Friday, March 11, 2011

Capsule Reviews 3/11/11

After four days of horror films I'm turning a little bit toward the light with three mysteries from the 1930's and 40's. If you can manage to get a couple of them or even all three you'll have yourself one hell of a great night in the home theater

London After Dark
Breezy MGM mystery about a newspaper man who gets mixed up with a socialite and a killer known as The Umbrella Man. This is an amusing by the numbers murder mystery that scores points with some witty dialog, clever characters, and the casting of frequent heavy George Zucco as the investigating police detective- who isn't a twit. Sure the film is silly and the lack of English accents of many of the English characters is sillier, but over all this is a really fun time. Best of all it's in the TCM rotation.

Cat and the Canary (Bob Hope edition)
I'm going to have to do a long post on all the versions of the story, but until I do I just want to say that if you want a good time get your hands on this film. Sure its the oft told tale of all of the heirs of a dead rich guy coming together in a house to hear a will and be stalked by a maniac, hell it's the one that invented the cliche, but its one that is really well done. Made a time when the genre was full of so many knock offs and imitators that the genre was a joke this is a film that more or less plays it straight. Sure Bob Hope is a bit too much for the film (he's too much a force of personality) but his mugging and cock sure knows what is going to happen attitude actually manages to make things tenser by making us think one thing and then not doing them. A wonderful little gem thats in one of the recent Bob Hope film collections.

Midnight Taxi
Brian Donlevy plays a federal agent posing as a taxi driver chasing down counterfeiters. Its a a dark and tense little film that is almost a film noir some ten years before the genre really happened. The only thing missing from it being a noir is the down beat attitude. On the other hand this is a great crime drama that seems to have been unfairly lost to the ages. Anyone I know who's seen it has loved it, but the trouble is almost no one has seen it or heard of it. As with many films from 70 plus years ago they have fallen through the cracks. This is a clasic waiting for rediscovery. If you like your good guys good, your bad guys bad and your dames tough as nails see this film. One of the finds of 2011.

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