Category: Z-View

Charlie Chan in “Black Magic” (1944) starring Sidney Toler / Z-View

Black Magic (1944)

Director: Phil Rosen

Screenplay:  George Callahan based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers

Stars: Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Frances Chan and Frank Jaquet.

Tagline: Weirdest case of the screen’s top sleuth!

The Plot…

Charlie Chan (Toler) is ready to head home to Honolulu when he gets called to investigate a murder that occurred during a seance attended by his daughter. The occultist was killed by a gun that cannot be found and a bullet that didn’t go through his body but also cannot be found!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

This is the only Charlie Chan film where he is assisted by his daughter instead of one of his sons.  Also his daughter, Frances Chan is played by an actress named Frances Chan!

Mantan Moreland is back to provide comedy relief.

When Charlie is asked a question about his investigation, Chan asks the man, “Can you keep a secret?”  The man responds, “Of course.”  Charlie says, “So can I” as he walks away.

Black Magic (1944) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Cold Pursuit” (2019) starring Liam Neeson / Z-View

Cold Pursuit (2019)

Director: Hans Petter Moland

Screenplay:  Frank Baldwin based on In Order of Disappearance by Kim Fupz Aakeson

Stars: Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Micheál Neeson, Tom Bateman, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jim Shield, Aleks Paunovic, Glenn Ennis  and Emmy Rossum.

Tagline: Revenge is best served cold.

The Plot…

Citizen of the Year, Nels Coxman (Neeson), is a mild-mannered Colorado snowplow driver.  When Coxman learns that his son was murdered by members of a drug cartel, he decides to take out as many members of the cartel as he can.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Cold Pursuit is one of those movies that gets better as it goes along.  That’s because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, provides interesting characters and more plot twists that expected in a “revenge flick”.

Liam Neeson is always good.  Standouts in the supporting cast include…

  • Tom Bateman as Trevor “Viking” Calcote, the unhinged drug lord
  • Emmy Rossum as Kim Dash, a young, eager police officer
  • Domenick Lombardozzi as Mustang, one of Calcote’s enforcers
  • William Forsythe as Brock “Wingman” Coxman, a retired hitman

Stick around for the end credits — there’s not another scene but the credit design adds to the fun.

Cold Pursuit (2019) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Blacula” (1972) / Z-View

Blacula (1972)

Director: William Crain

Screenplay:  Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, Richard Glouner

Stars: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala, Elisha Cook Jr. and The Hues Corporation.

Tagline: Blacula! – Dracula’s Soul Brother!

The Plot…

In 1780, Dracula turned Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) into a vampire and mockingly gave him the name Blackula.  Dracula then sealed Prince Mamuwalde in a coffin where he remained a prisoner for nearly 200 years.  When the coffin is opened in 1972, Blackula is released to terrorize modern day LA.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I had avoided watching Blackula for decades because I thought it was going to be all-out comedy.  I was wrong.  Blackula, despite the funny title, is a straight up horror film.  Before William Marshall accepted the title role, he demanded that the character be treated with dignity.  Changes were made to the character’s background and the movie is played straight.  Blackula is the first black vampire to appear on film!

It was cool to see Elisha Cook, Jr. in a small role as well as the singing group, The Hues Corporation, best known for the hit Rock the Boat.

Blackula (1972) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970) / Z-View

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Director: Ted Post

Screenplay: Paul Dehn from a story by Paul Dehn, Mort Abrahams based on characters created by Pierre Boulle

Stars: James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Paul Richards, Victor Buono, James Gregory, Jeff Corey, Natalie Trundy, Thomas Gomez, Gregory Sierra and Charlton Heston.

Tagline: The bizarre world you met in ‘Planet of the Apes’ was only the beginning… What lies beneath may be the end!

The Plot…

A spaceship sent on a rescue mission crashes on an unidentified planet.  Brent (Franciscus), the sole survivor, realizes he has somehow gone forward in time.  As he explores his new surroundings, Brent comes across Nova (Harrison) a beautiful, but mute woman.  Nova is wearing Taylor’s dogtags.  Taylor is one of the astronauts his crew was sent to rescue.

Brent soon sees that the planet is populated by intelligent apes and humans are speechless savages.  Hunted by apes, Brent and Nova hope to escape into the Forbidden Zone where something even more dangerous than apes awaits them.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I loved (and still love) Planet of the Apes.  I had such high hopes for Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Charlton Heston was set to return.  This time Heston would be joined by James Franciscus (who I liked in Valley of Gwangi and various guest spots on tv).  How could this go wrong?

Let me count the ways… Heston’s role amounts to a glorified cameo.  The ape civilization is made less threatening when we see young apes protesting the war (shades of Viet Nam).  The whole subplot with disfigured humans who worship a nuclear bomb seems like it was cribbed from a bad episode of Star Trek. Other than Highlander to Highlander 2, I’ve never been as disappointed in a sequel.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Se7en” (1995) / Z-View

Se7en (1995)

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Cassini, Peter Crombie, Reg E. Cathey, R. Lee Ermey, George Christy, Hawthorne James, Richard Roundtree, John C. McGinley, Mark Boone Junior, Leland Orser, Richard Schiff, Charles S. Dutton and Andrew Kevin Walker.

Tagline: Seven deadly sins. Seven ways to die.

The Plot…

Just one week from retirement, veteran detective William Somerset (Freeman) is teamed with young rookie detective,  David Mills (Pitt).  Their styles and personalities are at odds from the start.  Somerset is even-keeled, patient and methodical.  Mills is short-tempered, eager and prone to rush in.

Somerset and Mills are assigned a murder investigation where the killer mutilated the victim before slowly murdering him.  When another body turns up, Somerset and Mills realize that they’re dealing with a serial killer who is using the seven deadly sins to determine his victims and method of murder.  The killer is intelligent, but insane… and he knows that Somerset and Mills are on the case.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

What could have been a very generic and exploitive serial killer movie is anything but.  Andrew Kevin Walker created a story that is compelling and clever.  The old cop just a week from retirement teamed with a young hotshot is so played out.. but not in the hands of Walker.  The situation is what it is, and adds to the personalities of Somerset and Mills. The finale is one of the best ever.

David Fincher is an amazing director and Se7en is a masterpiece.  The film stars Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, but the supporting actors/actresses are just as amazing.  It’s cool seeing familiar faces before they were “known” popping up throughout the film.  Everything from the opening credits to the final shot are perfection.

Se7en (1995) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Joe Pickett”: Season 1 (2021) / Z-View

Joe Pickett: Season 1 (2021)

Written by: Drew Dowdle, John Erick Dowdle (ep. 1 -2; 7; 10); Samir Mehta (ep. 3; 5); Stacy Chbosky (ep. 4; 8); Sarah Marie Masson (ep. 6); Jada Nation (ep. 9)

Directed by: John Erick Dowdle (ep. 1 – 2; 8 – 10); Everardo Gout (ep. 3 – 4); Drew Dowdle (ep. 5); Jennifer Morrison (ep. 6 – 7)

Stars: Michael Dorman, Julianna Guill, Sharon Lawrence, Paul Sparks, Mustafa Speaks, Skywalker Hughes, Kamryn Pilva, David Alan Grier, Chad Rook, Aadila Dosani, Jacqueline and Joyce Robbins, Patrick Gallagher and Firass Dirani

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Joe Pickett (Dorman) is a new game warden who has just moved his wife and daughters to the small town of  Saddlestring, Wyoming.  Right out of the gate Joe has a run-in with a local hunting out of season.  The situation escalates before Joe gets the upper hand.  The man later is later found dead on Joe’s property. Joe then finds himself at odds with the local police investigating the case.  Soon enough, the police have a suspect in custody and are ready to close the case… but Joe’s investigation reveals a corruption that runs deep and puts he and his family at risk.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Joe Pickett: Season One is surprisingly good.  I really like the relationship between Joe and his wife.  There are some great twists as the story unfolds.  It’s well acted and well directed.  I look forward to season 2.

Joe Pickett: Season 1 (2021) earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Mr. Inbetween”: Season 2 (2019) / Z-View

Mr. Inbetween: Season 2 (2019)

Written by: Scott Ryan

Directed by: Nash Edgerton

Stars: Scott Ryan, Justin Rosniak, Brooke Satchwell, Nicholas Cassim, Chika Yasumura, Damon Herriman, Matt Nable and Firass Dirani

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Ray Shoesmith is a professional criminal/killer with an anger problem.  Ray’s also juggling his responsibilities as a divorced dad with a young daughter and is caretaker of his older brother who suffers from a degenerative neural disease.

In season two Ray…

  • takes a job to kill two junkies that botched a hit for his boss
  • decides to approach the family of a little girl bullying his daughter at school. Things escalate when the police become involved
  • and his girlfriend decide to take their relationship to the next level
  • is hired by a dying man.  The man’s daughter disappeared two and half decades ago and he wants Ray to make the man accused (but never charged) to admit the crime and give up the location of the girl’s body
  • has quit smoking and finds himself struggling to control his temper at his girlfriend’s family’s Christmas party
  • accepts a hit from a gang’s vice president to kill the gang’s president
  • is marked for murder by bikers

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Season 2 of Mr. Inbetween continues the streak of excellent shows featuring a great mix of drama and comedy. Each episode clocks in between 21 and 32 minutes which makes it perfect if time is short.

Mr. Inbetween: Season 2 (2019) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Perry Mason: Season 2” (2023) / Z-View

Perry Mason: Season 2 (2023)

Written by: Jack Amiel & Michael Begler (ep. 9 – 12); Niko Gutierrez-Kovner (ep. 13); Elizabeth Baxa (ep. 14); Mauricio Katz & Pedro Peirano (ep. 15); Michael Begler (ep. 16)

Directed by: Fernando Coimbra (ep. 9 – 10); Jessica Lowrey (ep. 11 – 12); Marialy Rivas  (ep. 13 – 14); Nina Lopez-Corrado (ep. 15 – 16)

Stars: Matthew Rhys, Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk, Shea Whigham, Justin Kirk, Diarra Kilpatrick, Eric Lange, Katherine Waterston, Verónica Falcón, Gretchen Mol, Hope Davis, Tom Amandes  and Sean Astin. 

Tagline:  There’s Power in the Truth.

The Plot…

The year is 1933.  Perry Mason (Rhys) has been taking only civil cases since the baby murder trial of season one.  Mason gets pulled into a highly publicized murder case when he discovers evidence that the two brothers accused of the crime may have been railroaded.  The victim was the son of one of the richest men in LA and the accused murderers are poor Mexican immigrants.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Season two of Perry Mason brings back the central characters, expands on their backstory, while at the same time introducing a new mystery with an unexpected twist at the end.  The series continues to be one of the best on tv.

Perry Mason: Season 2 (2023) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Agent Elvis”: Season 1 / Z-View

Agent Elvis: Season 1 (2023)

Written by: Mike Arnold (ep. 1; 4; 6; 10); Casper Kelly (ep.2); Mark Ganek (ep.3); Matt Roller (ep.5; 9); Asha Wilson (ep. 7); John Eddie (ep. 8)

Directed by: Gary Ye

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Kaitlin Olson, Johnny Knoxville, Niecy Nash, Tom Kenny, Don Cheadle, Fred Armisen, Chris Elliott, Baz Luhrmann, Gary Cole, Ed Helms, Simon Pegg, Craig Robinson, Kieran Culkin and Priscilla Presley

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Elvis is recruited by The Commander to join a US government agency to become one of their secret agents.  Elvis, his best friend Ray and Elvis’ out of control monkey Scatter, are partnered with CeCe Ryder on various missions.

In season one Elvis…

  • is marked for death by Charles Manson and his cult
  • meets Howard Hughes on a nuclear plane while fighting enemy agents for control of the craft
  • has the filming of his movie with Mary Tyler Moore (Change of Habit) interrupted when Elvis goes rouge to stop a drug deal
  • attends the famous Altamonte Free Concert with The Rolling Stones bodyguarded by the Hell’s Angels
  • goes to Washington, DC to meet President Nixon and discovers enemy agents in the White House
  • goes to Viet Nam to entertain the troups and discovers the use of a weapon used for mind control
  • tracks down Timothy Leary to gain information on mind-control drugs
  • seeks information on “Project Tupelo”
  • learns that his satellite for “Aloha From Hawaii” concert is being prepped to use as a mind-control weapon

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I loved Agent Elvis.  The animation is perfect for the series.  Getting name actors to voice the characters is a plus and of course, having the participation of Priscilla Presley is the icing on the cake.  It’s cool how actual events and famous personalities are incorporated into the series.  It’s a bit over the top, but that’s part of the fun.

Agent Elvis: Season 1 (2023) earns 5 of 5 stars.

Mr. Inbetween: Season 1 (2018) / Z-View

Mr. Inbetween: Season 1 (2018)

Written by: Scott Ryan

Directed by: Nash Edgerton

Stars: Scott Ryan, Justin Rosniak, Brooke Satchwell, Nicholas Cassim, Chika Yasumura, Damon Herriman, Matt Nable and Firass Dirani

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Ray Shoesmith is a professional criminal/killer with an anger problem.  Ray’s also juggling his responsibilities as a divorced dad with a young daughter and is caretaker of his older brother who suffers from a degenerative neural disease.

In season one Ray…

  • helps out a best friend whose wife found his “unusual” porn collection
  • meets a potential new girlfriend
  • deals with a punks who rude to his daughter
  • takes on a hit that goes sideways
  • has trouble keeping his cool at court-ordered anger management sessions
  • helps a friend with a corpse…
  • refuses to apologize to a crime boss he offended (and has to deal with the ramifications)
  • learns an undercover cop is on to him
  • has two hitman kidnap him (thankfully one is pretty dumb)

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Scott Ryan has created a likable character that does terrible things.  Mr. Inbetween has a great mix of drama and comedy.  The humor comes from the situations that Ray finds himself in.  There’s a scene so shocking, funny and outrageous in episode three that to give it away would be a sin.  The show is well written, acted and directed.  Each episode clocks in between 21 and 32 minutes which makes it perfect if time is short.

Mr. Inbetween: Season 1 (2018) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Hot Stuff” (1956) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Hot Stuff (1956)

Director: Jules White

Writer: Felix Adler, Elwood Ullman

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Christine McIntyre, Philip Van Zandt, Vernon Dent, Jock Mahoney, Gene Roth and Emil Sitka.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Our boys are government agents assigned to protect a scientist developing a super rocket fuel.  When foreign spies mistake Larry for the scientist, they kidnap him, Moe and Shemp.  If Larry cannot come up with the formula for the super rocket fuel, it’s curtains for our guys.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Hot Stuff (1956) is a reworking of the Stooges’ 1949 short Fuelin’ Around.  It makes use of quite a bit of footage from the original.

Hot Stuff is also the first short to use Joe Palma as a stand-in for Shemp since he had recently died.  Palma would usually have his back to the camera or as in the scene shown below would be wearing a fake beard or or something to obscure his face.  This gave rise to the term “Fake Shemp”.

Hot Stuff (1956) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Husbands Beware” (1956) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Husbands Beware (1956)

Director: Jules White

Writer: Felix Adler, Clyde Bruckman

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Maxine Gates, Christine McIntyre and Emil Sitka.

Tagline: Wildest and wackiest battle of the sexes yet!

The Plot…

After Larry and Moe marry Shemp’s sisters, they learn what a terrible mistake they’ve made.  Then Shemp learns that if he marries before the day ends, he’ll inheirit a fortune!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

If the second half of Husbands Beware sounds familiar, it should.  The entire second half except for a few seconds at the end is lifted from the Stooges’ 1947 short, Brideless Groom.

This was the first Stooges’ short released after the death of Shemp.

Husbands Beware (1956) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Hot Ice” (1955) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Hot Ice (1955)

Director: Jules White

Writer: Elwood Ullman, Jack White

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Kenneth MacDonald, Christine McIntyre, Ray Corrigan and Blackie Whiteford.

Tagline:  All tangled up with a girl-crook and a lady-gorilla

The Plot…

After barely graduating from a detective school, Larry, Shemp and Moe apply for jobs at Scotland Yard. They’re hired as janitors. While cleaning the grounds they get a lead on the stolen and priceless Punjab diamond. Our boys decide to follow-up. The lead takes them to a hotspot for tough-guy criminals and a pet gorilla. What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Hot Ice (1955) is a mash-up of two Stooges’ 1948 shorts, Crime on Their Hands and The Hot Scots.  It makes use of footage from both.  Director Jules White loved recycling old Stooges’ shorts and inserting a few new scenes to create “new” stories.  Despite the fact that Hot Ice used a lot of footage from two shorts directed by Edward Bernds, only Jules White was created as the director.  C’mon, man!

Hot Ice (1955) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Blunder Boys” (1955) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Blunder Boys (1955)

Director: Jules White

Writer: Felix Adler

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Benny Rubin, Kenneth MacDonald, Emil Sitka, Frank Sully and Al Thompson.

Tagline:  Turkish Night In A Ladies’ Bath!

The Plot…

After a stint in the army the boys decide to become detectives.  They graduate with the lowest honors and are assigned to capture a slippery criminal known as The Eel.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Sadly, Blunder Boys was the last Stooges’ short to feature new footage of Shemp.  He died of a heart attack within three weeks of its release.

Blunder Boys was a take-off of the popular Dragnet television series.

In one scene Larry holds up his middle finger when making a point.

Blunder Boys (1955) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Wham-Bam-Slam!” (1955) starring The Three Stooges / Z-View

Wham-Bam-Slam! (1955)

Director: Jules White

Writer: Felix Adler, Clyde Bruckman

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Matt McHugh.

Tagline:  SCORES A GRAND SLAM IN HILARITY!

The Plot…

After Larry and Moe have a series of mishaps trying to remove Shemp’s aching tooth, they decide a camping trip is just the thing they all need.  The only problem is they don’t own a car.  Our guys end up buying a jalopy that needs work.  Let the hijinks begin.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Wham-Bam-Slam! is a reworking of the Stooges’ 1948 short, Pardon My Clutch. It makes use of quite a bit of footage from the original. The funny thing is Pardon My Clutch borrowed from the Laurel & Hardy shorts Perfect Day (1929) and Them Thar Hills (1934).  So Wham-Bam-Slam! is a reworking of a reworked short!

One of my favorite Larry and Moe exchanges occurs in Wham-Bam-Slam!
Moe, “Only fools are positive.”
Larry, “Are you sure?”
Moe, “I’m positive!”

Wham-Bam-Slam! (1955) rates 4 of 5 stars.