age by humble B's Warner made. So right she was!