Author: Craig Zablo

“The Raven” (1963) starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson / Z-View

The Raven (1963)

Director:  Roger Corman

Screenplay:  Richard Matheson based on “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

Stars: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court, Jack Nicholson and Leo Gordon (voice uncredited)

Tagline: Wits and wizardry run a-fowl!

The Plot…

A talking raven shows up at the castle of Dr. Erasmus Craven (Price).  It turns out the raven is actually Dr. Adolphus Bedlo (Lorre)!  Bedlo was transformed into a raven by Dr. Scarabus (Karloff) when the two had a duel of magic.  Craven is able to restore Bedlo to human form.  They decide to go to Scarabus’ castle for a confrontation.  Bedlo wants revenge for being turned into a bird.  Craven is on a mission to find his missing wife Lenore.

Before it is over Bedlo, Craven and Scarabus will be in a battle of magic with the losers facing certain death!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Raven is very loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem.  Director, Roger Corman, and writer, Richard Matheson wanted more humor and less terror for this film.  It was shot in just 15 days and Corman allowed the actors to play loose with their dialogue.  This suited Peter Lorre, who improvised many of his lines.  Boris Karloff didn’t enjoy this method, while Vincent Price caught on quickly.  It’s interesting to note that Peter Lore and Jack Nicholson reportedly didn’t get along when the cameras weren’t rolling.

The highlight is the duel between Price and Karloff.  It’s an extended sequence that kids of all ages will enjoy.

The Raven earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Three Little Sew and Sews” (1939) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Three Little Sew and Sews (1939)

Director:  Del Lord

Screenplay:  Ewart Adamson

Stars: Curly Howard, Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Ned Glass, Charles Dorety, Lane Chandler, Vernon Dent, Bud Jamison, Al Thompson and Cy Schindell

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Our boys are Navy tailors getting ready for shore leave.  As they clean up, Curly gets the bright idea to “borrow” an Admiral’s uniform.  Using Curly’s new identity the boys get into a high class party.  Nazi spies decide to take advantage of “the Admiral and his two escorts”.  It will be up to our boys to save a US submarine.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Three Little Sew and Sews uses the tried and true gag of a spring getting attached to a person’s rear.  In this case it is Curly’s and is the funniest example of them all.  Curly really shines in this one.  He has a scene where he’s taunting Moe and Larry while they are in jail.  It’s a simple scene but Curly makes it work.  Of course the same could be said of his other moments.

This is also one of the few Stooges shorts where they die at the end… the good news is they earn their wings.  ; )

The Little Sew and Sews earns 5 of 5 stars.

RIP: Lanny Poffo

Lanny Poffo died today at the age of 68.  No cause of death was given.

Lanny Poffo was the son of Angelo and Judy Poffo,  Angelo was a professional wrestler and promoter.  It was only natural that Lanny follow his father and older brother, Randy aka Randy “The Macho Man” Savage into the sport.

Mr. Poffo began his career in 1974.  He would go on to wrestle professionally for the All-South Wrestling Alliance, National Wrestling Alliance, Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling, International Championship Wrestling, Mid-South Wrestling, Continental Wrestling Association and the World Wrestling Federation.  It would have been easy to capitalize on his brother’s fame, but Lanny wanted to make it on his own.  In the WWE he was known as Leaping Lanny and then later, The Genius.  It was as The Genius that Lanny Poffo generated the most heat.

I met Lanny Poffo at a small convention in 2009.  Mr. Poffo was very approachable.  I spoke to him about how when my sons were younger we loved to watch he and his brother wrestle.  I went on to say that when I was a kid I saw Lanny’s dad wrestle many times.  Lanny loved that I remembered his dad.  As we talked about wrestling and his career, Lanny would always steer it back to his brother and father.  What a humble man he was.  Lanny also wanted folks to know that his brother, Randy, was an amazing baseball player and all-around athlete.

Lanny Poffo had written a poetry book about the dangers of smoking.  He autographed a copy and gifted it to me.   Most people, when they think of Lanny Poffo, think of The Genius.  Lanny Poffo made a great heel which attests to his acting ability since he was such a generous kindhearted man outside the ring.  That’s who I think of first.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lanny Poffo’s family, friends and fans.

Sly Stallone’s Reality Series & More Commercial is Here!

A Mountain of Entertainment | “Stallone Face” Big Game Commercial | Paramount+

For Paramount+’s Big Game commercial, Sylvester Stallone and his daughters Sophia, Scarlet and Sistine set up camp on Paramount Mountain, along with some other familiar faces (Dora The Explorer, Captain Pike, Ensign Mariner, Lieutenant Dangle, and Beavis and Butt-Head). Can Sly make it to the top of Sylvester Stallone Face? There’s only one way to find out… Stream Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Beavis and Butt-Head, RENO 911! and Dora the Explorer on Paramount+.

John Wayne’s Best Films!

Jack Hawkins at /Film ranked his favorite John Wayne films.  It got me thinking about how I’d rate the Duke’s best.  So without further jibber-jabber, here’s how thinks shook out.

Hawkins

Zablo

10. The Cowboys 10. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
9. Stagecoach 9. The Shootist
8. Fort Apache 8. Red River
7. The Longest Day 7. 3 Godfathers
6. El Dorado 6. Rio Bravo
5. Baby Face 5. Hondo
4. Hatari! 4. True Grit
3. True Grit 3. The Cowboys
2. The Shootist 2. Stagecoach
1. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1. The Searchers

“Last Looks” (2021) starring Charlie Hunnam & Mel Gibson / Z-View

Last Looks (2021)

Director:  Tim Kirkby

Screenplay:  Howard Michael Gould based on this novel Last Looks

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Mel Gibson, Lucy Fry, Clancy Brown, Robin Givens, CC Castillo, Method Man, Dominic Monaghan, Paul Ben-Victor and Josh McDermitt

Tagline:  This city is a bad place to be a good guy.

The Plot…

Charlie Waldo (Hunnam) is an ex-cop who has withdrawn from society.  He lives a quiet life in a trailer outside the city.  All of that changes when he is convinced to look into the murder of a Alastair Pinch’s wife.  Pinch (Gibson) is a an arrogant, alcoholic, but extremely popular tv star.  Pinch is also the prime suspect in his wife’s murder.  He claims he was blackout drunk when she was killed.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Last Looks has a great cast with Gibson and Hunnam leading the way.  Although Hunnam gets top billing, Gibson steals the show with his take on Alastair Pinch.  It’s fun to see see Clancy Brown, Dominic Monagham and Josh McDermitt show up as well.

Last Looks has the feel of a quirky detective show from the 1970s or 80s. You know the shows where the “guest star” gets the flashy part and there’s plenty of interesting characters along the way. I enjoyed Last Looks and could see it producing a sequel if the box office would support it.

Last Looks earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Merry Mavericks” (1951) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Merry Mavericks (1951)

Director:  Edward Bernds

Screenplay:  Edward Bernds

Stars: Shemp Howard, Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Emil Sitka, Al Thompson and Blackie Whiteford

Tagline:  Meet The Three Stooges as up-and-coming… always leave-’em-laughing con-men in the wild and woolly west!

The Plot…

The boys are kicked out of a frontier town as vagrants.  When they arrive at the next town, our guys are mistaken for gunfighters who’ve come to clean up the place. What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Merry Mavericks finds the Stooges in the old west PLUS we get a haunted house!

Merry Mavericks earns 5 of 5 stars.

DIG TWO GRAVES by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins!

A new Mike Hammer yarn, Dig Two Graves is coming from Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins!  Here’s the lowdown…

Mike Hammer, the iconic PI created by the master of noir Mickey Spillane, takes on the mob in the first of two gripping final novels for the deadly private eye.

Winter 1969. After a hit-and-run accident nearly kills her mother, Velda learns her father is not who she thought he is. Seeking to uncover her true heritage, Velda and Mike Hammer travel to sunny Dreamland Park, where retired law enforcement officers keep an eye on notorious criminals held under the Witness Protection Act.

Just as Velda and Mike’s search leads to a dead end, a brutal attempt on their lives and a missing fortune in mob money leads them to a deadly midnight confrontation in a cemetery where secrets are buried and open graves await.

 Dig Two Graves drops August 22, 2023.

Dig Two Graves  Hardcover

Dig Two Graves Kindle

“Tulsa King”: Season 1 starring Sylvester Stallone / Z-View

Tulsa King: Season 1 (2022 – 2023)

Teleplay by: Taylor Sheridan and Terence Winter (episode 1); Terence Winter & Joseph Riccobene (episodes 2, 7); Regina Corrado (episode 3); Dave Flebotte (episodes 4, 6); Joseph Riccobene (episode 5), Terence Winter & Tom Sierchio (episode 8), Terence Winter (9)

Directed by: Allen Coulter (episodes 1, 2); Ben Richardson (episode 3); Ben Semanoff (episodes 4,5); Guy Ferland (episodes 6,7); Lodge Kerrigan (episodes 8,9)

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Andrea Savage, Martin Starr, Jay Will, Max Casella, Domenick Lombardozzi, Vincent Piazza, A.C. Peterson, Garrett Hedlund, Dana Delany, Chris Caldovino, Ritchie Coster, Tatiana Zappardino, McKenna Quigley Harrington, Scarlet Rose Stallone,  John Cenatiempo and Joseph Riccobene

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

After serving a 25 year prison sentence, Dwight “The General” Manfredi (Stallone) believes he will be rewarded by the Invernizzi crime family. Manfredi could have talked to the Feds for a lighter sentence, but he stood the full load.  When Manfredi meets with Pete Invernizzi, the Don of their family, Manfredi  learns that he’s being exiled to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Manfredi will be expected to earn money for the Invernizzis, but will be far enough away, he won’t have the influence he once held.  Although Pete and Dwight were once good friends, Pete’s son, Chickie, has always been jealous of their relationship.  Dwight knows that Chickie now makes most of the family decisions due to Pete’s illness.  What Dwight doesn’t know is that Chickie wants him dead.

After 25 years in the joint, it’s a new world for Dwight.  And Tulsa isn’t New York City.  Still, Dwight begins to build a crew and put deals together.  Soon enough Dwight finds himself in a relationship with an ATF agent (Savage), at odds with a deadly motorcycle gang, brought to the attention of the FBI and in the crosshairs of Chickie Invernizzi.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Sylvester Stallone is perfectly cast as Dwight Manfredi.  That should be no surprise since Tulsa King series creator, Tyler Sheridan, built it around Stallone.  Plus Stallone has been welcomed to tweak dialogue and Manfredi’s character to better suit his personality.

The writing is first rate.  Tulsa King is populated by memorable characters.  We learn more about them as the series continues but it never feels like exposition.  They writers create scenes that feel natural with twists that are surprising.

The casting is superb.  Without a doubt, Stallone is the perfect star for this series.  Stallone is supported by an amazing cast. Every single actor/actress no matter how small their role is spot on.  Standouts include Andrea Savage, Jay Will; Dominic Lombardozzi, Garrett Hedlund, Ritchie Coster and Tatiana Zappardino.

I cannot wait for Tulsa King: Season 2.

Tulsa King: Season 1 (2022 – 2023) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Shot in the Frontier” (1954) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Shot in the Frontier (1954)

Director:  Jules White

Screenplay:  Felix Adler

Stars: Shemp Howard, Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Diana Darrin, Kenneth MacDonald, Mort Mills and Emil Sitka

Tagline:  Hey! Here’s hilarious horseplay!

The Plot…

Our guys are cowboys in the wild west.  Immediately after getting hitched, they guys learn that the dastardly Noonan brothers are coming to kill them and steal their wives.  The boys can run or fight.  They decide to run, but they’re too late!  Now Shemp, Larry and Moe was go gun to gun and toe to toe with the Noonan brothers. What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Shot in the Frontier uses sets from the classic western High Noon!

Shot in the Frontier earns 4 of 5 stars.

Lawrence Block, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell & 13 Others are PLAYING GAMES!

What would you call a book with stories by Lawrence Block, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell and 13 others?  Must Buy?  It is actually called Playing Games.  Here’s the lowdown…

WIN, LOSE, OR DIE.

Whether it’s child’s play or for the highest stakes, whether we stick to the rules or cheat, we all play games — for fun, for thrills, for love or money, to prove we’re the best or make an opponent knuckle under. And the games we play, with cards or dice or nothing but our wits, reveal something deeply personal about the players.

In this powerful new anthology, Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block has assembled an all-star team for the ultimate game night. Sit down at the checkerboard with S.A. Cosby, assemble jigsaw puzzles with David Morrell, or play marbles for the fate of the world with Joe R. Lansdale. In Jeffery Deaver’s hands, an innocent game of Candyland takes twists the Parker Brothers could never have imagined. Science-fiction grandmaster Robert Silverberg uncovers painful truths about destiny while betting on the turtle races in a Caribbean resort. And Lawrence Block himself out-Hitchcocks Hitchcock with his classic story of murder victims swapped by strangers on a handball court.

From hide-and-seek to Russian roulette, from mahjong to Mouse Trap, it’s a game lover’s dream — but beware: your turn is coming, and while winning isn’t everything, sometimes losing can be deadly…

And here’s the starred review from Publishers Weekly:

One of the most impressive of the 17 crime stories involving games in this stellar anthology from MWA Grand Master Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper) is Block’s own “Strangers on a Handball Court.” It riffs on Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, as the title suggests, and provides a wholly fair plot with a gut-wrenching surprise. Even knowing that multiple twists are coming doesn’t negate their impact in Jeffery Deaver’s devious “The Babysitter,” which opens with a classic trope: the innocent everyperson who stumbles on a deadly secret. When the charges of 17-year-old Kelli Lambert get bored playing Candy Land, Kelli’s search for another board game leads her into peril after the parents of the kids she’s watching suspect she’s spotted their secret plans to torch a casino so they can establish their own casino. David Morrell shines with the subtle and creepy “The Puzzle Master,” in which a couple become addicted to jigsaw puzzles by a particular artist, only to find potentially ominous clues linking disparate bucolic scenes. The wide range of stories and games in them begs for a sequel.

Playing Games is available now.

Playing Games Paperback

Playing Games Kindle

“The Company You Keep” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I like the concept of The Company You Keep.  The poster and trailer ain’t bad either.  I’ll give it a shot.

A night of passion leads to love between con man Charlie and undercover CIA officer Emma, who are unknowingly on a collision course professionally. While Charlie ramps up the “family business” so he can get out for good, Emma’s closing in on the vengeful criminal who holds Charlie’s family debts in hand – forcing them to reckon with the lies they’ve told so they can save themselves and their families from disastrous consequences. The series is based on the Korean Broadcasting System series entitled “My Fellow Citizens.”

“The Company You Keep” stars Milo Ventimiglia as Charlie, Catherine Haena Kim as Emma, William Fichtner as Leo, Tim Chiou as David, Freda Foh Shen as Grace, James Saito as Joseph, Sarah Wayne Callies as Birdie, Felisha Terrell as Daphne and Polly Draper as Fran.

“Jurassic World: Dominion” (2022) / Z-View

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Screenplay by: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow from a story by Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow based on characters created by Michael Crichton

Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Daniella Pineda  and Scott Haze

Tagline: The epic conclusion of the Jurassic era.

The Plot…

It’s four years after the events of the last Jurassic Park sequel.  Dr. Ellie Sattler (Dern) is trying to determine a way to stop genetically enhanced locusts from destroying crops around the world.  Alan Grant (Neil) is studying dinosaur fossils.  Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Deering (Howard) are raising Maisie Lockwood (Sermon) and their “pet” raptor.  Meanwhile Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) is the guest on a billionaire’s dinosaur island that — you know what, let me cut to the chase.  All the stars are going to end up together battling dinosaurs as they attempt to thwart a billionaire’s evil plans.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Dinosaurs are cool.  Dinosaurs in a modern world are even cooler.  It’s great that all the past stars of the Jurassic Park films return for this one.  There are some excellent scenes with dinosaurs chasing / attacking people, but we know that our stars are going to survive.

Part of the problem with Jurassic World: Dominion is the writing.  Any time a dinosaur is about to attack (and it doesn’t matter if it’s a raptor or a t-rex), raise your right hand in front of you and your left hand away from your side.  This stops them in their tracks.

Characters who should know better, do stupid things.  You’re walking across thin ice and it begins to crack.  Instead of flattening out, moving away from the person next to you and sliding across the ice, you look at the other person next to you and both begin to run.  When the group is moving through the jungle, you have the ones with weapons talking to each other behind the group and the weakest leading.  I could go on, but why?  We get plenty of dinosaur action and that’s the selling point.

Jurassic World: Dominion earns 3 of 5 stars.