Category: Z-View

“Desperate” (1947) / Z-View

Desperate (1947)

Director:  Anthony Mann

Screenplay by:  Harry EssexMartin Rackin (additional dialogue), Dorothy Atlas (story)

Starring:  Steve Brodie, Audrey Long and Raymond Burr

Tagline:  Desperate was their nightmare of FEAR!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Steve (Brodie) and Anne Randall (Long) are ready to celebrate their wedding anniversary when Steve gets a call from a man named Walt Radak (Burr) about a trucking job.  Since they need the money, they decide to postpone the celebration until Steve gets back.

When Steve arrives at the warehouse, he learns that Radak and his crew are thieves who want him to haul stolen property.  Steve refuses, but is forced at gunpoint back into the truck.  As the crooks load the goods, Steve is able to signal a cop walking by.  A shootout ensues.  The cop is shot and killed as everyone scrambles to get away.  Only Radak’s brother is caught.

Steve returns home, gets his wife and they go on the run.  Steve needs to prove his innocence since the cops think he’s part of the cop killer gang.  Radak blames Steve for the bungled robbery and his brother’s capture.  Steve is on the run and desperate…

Desperate is the first and only feature film to star Steve Brodie (which is surprising).  It is also Raymond Burr’s first time playing the lead heavy.  Desperate is a good film noir and rates 3 of 5 stars.

“G-Men” (1935) Starring James Cagney / Z-View

G-Men (1935)

Director:  William Keighley

Screenplay by:  Darryl F. Zanuck, Seton I. Miller (uncredited) based on the novel Public Enemy No. 1 by Gregory Rogers

Starring:  James Cagney, Margaret Lindsay, Ann Dvorak, Robert Armstrong and Lloyd Nolan

Tagline: Hollywood’s Most Famous Bad Man Joins the “G-MEN” and Halts the March of Crime!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Because he won’t play ball with crooks, Brick Davis (Cagney) isn’t making it as a lawyer.  So when Brick’s recruited to join the FBI, he does.  We then follow Brick through training and his efforts to bring down a crime syndicate.

Cagney’s star power is evident in this pretty much by the numbers outing.  With that said,  G-Men rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Double Whoopee” (1929) Starring Laurel & Hardy / Z-View

Double Whoopee (1929)

Director:  Lewis R. Foster

Screenplay by:  H.M. Walker (titles), Leo McCarey (story)

Starring:  Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Jean Harlow

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Stanley (Laurel) and Ollie (Hardy) show up for their temp services jobs at a posh hotel when they are mistaken for visiting dignitaries.  Things go downhill from there once they begin their jobs as a doorman and bellman.  Jean Harlow who was just 17 during filming appears in one of her earliest roles.

“The Open House” (2018) / Z-View

The Open House (2018)

Director:  Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote

Screenplay by:  Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote

Starring:  Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Patricia Bethune and Sharif Atkins

Tagline:  You can’t lock out what’s already Inside.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

When her husband is hit by a car and dies, Naomi (Dalton) and her son, Logan (Minnette) are left in a financial bind.  Naomi’s sister allows them to live in her secluded house that is up for sale.

During the day, it is an open house which creeps out Logan.  He hates the idea that strangers roam through the house that he and his mother sleep in at night.  Soon after Naomi and Logan move in, weird things begin to happen.  Objects are moved, someone telephones but doesn’t speak, the pilot light on the water heater keeps going out and more.  Logan and his mom realize that it could be one of the strange people that they’ve met in the neighborhood… but is this person a prankster or dangerous?  They will soon find out.

The Open House sets up an excellent premise for a horror film.  It provides a supporting cast of possible folks who could be responsible for the weird stuff going on.  Then it makes the two leads fairly unlikable and gives us an ending that (my wife) and I absolutely hated.  In all fairness up until the ending, The Open House was on track to a two star rating, but that ending brought it down to one star of five.

“You’re Darn Tootin’ (1928) Starring Laurel & Hardy / Z-View

You’re Darn Tootin’ (1928)

Director:  Edgar Kennedy

Screenplay by:  H.M. Walker (titles), Hal Roach (story)

Starring:  Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Stanley (Laurel) and Ollie (Hardy) are already behind in their rent when they are fired from a band.  Desperate to raise money they begin playing on the street, hoping for donations.  Things take a turn for the worst when they raise the ire of a local policeman.  Soon enough they’re having problems with uncovered manholes, sewer workers, and each other!

The final scene is Laurel and Hardy at their best.  They are upset and strike out at each other.  Before it is over they’ve caused a riot with everyone getting de-pantsed!

“Do Detectives Think?” (1927) Starring Laurel & Hardy / Z-View

Do Detectives Think? (1927)

Director:  Fred Guiol

Screenplay by:  H.M. Walker (titles), Hal Roach (story)

Starring:  Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Viola Richard and Noah Young

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Ferdinand Finkleberry (Laurel) and Sherlock Pinkham (Hardy) are the world’s two worst detectives.  When a killer (Young) who has vowed to slit the throat of the judge (Finlayson) who sentenced him escapes prison, Finkleberry and Pinkham are assigned to protect him.

This early Laurel and Hardy film features the first time they wore the derby hats that became one of their trademarks.  It also features their famous derby hat mix-up routine. James Finlayson as the scared judge gets his share of laughs.  Do Detectives Think? is a solid Laurel & Hardy film and rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Man from Toronto” (2022) Starring Kevin Hart & Woody Harrelson / Z-View

The Man from Toronto (2022)

Director: Patrick Hughes

Screenplay by:  Robbie Fox, Chris Bremner from a story by Robbie Fox, Jason Blumenthal

Starring:  Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Jasmine Mathews, Kaley Cuoco, Pierson Fode and Ellen Barkin

Tagline:  Hitman Meets Dead Man

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Teddy (Hart), a mild mannered man,  is mistaken for an elite assassin/torturer known as The Man from Toronto (Harrelson).  The FBI convince Teddy to continue playing as The Man from Toronto in an effort to stop an upcoming hit on a visiting dignitary.  Everything goes sideways when the real Man from Toronto shows up…

The Man from Toronto has a great premise.  Kevin Hart is the right choice to play Teddy and Woody Harrelson makes a convincing hitman.  Director Patrick Hughes knows his way around action scenes.  The movie starts off well enough, but the last act went way over the top (some may say that it happened even sooner).  Still there were enough laughs to rate 3 of 5 stars.

“How to Make a Monster” (1958) / Z-View

How to Make a Monster (1958)

Director: Herbert L. Strock

Screenplay by:  Herman Cohen. Aben Kandel

Starring:  Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway and Gary Clarke

Tagline:  See the ghastly ghouls… IN FLAMING COLOR!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Pete Dumond (Harris) has been a monster movie make-up man for American International Pictures for decades.  When the studio is sold, the new owners decide that monster movies are on the way out.  They fire Dumond and his long-time assistant, Rivero (Brinegar).  Dumond uses mind control to get the actors playing the teenage werewolf (Clarke) and teenage Frankenstein (Conway) to kill the new owners one-by-one.  When the clues begin to point towards Dumond all bets are off on who will be the next to die!

How to Make a Monster is more clever than good.  It’s clever because…

  • It brings back monsters (Teenage Frankenstein and Teenage Werewolf) from their past movies for a team-up.
  • It uses American International Pictures (the real movie studio that released the film) as the studio in the movie.
  • It takes us behind the scenes on the studio of American International Pictures when in reality AIP didn’t own a studio!  They rented space from other studios.
  • The monster head props and movie posters that appear in the background of scenes are from past AIP monster movies.
  • The ads say that you will see the monsters (Teenage Frankenstein and Wolfman) in color for the first time, but only the last scenes were shot in color to save money!

How to Make a Monster rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Near Dark” (1987) / Z-View

Near Dark (1987)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenplay by:  Eric Red, Kathryn Bigelow

Starring:  Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua John Miller and James Le Gros

Tagline:  At dawn they hide. At dark they wake. At night they search for blood…pray for daylight.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Unknown to Caleb (Pasdar), his new girlfriend (Wright) is vampire.  When she turns him, Caleb reluctantly joins her coven which consists of their leader, Jesse Hooker (Henriksen), Diamondback (Goldstein), Severen (Paxton) and Homer (Miller). Each night the group goes out to hunt and feed. Sickened by what he has become, but with nowhere to turn, Caleb goes with them.  When things go sideways, the coven finds the police as well as Caleb’s father closing in on them.  Caleb will be forced to make a choice… but at what cost?

This modern day vampire tale is a blast.  Bill Paxton fills the screen as a vampire who enjoys his undead life.  It’s a thrill to see the Aliens trio (Henriksen, Goldstein and Paxton) together again.  The scene in the roadside bar still terrifies while at the same time makes audiences smile.  This movie’s influence can be see in many films that followed it.  Near Dark is so entertaining it easily rates 4 of 5 stars.

“The Untouchables” (1987) Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery & Robert De Niro / Z-View

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay by:  David Mamet based on The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley

Starring:  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago and Patricia Clarkson

Tagline:  What are you prepared to do?

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Elliott Ness (Costner) is a Federal Treasury agent sent to Chicago to take down Al Capone (De Niro) and his criminal enterprises.  Due to widespread corruption in the Chicago Police Department, Ness creates a team of “Untouchables” consisting of a Jim Malone (Connery) a street cop; George Stone (Garcia) a young police cadet and Oscar Wallace (Smith) a Treasury bookkeeper.  With their lives and families in danger, Ness and his Untouchables find themselves in Capone’s crosshairs as they move forward with their mission.

The Untouchables is arguably director Brian DePalma’s finest film.  It is the movie that made Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia stars.  Sean Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone.  The film was also nominated for 3 additional Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.

I absolutely love The Untouchables.  Everything comes together beautifully – the screenplay, the director, the cast and the music mesh to create a magical movie experience.  David Mamet wrote the screenplay based on the book by (the real Elliott Ness) and Oscar Fraley.  While the film is a fictionalized account, it’s not a documentary, so let’s not pick that nit.  The film’s direction features DePalma at his peak.  There are so many memorable scenes – Ness and Malone meeting for the first time, Malone’s way of getting a Capone bookkeeper to talk, Ness’ confrontation with Capone on the staircase, Nitti and another thug at Malone’s apartment, Ness and the baby carriage, Stone saving the day and Ness and Nitti on the rooftop – to name several.

Connery is at his best and deserving of his Oscar.  Kevin Costner is perfect as the straight arrow cop who tests his limits when he discovers what he is willing to do to bring down Capone.  Andy Garcia is spot on as the cocky because he’s that good cop.  Charles Martin Smith plays what looks like a stereotypical bookkeeper until the action starts.  Billy Drago has a smaller but vitally important role as Frank Nitti, Capone’s number one hitman.

If you’ve never seen The Untouchables, you should rectify that as soon as possible.  If you have seen it, then you know I’m not exaggerating when I say The Untouchables is worthy of a 5 of 5 star rating.

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” Starring Sean Connery (2003) / Z-View

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Director: Stephen Norrington

Screenplay by:  James Dale Robinson based on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic books by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill

Starring:  Sean Connery, Stuart Townsend, Peta Wilson, Jason Flemyng, Naseeruddin Shah, Tony Curran, Shane West  and Richard Roxburgh

Tagline: The power of seven become a league of one

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

It’s 1899.  A man who calls himself the Fantom leads an army of terrorists who strike without pity and leave clues implicating foreign countries.  The Fantom’s goal is to create a world war from which he will profit.

In an effort to bring down the Fantom a group of “extraordinary gentlemen” are recruited by “M” (Roxburgh):

  • Allan Quatermain (Connery) the famous hunter/tracker
  • Captain Nemo (Shah) the famous scientist/adventurer
  • Mina Harker (Wilson) who has vampire-like abilities
  • Dr. Henry Jekyll (Flemyng) who becomes the raging Mr. Hyde
  • Rodney Skinner (Curran), a thief who stole a formula that makes him invisible
  • Dorian Gray (Townsend) who appears to be immortal and
  • Tom Sawyer (West) who is a special agent from the United States

The “extraordinary gentlemen” make a formidable team, but there is a traitor among them…

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gets a bad rap with some folks.  Perhaps some of that was caused by the tension on the set between director Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery.  Neither man enjoyed working with the other.  Sadly, it was Connery’s last live action film.  Some say the experience on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen led to his retirement.  Surprisingly, it was also Norrington’s last film as well.

There are another group of fans who loved the comics by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill and were disappointed with things the film changed.  Since I’ve never read the comics (and I do need to fix that!), I went into the movie with no preconceived thoughts.

As for the movie, I enjoyed it.  What’s not to love?  You have famous characters from different stories teaming up against a larger than life menace to the world!  The introductory scenes of each character is where the movie really shines.  We quickly learn who each person is and then we’re off on the adventure.  I would have loved this film even more if I was a kid… but there’s still enough of a kid in me to rate it 4 of 5 stars.

“The Deadly Companions” Starring Maureen O’Hara & Brian Keith (1961) / Z-View

The Deadly Companions (1961)

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Screenplay by:  Albert Sidney Fleischman based on his novel The Deadly Companions

Starring:  Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Steve Cochran, Chill Wills, Strother Martin and Will Wright

Tagline: Trapped… by her past and the sins of the men who pursued her through a savage land!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Yellowleg (Keith), a gunfighter named Billy (Cochran) and Turk (Wills) ride into a small town.  When bank robbers come out with guns blazing, Yellowleg and Billy return fire killing the thieves.  One of Yellowleg’s shots misses and kills a young boy.  The boy’s grieving mother, Kit (O’Hara) decides she will take her dead son to be buried next to his father.  To do this she will have to pass through dangerous Indian country.

Yellowleg offers to accompany her, but Kit refuses.  Despite her not wanting his help, Yellowleg recruits Billy and Turk to join the journey.  The threat of hostile Indians is real, but Kit and Yellowleg will learn too late that Billy and Turk have their own reasons for making the trip.

This is Sam Peckinpah’s first time directing a feature film.  The Westerner tv series, which starred Brian Keith, had just been cancelled. Keith had been named the lead for The Deadly Companions and he recommended Peckinpah for the director’s chair.  Reportedly Peckinpah and Maureen O’Hara didn’t get along. At any rate, this isn’t your typical Peckinpah film.

Brian Keith is always good.  Chill Wills has the ability to get laughs even playing the heavy.  There is a love story subplot (of course) and a revenge subplot and both require a bit more suspension of disbelief than a gritty western would require.  Still Peckinpah-lite is better than no Peckinpah at all.  The Deadly Companions earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Thieves’ Highway” (1949) / Z-View

Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Director:  Jules Dassin

Screenplay by:  A. I. Bezzerides based on his novel Thieves’ Market

Starring:  Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, Millard Mitchell, Joseph Pevney and Jules Dassin

Tagline: Rackets Ride The Roads!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Nick Garcos (Conte) returns home from the war with plans to marry his girl and start a business.  When Nick learns that his father, a trucker, was crippled due to a crooked produce dealer named Mike Figlia (Cobb), Nick decides to get revenge.  Nick underestimates Figlia and realizes he’s in over his head too late…

Thieves’ Highway is another excellent film that I might have missed if not for Eddie Mueller and TCM.  Richard Conte is excellent as the honest, headstrong son looking to avenge his father.  Lee J. Cobb presents just the right amount of attitude playing the smug, tough (yet truly cowardly) dirty businessman.  It was humorous that everyone knew what a creep Figla was, but they had to deal with him.  Jackie Oakie provides some comedy relief.

If there was any nit I would pick, it would be the love subplot.  Nick seems ready to switch his allegiance pretty quickly. And just as fast we learn that his fiancé loves money/security more than Nick.  The subplot does provide a fun scene with Nick talking on the phone to his girl in a crowded bar full of men ready to join in.

Thieves’ Highway was a fun ride and it earns 4 of 5 stars.

The Protégé (2021) Starring Maggie Q, Michael Keaton & Samuel L. Jackson / Z-View

The Protégé (2021)

Director:  Martin Campbell

Screenplay by:  Richard Wenk

Starring:  Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Patrick

Tagline:  Made for vengeance

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Anna (Q) and Moody (Jackson) are assassins.  Moody rescued and raised Anna since she was a child.  When Moody is killed by a hit team, Anna vows revenge.  Soon she finds herself in a cat and mouse game with Rembrandt (Keaton) an assassins with skills that match (surpass?) her own.

Maggie Q is more than capable as the world’s greatest assassin.  Michael Keaton steals every scene he’s in.  His “Nobody home” line still makes me smile.  Samuel L. Jackson is always good.  Poor Robert Patrick isn’t given much to do and what he is given isn’t great.  No fault to him though, it’s just not a great role.

The Protégé is at it’s best when in action mode.  The early scenes with Q and Keaton are fun, but after a while become repetitive.  There’s a twist I didn’t see coming and the ending also holds a surprise (if not in what happens, then in the, uh, execution).    The Protégé rates 3 of 5 stars.

SHOEDOG by George Pelecanos / Z-View

Shoedog by George Pelecanos

Trade Paperback : ‎ 240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Back Bay Books

First sentence…

The first thing Constantine noticed, as the car pulled over and slowed to a stop, was the bumblebee emblem on the grill.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Constantine left home at 17 and has been drifting around the world for almost as many years.  While hitchhiking, Constantine is picked up by an older man named Polk.  They make good traveling buddies and plan to head towards Florida, but first Polk asks Constantine to accompany him on a stop.  A man named Grimes owes Polk $20,000 and Polk intends to collect it.

Polk and Constantine meet Grimes in an office in Grimes’ mansion.  Grimes tells Polk that he can pay him after a score he has planned for the coming week.  There’s a spot for Polk if he wants in.  Then they’ll just need to find one more driver.  Polk suggests that they use Constantine, if after hearing the plan they want in.

Grimes brings everyone together. The crew consists of Gorman (something isn’t right about this guy), Grimes (has history with Polk and it may not be good), Valdez (who takes an instant dislike to Constantine), Jackson and Randolph (the one dude who seems most trustworthy).  The plan is to knock over two locations using three man teams.  Constantine is deciding if he wants in when Grimes’ young wife, Delia, brings everyone coffee.  Delia’s eyes meet Constantine and his decision is made. He’s in.  As the days go by leading up to the caper, Constantine and Delia grow closer despite the risk of what Grimes will do if he finds out.  And by closer, I mean “closer’.

After the robbery, Polk plans to collect his money and head south with Constantine.  Delia and Constantine have other ideas. They will use Constantine’s cut to make their escape.  None know that Grimes, Gorman and Valdez have plans of their own.

Pelecanos has another winner with Shoedog, a true crime noir.  It earned 4 of 5 stars.

Shoedog Hardcover
Shoedog Trade Paperback
Shoedog Kindle