A Note on Spoilers

I decided it might be a good idea to make what’s known as a “sticky post” here on the front page for those coming in who might be concerned about spoilers. In these posts I’m going to be talking about varying aspects of movies that I’ve been watching, This may include writing about things that some would consider spoilers, including, at times, the endings of these movies. Those who are particularly spoiler averse may want to avoid reading these posts if they are planning to watch the movie in question. In certain circumstances where I will be discussing events towards the end of the movie, including the ending in at least a vague way, or when a movie contains a particular plot twist that might be considered major, I will try to post a more specific spoiler warning, because I do recognize that even though I may be writing about a movie that is decades old, it’s still going to be new to some people. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?


Silent Sunday – Captain Fly-By-Night (1922)

Since Sunday tends to be a day of quiet and reflection for many people, it seems an appropriate day to celebrate silent movies. But in keeping with the “day of rest” theme, I’m just going to post this without any commentary and just sit back and let you enjoy.

Saturday Double Feature: Tomb Raider (2018) and…

Another Saturday means another Saturday Double Feature!

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

Let’s hear it for the empowered female action hero, shall we?

The big movie opening this weekend is Tomb Raider, the reboot of the movie franchise based on the popular video game series.

Part of what made the video game, in its initial incarnation so interesting was that for the first time it provided gamers with a strong, capable, intelligent female protagonist who was able to hold her own not only against the men who opposed her, but also against dinosaurs, yeti, and all manner of insidious traps.

At the same time, the game was somewhat problematic, because even though Lara Croft was a capable and strong female protagonist, she also had the figure of a Barbie doll with breasts almost as big as her head. Fortunately, in later iterations the character was redesigned and that became less of an issue.

Anyway, the latest version of Lara, embodied this time by Alicia Vikander, hits theaters around the world today.


Of course, women have been getting caught up in adventures pretty much since the beginning of film.Unfortunately for most of that time they’ve been less empowered and liberated than Ms. Croft.

Which brings us to 1984. The film world was still reacting to Raiders of the Lost Ark and trying to find another great adventure hero (or heroes) to step into the shoes of Indiana Jones. So obviously they turned to Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. Well, okay, maybe that wasn’t the obvious move. But it was the move they made. But then they did make the astute move of assuring that action adventure fanatics would be on board by bringing in a man well known for his incredible stunt work and charisma. That’s right, they hired Danny DaVito.

The film is Romancing the Stone. Obviously, with this cast, we’re not talking high art  or high adventure. Instead, Stone is a relatively light and breezy film with Turner as an author in search of her missing sister and Douglas as the local rogue who agrees (for a price, of course) to help her in her quest.

So what do you think? What would you choose for a double feature with Tomb Raider? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!


Pour Yourself A Drink And Join In the Fun – The Party (2017)

There is a phrase the British like to use which is “taking the piss out of something (or someone). Basically it means pointing out the absurdity of something, especially a person who is taking themselves way to seriously.

The Party is a film that absolutely delights in taking the piss out of every one of its characters.

The movie is a small one, taking place solely in and just outside the flat of a married couple, Janet and Bill, and has a cast of only seven characters. It’s this compression, however, that allows us to get to know the characters very well, and allows them to get to know each other perhaps better than they ever wanted to.

Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just been announced as the shadow minister for health. Yeah, I have to admit that the minutiae of British politics is a but lost on me here – a bit of Googling tells me that in most parliamentary systems the “shadow cabinet” is composed of members of the opposition party (in opposition, that is, to the party in power) who mirror the positions of each member of the Cabinet.and scrutinize the policies and actions of the government, as well as  proposing alternative programs.

Fortunately, absolutely none of that matters.

Well, that’s nor entirely true. Her new position does come back into the conversation eventually, but really, it only serves the purpose of having a reason to get these people together in one place at one time.

One of the nice things about this movie is that it runs only 71 minutes, which seems just right for the setting, and provides just enough time to both get to know and deconstruct these characters without it feeling as though they are overstaying their welcome.

So who are these characters? Well, we’ve already mentioned Janet and her husband Bill (Timothy Spall). As the movie opens, Bill seems completely detached from everything and into nothing but his music.Eventually, however, we will find out the reason for Bill’s emotional distance, and it will turn into the inciting incident for everything that follows.

Along with these two, we have Patricia Clarkson’s April, one of Janet’s oldest friends and also one of her biggest supporters. It soon becomes apparent, however, that April’s real concern is more for the Agenda than her friend. And yes, April would spell “Agenda” with a capital “A”.

Bruno Ganz plays April’s partner Gottfried Gottfried doesn’t believe in modern medicine, preferring instead a form of spiritualism and holistic healing that brings him into conflict with the others, especially since modern medicine is exactly what Janet is supposed to represent. He also is constantly on the receiving end of put-downs and insults from April.

Jinny (Emily Mortimer) and Martha (Cherry Jones) are a lesbian couple who get life changing information just as the party is beginning. Finally, there is Tom (Cillian Murphy), who has not only brought a gun with him to the party but also a large amount of cocaine.

The writing in The Party is whip smart, and there are enough twists and turns to keep the pace fast and at times quite shocking. The actors are all on point and give their characters the feeling that these are people who have known each other for a long time, and who have lives outside the brief time we spend with them.

I don’t want to say much more about what actually happens at thee party, for fear of giving away scenes and lines that really need to be seen and enjoyed first-hand. Therefore, I’ll just leave you with this: If you enjoy seeing rich white liberals having their beliefs and especially their rhetoric challenged, then this is a party you should definitely attend.


Throwback Thursday -D. O. A. (1950)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Back during the Professor Damian days, Wednesdays were mystery day. Here’s one of my favorites from “Whodunnit Wednesday”.


Whodunnit Wednesday – D.O.A. (1950)

“I want to report a murder.”
“Sit down… Where was this murder committed/”
“San Francisco. Last night”
“Who was murdered?”
“I was.”

Ok, seriously, Kiddies, with an opening like that it’s obvious that while the title of today’s film may be D.O.A., the movie itself definitely isn’t.

Edmond O’Brien plays  Frank Bigleow, an accountant in the town of Banning California who walks into the homicide division of the local police station to make the above announcement. Oddly, the detective he is talking to (unlike the audience) not only doesn’t seem surprised at what he says, but seems to have been expecting him. From there we are told the story in flashback from Bigelow’s perspective.

Surprising his secretary/lover by announcing he is suddenly taking a trip out of town, Bigelow soon hooks up with a group of conventioneers upon arriving in San Francisco. While out on the town at a local jazz club, we see that, unknown to him, Bigelow’s drink is swapped for another. When he awakens the next morning feeling badly, he goes to a doctor who tells him that he has been poisoned. from there on, the film turns into a true noir mystery with Bigelow trying to track down not only who killed him but why, and to do it before the clock runs out on his own life. There is a growing sense of desperation throughout the film as the poison begins to take effect and Bigelow feels his life slipping away with every tick of the clock. Can Bigelow find out what and who is behind his poisoning, or is he destined to die without even knowing why?

On its initial release, D.O.A. was not exactly a critical darling, with the New York Times, for instance, calling it “fairly obvious and plodding recital, involving crime, passion, stolen iridium, gangland beatings and one man’s innocent bewilderment upon being caught up in a web of circumstance that marks him for death”, but I think that focuses way too much on the plot. The true appeal of this movie is in the performances and the atmosphere, and this has been reflected in later reviews, such as the one from A.K Rode which states “The lighting, locations, and atmosphere of brooding darkness were captured expertly by [director Rudolph] Mate and director of photography Ernest Lazlo.” or Michael Sragow’s review which calls it a “high-concept movie before its time.” The film has also been recognized and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress which cited it as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

I’m gonna give you a bit of a different trailer today. Apparently this was done as a school assignment and posted to YouTube by ShadowMaster0511. It’s not official, but i think it actually does a pretty good job of giving you the essentials and picking up on the tone and atmosphere of the film. And it’s a good example, since the film is part of the public domain, of one of the things that can be done with it:

Ok, here’s the skinny:
Title: D.O.A.
Release Date: 1950
Running Time: 83min
Black and White
Starring: Edmond O’Brien
Directed by: Rudolph Mate’
Produced by Leo C. Popkin
Distributed by: United Artists

Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.


Say “Cheese” 010 – Agency (1980)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

Let’s just go ahead and admit what we’ve all known for a long time: Advertising is evil.

There’s never been any real doubt about that, and I suppose it’s never been more obvious than today. In a world where we’re talking about fake news which is really just advertising and propaganda masquerading as news, in a world where one of the biggest supposed scandals right now is social media advertising being used as manipulation by the Russians, in a world where almost everything we see is in some way designed to make us buy something or think something or engage with something, in a world where advertising permeates every facet of life, it’s hard to deny that much of it can be described as evil.

What may not be so obvious is that advertising agencies are actually run by the devil. Or at least they may be. And the devil is even more insidious when he can appear to be Robert Mitchum.

Fortunately, The Six Million Dollar Man is here to save us.

I wrote above about how obvious the manipulation efforts of advertising can be. Back in the 80s, however, that manipulation was a bit less obvious. Why? Because that was the time of subliminal advertising.

For those who may not be aware of the concept, the idea of subliminal adertising was that there would be images hidden in advertising that the conscious mind wouldn’t notice, but the subconscious would. One fabled example, which is actually referenced in the 1980 movie Agency (which is the film we’re talking about today) is the image of a naked woman hidden in the ice cubes of a picture of an alcoholic drink in order to make the viewer see the liquor as more sexy.

Another favorite practice would be inserting one or two frames into a film or TV show with a message that again, the conscious mind might not pick up on, but would subtly influence the viewer’s subconscious.

Okay, so with that concept in the public mind at the time, I’m sure that it wasn’t much of a stretch for someone at one of the movie studios to say “Let’s take that idea of subliminal advertising and see what we can do with it to make a thriller.” And so, the movie Agency was born.

I mentioned above the supposed Russian meddling in the recent U.S. presidential election. Perhaps this film could be seen as somehow prescient, since it involves an advertising agency run by Robert Mitchum attempting to influence the outcome of a presidential election through the use of subliminal advertising.

On the side of the good guys, though, is advertising executive Lee Majors, who finds himself being pushed out of a major campaign and begins to suspect that something is up. It’s not long before he finds himself confronting Mitchum and finding that there may be even more behind the conspiracy than he first thought.

I couldn’t really find a good trailer for the movie, but here’s a series of clips to give you a feel for what’s going on.

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 2: Against A Crooked Sky – Let’s hope Richard Boone is more forgiving than John Wayne.


OTR Tuesday – Exploring Tomorrow (1942-1955)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. OTR  Tuesday is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

John W. Campbell is one of those people whose name every fan of classic science fiction knows. As the editor of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine, Campbell was responsible for publishing some of the best and most well-regarded novels and short stories from the greats of classic sci-fi such as Isaac Asimov, A.E van Vogt, and Robert Heinlein.

In 1957, Campbell stepped from behind the editor’s desk to host the radio series Exploring Tomorrow. Drawing from scripts written by a number of science fiction luminaries such as Gordon R. Dickson, Robert Silverberg, the aforementioned Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and Poul Anderson among others, Campbell served as the host of the series.

As with all of the best science fiction – especially that published in Campbell’s magazine – though the settings and events may be fantastic, the real heart of the stories lies in the exploration of common themes such as greed, love, and the human spirit.

Exploring Tomorrow aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System from December 4, 1957 until June 13, 1958. Its advertising described it as “the first science-fiction show of science-fictioneers, by science-fictioneers and for science-fictioneers – real science fiction for a change!”

Here’s a sampling of some episodes from the series:



Let’s Take A Break From Monday – Crash Course Recess #1

Since it’s feeling very Monday today, I think it’s time for a quick break.

Fortunately, the good folks at PBS’s Crash Course have provided this little “recess” that just happens to be film related and spotlights an intriguing mystery from the early days of film history.