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Perry Mason and Pals
TWO DAYS IN NEW YORK (2012) Marion (Julie Delpy) and Mingus (Chris Rock) go from harmony to nightmare when her eccentric father and bitchy sister (with a drug-smoking boyfriend in tow) visit for the weekend. The French visitors try the couple's relationship in what is essentially a Woody Allen wannabe. It has its moments, but the movie is essentially a dud. Delpy wrote and directed this movie, though Rock gets the most laughs with what seems to be improvised material.
WE WERE STRANGERS a 1949 adventure–drama film directed by John Huston and starring Jennifer Jones and John Garfield. The film, set in 1933, concerns a group of revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the Cuban regime. Based loosely on Robert Sylvester's novel Rough Sketch, the film finds Garfield, as an American-educated Cuban exile, who conspires with Cuban (!) beauty Jennifer Jones and the guitar-strummung Gilbert Roland to kill the president. Standing in there way is the charming Pedro Armendariz, as the corrupt police chief. Directed by John Huston, right after The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Asphalt Jungle, two infinitely superior films.
DOCTOR NO (1962) The first James Bond film (but not the first appearance of Bond; Barry Nelson gets that honor in 1954 CBS-TV version of Casino Royale). Sean Connery is terrific as Bond in the first of seven appearances as the spy: lean, mean, and sexy, with a raw animal magnetism that makes him menacing and alluring at the same time. The story is much more conventional than later Bonds, and its plot-line would be remade as You Only Live Twice (1967), but the movie has a charm that most of the later films lack. With John Barry’s reworking (some would say rewriting) of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme.”
WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) finds Robert Mitchum as a not-so-bright doctor, Jeff Cameron who ditches the sensible girl, Julie (Maureen O'Sullivan), and falls in love with an amnesia patient (Faith Domergue in her film debut), which is never a good idea in any situation, but especially not if you’re in a film noir. He doesn’t heed the warning signs – Claude Rains saying to him, “Let me warn you about her” moments before he attacks Jeff with a poker – and takes it on the lam with the amnesia girl (while suffering from a concussion himself). Unlike many noirs, however, this one ends happily, though it’s a bit touch-and-go for a while. Domergue was a Howard Hughes discovery.
THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE/THE CASE OF THE LUCKY LEGS If you think you know attorney Perry Mason – either from the 82 mystery novels by Erle Stanley Gardner or from the 271 episodes of TV’s Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr – guess again. Here are two of the earliest screen appearances, both from 1935, of the crusading lawyer, but this Mason is more interested in ladies and liquor than justice. Warren William is a kind of ersatz Nick Charles (the William Powell sleuth from The Thin Man and its sequels), who is constantly going on about cooking, huge fees he’s going to charge, and why he’s the best lawyer in town. Della Street is sort of a bargain-basement Nora Chales (also from The Thin Man), and Paul Drake – he’s been turned into comic relief as the henpecked, slightly daffy gumshoe “Spudsy” Drake. Although the producers use Gardner’s clever plots, they are played for laughs. Gardner, who worked hard to create believable fast-paced mysteries, could not have been pleased.
CRIME WAVE (also known as The City Is Dark), directed by André De Toth, is a gritty, shot-on-location film noir, from 1954, with tough cop Sterling Hayden in pursuit of a gas station stick-up gang who shot a cop. Gene Nelson is quite good as the ex-con who gets caught between the cops and the bad guysI, and the L.A. location work is smashing. Adapted from a short story that originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post - Criminal Mark by John and Ward Hawkins.
March 29, 2013