Author: Craig Zablo

“The Unknown” (1927) directed by Tod Browning, starring Lon Chaney & Joan Crawford / Z-View

The Unknown (1927)

Director:  Tod Browning

Screenplay by:  Waldemar Young; from a story byTod Browning;  Joseph Farnham (titles) 

Starring:  Lon Chaney, .Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford andJohn George

Tagline: Against a background of colorful circus life, and the sinister shadow of the underworld, is played a drama of love and revenge that will grip you! And through it stalks the mysterious figure of a deformed circus performer- The Unknown – a role just made for the brilliant Lon Chaney!

The Plot: 

“Alonzo the Armless” (Chaney) works as a circus stunt performer.  He uses his feet to throw knives and shoot a gun with deadly accuracy.  Alonzo is not the man’s real name. He goes by it because he’s hiding from the law.  The truth is that Alonzo has arms. He keeps them bound tightly to his body. No one (except his trusted partner Cojo) is aware of the deception.  Alonzo hides his arms because he was born with a deformed double thumb that the police know about.

Alonzo is in love with the circus owner’s daughter, Nanon (Crawford). Although Namon likes Alonzo, she is unaware of the depth of his affection for her.  Malabar, the circus strongman, also has feelings for Nanon.  As Alonzo’s obsession with Nanon grows, so does his willingness to cross any line to have her.  Before the tale is done, Alonzo will murder multiple people and do something so unexpected, to say more would ruin the twist.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Tod Browning and Lon Chaney collaborated on eight films.  The Unknown is considered to be their best work. It has been called a “masterpiece of silent cinema” and I couldn’t agree more.

The step that Alonzo takes to win Nanon is so shocking that the audience is still reeling when Browning hits a twist worthy of O. Henry.  If you haven’t tried or liked silent films, I’d suggest you give The Unknown a shot.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” (2023) created by Mike Flanagan, starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood & Mary McDonnell / Z-View

The Fall of the House of Usher (2023)

Director:  Mike Flanagan (Eps.1 – 2, 5 – 6); Michael Fimognari (Eps. 3 – 4, 7 -8)

Teleplay by:  Mike Flanagan (Ep. 1); Emmy Grinwis and Mike Flanagann (Ep. 2); Justina Ireland and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 3); Mat Johnson and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 4); Dani Parker (Ep. 5); Rebecca Leigh Klingel and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 6);Jamie Flanagan and Mike Flanagan (Ep. 7); Mike Flanagan and Kiele Sanchez (Ep. 8)

Starring:  Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Mary McDonnell, Henry Thomas, Rahul Kohli, Samantha Sloyan, T’Nia Miller, Zach Gilford, Willa Fitzgerald, Michael Trucco, Katie Parker, Matt Biedel, Crystal Balint, Ruth Codd, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Kate Siegel, Sauriyan Sapkota, Malcolm Goodwin   and Mark Hamill.

Tagline: Nevermore

The Plot: 

Roderick Usher (Greenwood) and his sister Madeline (McDonnell) teamed to take over Fortunato Pharmaceuticals.  Along the way they fudged test results, broke laws, lied under oath, ruined lives and committed at least one murder.  Now, decades later Roderick is CEO of Fortunato and one of the richest men on the planet.  His sister remains his trusted partner.  Over the years Roderick fathered several children from different mothers.  Now the kids are grown and using daddy’s money to try to build their own dynasties. But when Roderick’s offspring begin dying under unusual circumstances, one after the other, we learn what happened all those years ago that leads to The Fall of the House of Usher.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Mike Flanagan has created another winner.  Rather than a literal adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Flannigan has given us modern interpretations of many of Poe’s short stories, poems and characters integrated into a single, unified story. This is genius.

The Fall of the House of Usher features an amazing cast.  I would not be surprised to several Emmy nominations from this production. Standouts include:

  • Carla Gugino: who owns every scene she is in.  I will be disappointed if she isn’t recognized for a Best Actress nod.
  • Bruce Greenwood: He’s perfect as Roderick Usher.  The role was originally cast with Frank Langella.  Problems on the set led to Greenwood getting the role and I would be hard pressed to say anyone could have done it better.
  • Henry Thomas gives the performance of his life.
  • Samantha Sloyan: I first became aware of her in Mike Flannigan’s Midnight Mass.  She was amazing there.  She’s also amazing here.
  • Carl Lumbly: was a great choice to go head to head in many scenes with Greenwood.  Lumbly, like the audience, slowly learns what has and is happening.
  • Mark Hamill: totally nails the role of the Usher Family’s attorney and “fixer”.  I’ll admit I was surprised at just how good Hamill is as the older, tough guy who has seen and done things we can’t imagine.

While I’ve turned the spotlight on the actors/actresses above, every member of the cast was excellent.  Mike Flannigan writes a great story, gets the right people for each part and then assists them in creating amazing performances.  The Fall of the House of Usher is an perfect example.  I look forward to what Flannigan does next.

“They Cloned Tyrone” (2023) starring John Boyega, Jamie Foxx & Teyonah Parris / Z-View

They Cloned Tyrone (2023)

Director: Juel Taylor

Screenwriter: Tony Rettenmaier, Juel Taylor

Cast: John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Parris, Kiefer Sutherland and David Alan Grier.

Tagline: Damn…

The Plot…

Fontaine (Boyega) is a small time drug dealer.  When he goes to collect money from a pimp known as Slick Charles (Foxx), Fontaine is ambushed.  He’s shot several times and left for dead. Slick Charles and one of his girls, Yo-Yo are shocked to witness the murder.

They are even more amazed the next day.  Fontaine comes back to collect the debt.  He has no recollection of being shot.  He has no wounds.  As Slick Charles and Yo-Yo discuss what they saw, some memories come back to Fontaine.  The three end up following clues that lead them to discover a widespread government conspiracy.

Fontaine, Slick Charles and Yo-Yo have to figure out a way to quickly expose the powerful cabal behind the conspiracy, If they can’t, well… we all know what happens to people who discover the truth behind big time deceptions.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

This is the second film I’ve seen with John Boyega. He was excellent in The Woman King and is even better here.  Jamie Foxx is always good.  I loved seeing Keifer Sutherland and David Allan Grier pop up in supporting roles.

My simple description of They Cloned Tyrone is cross Three the Hard Way with Invasion of the Body Snatchers minus the aliens. Add a touch of humor.

I liked They Cloned Tyrone but think it could have gotten to the conspiracy a bit faster.  I also wish that they had leaned into the humor a bit more.

A lot of the film reminded me of a 70s blaxploitation movie.  I thought that maybe the film should have been set in that time period.  Another thought then occurred, perhaps the folks behind the film wanted us to see the situation as though it takes place now because the issues are still relevant.

They Cloned Tyrone (2023) rates 3 of 5 stars.

Kelley Jones Gives Us a Truly Frightening “Bride of Frankenstein”!

I like Kelley Jones’ take on The Bride of Frankenstein.  Often artists want to make her a sexy monster.  That’s cool by me.  However, if we want to think about a woman made up of different parts of cadavers that is then brought back to life… well, that’s just plain scary.  And that is the Bride of Frankenstein that Kelley Jones gives us.

Source: Comic Crusaders.

“The Outlaws” (2017) starring Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee) & Yoon Kye-sang / Z-View

The Outlaws (2017)

Director: Yunsung Kang

Screenwriter: Yunsung Kang

Cast: Ma Dong-seok (Don Lee), Yoon Kye-sang

Tagline: Bare-knuckle cop v/s bloodless butcher. Tonight, things get wild.

The Plot…

The Black Dragon, a Chinese gang led by the sadistic and merciless Jang Chen (Kyesang) moves into a South Korean district. Local business owners are harassed and killed.  To make matters worse, it leads to a gang war.  Detective Ma Seok-do (Dong-seok) and his team are ordered to take down the gangs.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Outlaws was one of the most popular film in South Korea the year it was released.  It came in the top three at the box office.  The Outlaws also won multiple South Korean film awards including: Top 10 Film, Best New Director and Best Supporting Actor.

The Outlaws was popular enough to lead to the production of two sequels: The Roundup (2022) and The Roundup: No Way Out (2023).

I’m a huge fan of Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee.  He should be a bigger star in the US.

Kudos to Yoon Kye-sang.  He plays a villain that’s charismatic and evil.

The Outlaws is action-packed and violent.  Thankfully it doesn’t linger on the gore.  I look forward to seeing the two sequels.

The Outlaws (2017) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Immediate Family” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I’ll be watching for this one.

One-night screenings on December 12th, available everywhere December 15th

Immediate Family tracks the rise and collaborations of a group of legendary studio musicians through the 1970s and onward, chronicling their illustrious partnerships and their formidable record of hit-making. Directed by Denny Tedesco, whose documentary The Wrecking Crew followed the first wave of studio musicians in the 60s, the film reveals the machinery behind the booming era of the singer-songwriter, when the talents of these four musicians were in furious demand. The foundations of their enduring friendship, formed on the road and in studios, is recalled with dynamite clarity —reminisced with fondness through intimate interviews with the guys themselves, as well as the memories of some of rock’s most iconic voices. Immediate Family is a backstage tour spanning multiple eras of musical history. #documentary #rock #movie #trailer #comingsoon

Starring Carole King, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Keith Richards, Don Henley, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett, Phil Collins

Directed by Denny Tedesco

“War of the Worlds: The Attack” (2023) / Z-View

War of the Worlds: The Attack (2023)

Director: Junaid Syed

Screenwriter: Junaid Syed, Tom Jolliffe

Cast: Sam Gittins, Vincent Regan, Alhaji Fofana, Lara Lemon.

Tagline: They Are Here

The Plot…

Three teenagers are at ground zero for one of the Martian landings. Once the Martians begin their takeover the kids fight among themselves, with others as well as the alien invaders in their effort to survive.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Take three teenagers, a Cliff notes version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and turn it into a low, low budget movie. Then you’ll have War of the Worlds: The Attack.

War of the Worlds: The Attack (2023) rates 2 of 5 stars.

RIP: Burt Young

Burt Young, born Gerald Tommaso DeLouise, died October 8th.  No cause of death was given.  Mr. Young was 83.

Burt Young, best known for his Academy Award nominated role as Rocky Balboa’s brother-in-law Paulie, was actually a boxer himself.  While in the United State Marines, Mr. Young compiled a 32 -2 record!

Burt Young trained at the Actor’s Studio under Lee Strasberg.  During the course of his career Burt Young compiled 170 acting credits in films and television. Mr. Young wrote and starred in the feature film Uncle Joe Shannon, wrote and starred in the television movie Daddy, I Don’t Like It Like This, and an episode of Baretta (The Big Hand’s On Trouble) which he guest starred in.  Burt Young also wrote the historical novel ENDINGS, as well as two stage plays (SOS and A Letter to Alicia and the New York City Government from a Man With a Bullet in His Head).  Mr. Young was also an accomplished painter with gallery showings throughout the world.  Some of his paintings appeared in Rocky Balboa when we learned that Paulie also liked to paint.

Some of Burt Young’s television appearances include: The Doctors; MASH; Little House on the Prairie; Baretta (3 episodes); The Rockford Files; Daddy, I Don’t Like It Like This; Miami Vice; The Equalizer; Vendetta: Secrets of a Mafia Bride (6 episodes); Tales from the Crypt; Law & Order; The Last Don (2 episodes); Walker, Texas Ranger (2 episodes); The Sopranos and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Some of Burt Young’s feature film appearances include: Carnival of Blood; The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight; Across 110th Street; Cinderella Liberty; Chinatown; The Killer Elite; Rocky; Twilight’s Last Gleaming; The Choirboys; Convoy; Uncle Joe Shannon; Rocky II; All the Marbles; Rocky III; Once Upon a Time in America; The Pope of Greenwich Village; Rocky IV; Back to School; Rocky V; Mickey Blue Eyes and Rocky Balboa.

I probably saw Burt Young first on MASH, Baretta or The Rockford Files, but it was his role in Rocky that I always think of first.  From all accounts Burt Young was a kind and gentle soul.  He was a true renaissance man – an actor, author and painter.  He made every production he was in better.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Burt Young’s family, friends and fans.

“The Mystery of the 13th Guest” (1943) / Z-View

The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)

Director: William Beaudine

Screenwriter: Tim Ryan, Charles R. Marion, Arthur Hoerl based on THE 13TH GUEST by Armitage Trail

Cast: Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell, Bill Pullman, Dean Norris, Mik Scriba, J.T. Walsh, Herb Mitchell and Bill Nunn.

Tagline: IT’S MURDER! An Unseen terror holds an entire family in fear!

The Plot…

When Marie Morgan was eight years old she attended a gathering called by her dying grandfather.  In attendance were Marie’s aunts, uncles, cousins and her grandfather’s lawyer.  Grandfather tells everyone that Marie is to return on her 21st birthday by herself to read his will.  It’s clear that Grandpa doesn’t much care for any of them except Marie.

Thirteen years have passed.  Marie returns to the old house.  It hasn’t been lived in for over a decade.  As Marie thinks back she remembers that there was an empty seat next to her grandpa.  Twelve people were in attendance.  She wonders who the empty seat was for.  Marie opens the sealed will.  As she does someone enters the house and a gunshot is fired.

When the police arrive they find Marie dead… but not from a gunshot.  But wait, that’s not really Marie.  And now another person who was at the original meeting is found in his seat murdered!

How many will die before the Mystery of the 13th Guest is discovered?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Mystery of the 13th Guest is a low budget quickie typical of many “B” pictures of the era.  It’s directed by William “One Shot” Beaudine who knocked out over 400 films during his career.  They didn’t call him “one shot” for nothing.  If you’ve seen a Bowery Boys flick, odds are you’ve seen his work.

If you know what you’re getting going in, and you have an hour to kill, you won’t be disappointed.

The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“NAPOLEON” directed by Ridley Scott, starring Joaquin Phoenix – The 2nd Official Trailer is Here!

Deal me in.

Joaquin Phoenix takes the crown. Watch the new trailer for #Napoleon, from acclaimed director Ridley Scott. See it in Premium Large Formats, Screen X, 70mm and IMAX this Thanksgiving.

Napoleon is a spectacle-filled action epic that details the checkered rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, played by Oscar®-winner Joaquin Phoenix. Against a stunning backdrop of large-scale filmmaking orchestrated by legendary director Ridley Scott, the film captures Bonaparte’s relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine, showcasing his visionary military and political tactics against some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed.

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Written by: David Scarpa

SLY | Official Trailer (2023) Sylvester Stallone Documentary

Deal me in.

SLY | Official Trailer (2023) Sylvester Stallone Documentary

For nearly 50 years Sylvester Stallone has entertained millions with iconic characters and blockbuster franchises, from Rocky to Rambo to The Expendables. This retrospective documentary offers an intimate look at the Oscar-nominated actor-writer-director-producer, paralleling his inspirational underdog-story with the indelible characters he has brought to life.

RIP: Lara Parker

Lara Parker, born Mary Lamar Rickey, died October 12th, the result of cancer.  Ms. Parker was 84.

Lara Parker was an actress and author.  After appearing in local plays, Lara decided to go to auditions in New York.  In just her second audition she was cast in the daytime serial Dark Shadows.  Ms. Parker became an instant hit.  Her character was killed off, but her popularity was so great, she was brought back to play different roles.

Lara Parker continued acting on stage, in feature films and on television until 1991.  She then retired and became a teacher.  Ms. Parker also authored four Dark Shadows novels.  In 2012, Lara Parker returned to acting for a role in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie. That led to more acting roles until she again retired in 2016.

Some of Lara Parker’s television appearances include: Dark Shadows (269 episodes); One Life to Live; N.Y.P.D.; Kung Fu; The F.B.I.; Medical Center;  Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; Police Woman; The Rockford Files; Kolchak, The Night Stalker; S.W.A.T.; Emergency; The Six Million Dollar Man (2 episodes); Kojak (2 episodes); Alice; Washington Behind Closed Doors (6 episodes); The Incredible Hulk; Switch (3 episodes); Baretta; Quincy (2 episodes); Barnaby Jones; Hawaii 5-0 (2 episodes); Mrs. Columbo; Galactica 1980 (2 episodes); The Fall Guy; Manimal; Remington Steele and Highway to Heaven.

Some of Suzanne Somer’s feature film appearances include: Hi, Mom!; Night of Dark Shadows; Save the Tiger; Airport 1975; Race with the Devil; Dark Shadows and Doctor Mabuse.

Like most who were at the right age, I first saw Lara Parker on Dark Shadows. Not many actors/actresses get a huge hit for their first professional work.  My favorite Lara Parker role was in the movie Race with the Devil.  I love that when Lara Parker decided to retire from acting she turned to teaching and writing.  What a multitalented person she was.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lara Parker’s family, friends and fans.