Category: Z-View

The Flying Ace (1926) / Z-View

The Flying Ace (1926)

Director:  Richard E. Norman

Screenplay by:  Richard E. Norman

Starring:  Laurence Criner, Kathryn Boyd, Boise De Legge, Harold Platts,  Lions Daniels, George Colvin, Sam Jordan, R.L. Brown and Steve Reynolds


The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

When a $25,000 railroad payroll is stolen under mysterious circumstances, Captain Billy Stokes (Criner), a World War I flying ace who has returned to his job as a railroad detective, is assigned to solve the mystery.  Captain Stokes, with the able assistance of his one-legged partner, Peg (Reynolds) are up to the task.

The Flying Ace features an all African-American cast.  I love The Flying Ace poster above.  The movie has humor, thrills, mystery with a subtle love story subplot.  If you enjoy silent movies, you should give The Flying Ace a go.  It earns a 4 of 5 star rating!

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) / Z-View

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

Director:   Alan Rafkin

Screenplay by:  James Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum and Andy Griffith (uncredited)

Starring:  Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond, Dick Sargent,  Skip Homeier, Reta Shaw and Charles Lane


The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Luther Heggs (Knotts) is a typesetter for the local newspaper.  He dreams of being a reporter.  Luther also dreams of having Alma Parker (Staley) as his girl.  Unfortunately Luther becomes an easy target for jokes when his reports of a murder turn out to be just a drunk knocked unconscious by his wife.  Ollie Weaver (Homeier) a reporter for the newspaper is especially cruel to Luther and to make matters worse, Ollie is dating Alma!

Luther gets a chance at redemption when his boss assigns him a story — Luther will spend the night in a haunted house where a brutal murder occurred years ago.  Despite his fears, Luther spends the night.  Strange things happen that could lead to solving the murder mystery… if anyone will believe Luther!

Don Knotts starring in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is a natural.  Knotts was built to play Luther.  Luther’s dream girl, Alma was played by Joan Staley and she was also built — she was a Playboy playmate of the month!  Fans of The Andy Griffith Show will recognize the similarities between The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and an episode of the tv show.  It was Andy Griffith who suggested that the episode would make a great feature film starring Knotts if the idea was expanded for a new character.  Knotts recruited James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum, writers on The Andy Griffith Show to come up with a screenplay.  Knotts also suggested Alan Rafkin (who directed several episodes of the tv show) to helm the feature.  There are also cast members in the movie who appeared on the tv series.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken rates 3 of 5 stars (and higher if you’re a kid).

Dark Winds Season 1 (2022) / Z-View

Dark Winds Season 1 (2022)

Director:  Chris Eyre (Eps 1, 2, 5, 6), Sanford Bookstaver (Eps 3, 4)

Teleplay by:  Graham Roland (Ep 1), Anthony Florez (Ep 2),  Maya Rose Dittloff & Razelle Benally (Ep 3), Billy Luther (Ep 4), Erica Tremblay (Ep 5), Maya Rose Dittloff (Ep 6)  // Based on the Leaphorn & Chee novels by Tony Hillerman

Starring:  Zahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Deanna Allison, Noah Emmerich, Eugene Brave Rock and Rainn Wilson

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Sheriff Joe Leaphorn (McClarnon) and his Deputy, Bernadette Manuelito (Matten) are the law for the whole Navajo reservation.  When bank robbers make their escape in a helicopter are last seen flying over the reservation, FBI Agent Whitover (Emmerich) is sent in.  Leaphorn and Whitover don’t like each other, but have worked together in the past to resolve cases.

A new Deputy, Jim Chee (Gordon) joins the team.  Chee is a college educated officer who left the reservation to better himself.  Leaphorn is unaware that Chee is actually an FBI agent sent undercover by Agent Whitover to keep him informed of the investigation.  As Leaphorn, Manuelito and Chee follow the clues, it appears that members of  the Buffalo Society, a group of Navajo radicals may be involved in the bank robbery.  And Chee isn’t the only person who isn’t what he/she seams…

Dark Winds provides a good mystery in a setting that we don’t see too often.  There is a feeling of respect and authenticity to Navajos due to the writers all being Native American.  I was happy to see that Dark Winds was renewed for Season 2.  Dark Winds Season 1 rates 4 of 5 stars.

TROUBLE IS WHAT I DO by Walter Mosley / Z-View

Trouble is What I Do by Walter Mosley

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher Mulholland Books; 1st edition (February 25, 2020)

First sentence…

“Mr. McGill?” Mardi Bitterman said over the intercom that connects her desk at the front of our office complex to mine at the far end.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Leonid McGill is a legitimate tough guy.  He’s a former boxer, a full time PI and sometime criminal.  Often his cases are dangerous and involve people you’d cross the street to avoid.  This time the case sounds simple,.  Phillip “Catfish” Worry, a 92-year-old Mississippi bluesman wants McGill to deliver a letter to his granddaughter before her upcoming wedding.  What complicates the situation is Catfish’s granddaughter and her father are unaware that Catfish is her grandfather.  She is from a wealthy white family that runs is social circles that trace their linage back to the Mayflower.

What starts out as a simple case becomes anything but.  McGill can handle himself. Few men give McGill pause.  Stone cold killers, Hush and Eckles, are two who do.  If they want you dead, you better have your will written.  Still McGill presses on.  McGill’s simple case turns into one he may not survive…

I love the Leonid McGill series and Trouble is What I Do rates 5 of 5 stars. 

Trouble is What I Do Hardback
Trouble is What I Do Paperback
Trouble is What I Do Kindle

“Bathing Beauty” (1944) Starring Esther Williams & Red Skelton / Z-View

Bathing Beauty (1944)

Director:   George Sidney

Screenplay by:  Dorothy Kingsley &Allen Boretz and Frank Waldman, adaptation: Joseph Schrank,  based on a story by Kenneth Earl & M.M. Musselman and Curtis Kenyon / uncredited George Oppenheimer

Starring:  Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Basil Rathbone, Jean Porter,  Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra, Lina Romay, Donald Meek and Margaret Dumont

Tagline: M.G.M’s Mammoth Technicolor Musical Spectacle!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

New York producer, George Adams (Rathbone) is afraid that he’s going to lose his number one song writer, when Steve Elliott (Skelton) marries Caroline Brooks (Williams).  So Adams hires a woman to show up to the wedding claiming she’s married to Steve.  The woman brings three red headed boys as proof!  The ruse works even though Steve and Caroline both said, “I do.”  Caroline runs out saying that she’s getting an annulment.

Caroline returns to the all-girl college where she was a gym teacher.  Using a technicality to enroll in the all-girl college, Steve plans to prove his innocence.

Bathing Beauty was advertised as M.G.M’s Mammoth Technicolor Musical Spectacle and lives up to it’s billing.  The movie is heavy on song & dance broken up by short comedy scenes highlighting Skelton’s clowning ability.  Bathing Beauty is also the film that features one of the most copied water dance numbers. It’s the one with dozens of bathing beauties doing a side dive into the pool as the camera glides past.  Ester Williams is easy on the eyes (so is Jean Porter) and Red Skelton is just plain likeable.   If you’re looking for light hearted fun, you could do a lot worse than Bathing Beauty which rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Brimstone” (2016) Starring Guy Pearce & Dakota Fanning / Z-View

Brimstone (2016)

Director:   Martin Koolhoven

Screenplay by:  Martin Koolhoven

Starring:  Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Emilia Jones and Kit Harington

Tagline:  Retribution is coming

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Brimstone is the story of Liz (Fanning), the Reverend (Pearce) and their twisted relationship.  The story is told out of order, so when we first see Liz, she is a young married woman.  The Reverend shows up to the wilderness town where she lives and we quickly learn that he means to harm Liz and her family.  As the story unfolds we learn that their relationship goes back to Liz’s childhood and no matter where she runs, the Reverend finds her.

I wanted to like Brimstone.  It has an interesting premise.  I’m a fan of Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Kit Harrington and westerns.  The set up for Brimstone leaves the audience with many questions and as the story unfolds most are answered.  What turned me off was the slow pace, excessive and redundant violence and an ending that left me wishing I’d checked out before the nearly 2 and a half hour run time.

Guy Pearce is an excellent actor and he convincingly plays one of the most despicable characters you can imagine.  Dakota Fanning is Pearce’s equal as far as acting goes, and perhaps it is their talents that kept me watching.  Kit Harrington takes some getting used to with his southern accent, but he isn’t in the film for much more than a glorified cameo.  The film is divided into four parts 1) Revelation 2) Exodus 3) Genesis 4) Retribution and loses me in the last section.  I was having doubts about the film before, but it is when Liz pulls a Riddick in Pitch Black move to escape being tied to a post that I realized my doubts were well founded.

Throughout the movie we believe that the Reverend is out to get retribution.  My interpretation of the ending is that despite it being a downer, Liz is the one to get poetic justice.  If that’s the case the ending just doesn’t work for me.  Everyone but one person in Liz’s life is murdered and Liz commits suicide.  Plus there’s the whole question if the Reverend is a real person or something else.

I wish I liked Brimstone more but I also realize it just wasn’t for me.  For that reason Brimstone gets 1 of 5 stars.

Posse (1993) / Z-View

Posse (1993)

Director:   Mario Van Peebles

Screenplay by:  Sy Richardson, Dario Scardapane

Starring:  Mario Van Peebles, Stephen Baldwin, Billy Zane, Charles Lane, Paul Bartel, Blair Underwood, Richard Edson, Richard Gant,  Pam Grier, Isaac Hayes, Robert Hooks, Reginald Hudlin, Richard Jordan, Big Daddy Kane, Tom Lister Jr.,  Tone Loc, Aaron Neville, Nipsey Russell, Woody Strode, Melvin Van Peebles, Reginald VelJohnson and Stephen J. Cannell

Tagline: The Untold Story of the Wild West

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

A group of Buffalo soldiers led by Jesse (Van Peebles) is ordered by Colonel Graham (Zane) to steal a Spanish gold shipment.  If the Buffalo soldiers are successful, Graham plans to kill them and take the gold.  Instead, the Buffalo soldiers steal the gold and go on the run!

Jesse’s posse heads west and have many adventures with Colonel Graham and his raiders never far behind.  Everything comes to a head when Jesse’s posse attempts to help the people of a small frontier town.  A crooked sheriff has learned a railroad is coming through and the land is going to be valuable.  The Sheriff is running the townsfolk off or killing them.

Mario Van Peebles acts and directs (with style).  Billy Zane makes a fun scenery-chewing villain.  It’s a blast seeing so many familiar faces in supporting roles.  I’m surprised there were never more Posse movies since this one rates 3 of 5 stars.

“D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?” (2022) / Z-View

D.B. Cooper: Where Are You? (2022)

Director:   Marina Zenovich

Screenplay by:  None

Starring:  Tom Colbert

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

On November 24, 1971, a man the press mistakenly labeled D.B. Cooper (he actually bought the ticket using the name Dan Cooper) hijacked a plane.  He claimed to have a bomb, demanded $200,000.00 and four parachutes.  The plane landed.  The cash and parachutes were brought on board.  Everyone except the pilot and a few other crew members were allowed to leave.  The plane was refueled and took off.  Somewhere in flight, during a rainstorm at night, the hijacker (with the cash) parachuted from the plane.  He was never caught.

D.B. Cooper: Where Are You? is more about Tom Colbert (and folks like him) who are obsessed with finding D.B. Cooper than the actual case.  There have been thousands of leads called in to the F.B.I. and despite the resources available to them no one was ever arrested.  What’s interesting is the number of amateur sleuths who believe that they know who D.B. Cooper was/is.  There are enough of these folks that there is an annual D.B. Cooper convention where “fans” show up to hear the latest theories, buy the newest books, t-shirts and more.

If you’re looking to a definite answer as to who D.B. Cooper is/was, this is not the documentary for you.  It’s amazing how many viable suspects were interviewed and thought to potentially be D.B., yet no one was ever charged.  I also enjoyed the look at the folks who have made the D.B. Cooper case a big part of their lives.  D.B. Cooper: Where Are You? earns 4 of 5 stars.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1981) Starring Jack Nicolson & Jessica Lange / Z-View

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

Director:   Bob Rafelson

Screenplay by:  David Mamet based on the James M. Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice

Starring:  Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, John Colicos, Michael Lerner, John P. Ryan and Anjelica Huston

Tagline:  In the heat of passion two things can happen. The second is murder.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Frank Chambers (Nicholson) is a drifter who plans to scam a meal from a roadside diner and move on.  When the diner’s owner, Nick Papadakis (Colicos), offers Chambers a job, he declines… then he catches a look at Papadakis’ young wife (Lange).  Chambers takes the job,

Soon he and young Mrs. Papadakis are involved in a low-rent romance.  As things heat up, their thoughts turn to cold-blooded murder.  With Mr. Papadakis permanently out of the way, they’ll have each other and the diner to themselves.  They think they’ll be on the way to easy street, but depending on how things turn out it could be the electric chair!

This film is the fourth version of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice.  It was David Mamet’s first produced screenplay and had Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange in the lead roles.  My expectations were high.  Sadly, I was disappointed.  The advertisements for the film boasted of the heat between Nicholson and Lange.  I didn’t feel it.  Chambers and Papadakis’ wife need to be so in love (or at least in lust) that they’re willing to risk everything.  I had the feeling that either of them could have moved on without a glance back.  The love scenes weren’t loving or even sexy.

I’m a huge fan of the 1946 movie version starring Lana Turner and John Garfield which I thought was a 5 star film.  This could have influenced my feelings toward the remake which earns 2 of 5 stars.

The Spoilers (1942) Starring Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott & John Wayne / Z-View

The Spoilers (1942)

Director:  Ray Enright

Screenplay by:  Lawrence Hazard, Tom Reed based on  The Spoilers novel by Rex Beach

Starring:  Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Margaret Lindsay and Harry Carey

Tagline: BOLD WOMEN! BRAWNY MEN! Living…loving in the Hot-spot of the Frozen North!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Roy Glennister (Wayne) and his partner, Al Dextry (Carey) are goldminers in a partnership with saloon owner, Cherry Malotte (Dietrich).  The trio’s goldmine has a rich vein and they found it.  Things are looking good until the new gold commissioner, Alex McNamara (Scott) arrives.  McNamara is claim-jumping mines that are paying off! He’s doing it “legally” with the backing of a crooked judge that he secretly has in his pocket.  In addition, to Glennister’s mine, McNamara has his eyes on Glennister’s woman, Cherry Malotte!  The tension mounts as it becomes obvious there is only one way this will end…

I was surprised at the innuendo in dialogue and actions of Dietrich, Wayne and Scott.  There is a whole other level to this film that you usually don’t see in westerns of the 1940s.  Wayne’s character is a player!  I loved Randolph Scott as the bad guy!  There is chemistry between the Dietrich, Wayne and Scott that adds to the believability of the film.  The climatic fight between Wayne and Scott lives up to it’s reputation.  The Spoilers is a fun ride and rates 4 of 5 stars.

“The Velvet Vampire” aka “Cemetery Girls” (1971) / Z-View

The Velvet Vampire aka Cemetery Girls (1971)

Director:  Stephanie Rothman

Screenplay by:  Stephanie Rothman, Charles S. Swartz, Maurice Jules

Starring:  Michael Blodgett, Sherry E. DeBoer and Celeste Yarnall

Tagline:  She’s Waiting To Love You…To Death

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Lee Ritter (Blodgett) and his wife Susan (Miles) meet and take a liking to a mysterious woman named Diane LeFanu (Yarnall).  When Diane asks them to spend a weekend at her remote desert home, they accept.  Only too late do they discover that Diane is a vampire!

The Velvet Vampire is a perfect example of low budget 70s horror films that often became the second or third films shown at drive-ins.  The movie features a small cast (of low-level stars), a remote location, women who bare their boobs and sex scenes spaced throughout the film. (Where you usually find the bare boobs.) There’s even a dune buggy scene in The Velvet Vampire!  Does it get any more “early 70s” than that?   Diane isn’t your traditional vampire – she goes out in the sun (but too much isn’t good for her).

Normally movies I make it through earn at least a 2 star rating.  I made it through The Velvet Vampire and (despite the bare boobies) it only earned a 1 of 5 star rating.

Dead Man (1995) / Z-View

Dead Man (1995)

Director:  Jim Jarmusch

Screenplay by:  Jim Jarmusch

Starring:  Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, Eugene Byrd, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne, Mili Avital  and Billy Bob Thornton

Tagline:  Sometimes it is preferable not to travel with a dead man.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

William Blake (Depp), a mild-mannered accountant, travels by train to a small town on the edge of the frontier.  There he meets a prostitute named Thel (Avital) who takes him home.  The next morning Thel’s ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Byrne) confronts Blake and Thel while they’re still in bed.  Charlie shoots at Blake.  The bullet hits (and kills) Thel and then strikes Blake in the chest when the bullet passes through her.  Blake picks up Thel’s gun and kills Charlie.  Blake then hightails it out of town.

Although he escaped into the wilderness, Blake’s chest wound is serious.  He passes out.  When he comes to he is surprised to find a huge Native American named Nobody (Farmer) standing over him.  Nobody says that the bullet is too close to his heart to be removed.  Blake is a walking dead man.  Nobody says he will help Blake prepare for his journey back to the spiritual world.  Along the way Blake has run-ins with many unusual characters including the three notorious killers hired by Charlie’s dad (Mitchum) to avenge his son’s murder.

Jim Jarmusch brought together an all-star cast to tell a strange, almost mesmerizing tale,  Dead Man was shot in black and white, with fadeouts after each scene enhanced by an improvised Neil Young soundtrack.  Truth be told, I started to watch Dead Man years ago and couldn’t get into it.  This time, I loved every minute.  Dead Man earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Attack of the Puppet People” (1957) / Z-View

Attack of the Puppet People (1957)

Director:  Bert I. Gordon

Screenplay by:  George Worthing Yates from a story by Bert I. Gordon

Starring:  John Agar, John Hoyt and June Kenney

Tagline:  Terror Comes In Small Packages!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Mr. Franz (Hoyt) owns a doll company that makes popular, lifelike dolls.  Little does anyone know that Mr. Franz’s personal doll collection is made from real people that he has shrunk to doll size.  When Mr. Franz’s secretary, Sally Reynolds (Kenney) discovers what Franz has been doing, she goes to the police.  Of course they don’t believe Franz is doing anything wrong,.. until Sally turns up missing and Franz has a new doll in his collection!

Attack of the Puppet People was given the greenlight due to the success of The Incredible Shrinking Man.  It was rushed into production with Bert I. Gordon (The Amazing Colossal Man) at the helm.  Fair warning,  if the poster for Attack of the Puppet People sold you on the movie, please know… 1) They weren’t really puppet people.  2) There were no “Doll Dwarfs”. 3) No “giant beasts” were crushed or did crushing. 4) No giant dog vs steak knife wielding little folks… Just so ya know.

Attack  of the Puppet People earned a 2 of 5 star rating.

“The Deadly Mantis” (1957) / Z-View

The Deadly Mantis (1957)

Director:  Nathan Juran

Screenplay by:   Martin Berkeley based on a story by William Alland

Starring:  Craig Stevens, William Hopper and Alix Talton

Tagline: The most dangerous monster that ever lived!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

When volcanic eruptions set a gigantic prehistoric preying mantis free, the world becomes his buffet.  It is up to Col. Joe Parkman (Stevens), Dr. Nedrick Jackson (Hopper) and Marge Blaine (Talton) to find a way to stop this giant insect.

Documentary footage of Eskimos and jets taking off make poor filler footage.  The giant praying mantis looks good in scenes where it is busting into a building, but not so good when flying.  This viewing didn’t rate as high as the first time I saw The Deadly Mantis.  Of course I’m no longer eight.  The Deadly Mantis rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Thing” (82) / Z-View

The Thing (1982)

Director:  John Carpenter

Screenplay by:  Bill Lancaster based on a short story by John W. Campbell Jr.

Starring:  Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Richard Masur,  T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan,  Peter Maloney, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites and Adrienne Barbeau (uncredited computer voice)

Tagline:  Man is The Warmest Place to Hide.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Members of a US Antarctica research station go on full alert when a Norwegian helicopter begins buzzing their outpost.  One of the Norwegians is shooting at a husky that’s running towards the American station.  The helicopter lands and more shots ring out missing the dog and nearly hitting members of the US team. Garry (Moffat) shoots back, killing the Norwegian.  A fire caused by wild shots leads to the explosion of the helicopter and death of the pilot.

MacReady (Russell) and Dr. Copper (Dysart) fly to the Norwegian base.  Everyone there is dead! MacReady and Copper discover a disfigured burned vaguely human-looking corpse.  MacReady and Copper return to the US base with the corpse and more questions than answers.

The Norwegian dog had been given free reign at the US base.  When MacReady returns the dog is placed in a kennel with the US huskies.  Once the lights are out, the Norwegian dog begins to transform as it kills the US dogs and assimilates them.  The dogs’ screams alert the base and everyone shows up.  They’re shocked, but use a flamethrower to incinerate the thing.

They ultimately learn that the Norwegians discovered an alien ship.  One of the creatures from the ship thawed and began killing them.  It made it’s escape in the form of the Norwegian dog.

Dr. Blair runs computer simulations and realizes odds are that at least one of the US team has been assimilated.  The computer also shows that if one of the things makes it to civilization, humans will be wiped out.

Dr. Cooper suggests a blood test to determine if anyone has been compromised.  Before that can happen, the blood supply is destroyed, as are every means of communication and the transportation.  At least one of the US team is no longer human.  But who?

As they struggle for a solution, the lack of sleep and paranoia makes each person as much of a danger as the thing.  Will anyone survive?  And what of the human race?

Bill Lancaster’s script is closer to John Campbell’s short story than the 1951 film.  Everything comes together.  John Carpenter is the right director for this project — he respects the source material.  He’s supported by a wonderful cast led by Kurt Russell, and each cast member gets their moment to shine.  Stan Winston’s effects were groundbreaking for the time and still impress.  Ennio Morricone provides music that adds to the tension.

When I saw The Thing on it’s original release, the theater was nearly empty.  Over the years, The Thing developed a following and the props it deserves.  My initial rating for The Thing was 4 of 5 stars, but over the years, I’ve bumped it up to a more proper 5 of 5 stars.