Perhaps the first of Ford’s early sound pictures that rated his full attention. After an accidental collision, an American submarine drifts toward the ocean floor. MacKenna plays a disgraced British officer serving under an assumed name on the sinking sub. When the sub’s commander succumbs to stress, MacKenna assumes command and reveals his true identity. The lighthearted opening belies the transition to taunt drama. Though the surviving prints are a mix of dialogue and title cards, Ford’s confident execution shines through. John Wayne appears as a radio operator on the surface.
A botched jewel robbery lands gangster Lowe in court. Up for re-election, the judge seizes the publicity opportunity and sentences Lowe to fight in World War I. In France, he plays baseball, sees some action, and returns a war hero. Back in New York, Lowe opens a nightclub, falls for socialite Owen, and crosses his former gang. The mix of comedy, wartime drama, and gangster film never gels, but Ford’s formal execution—love the final shootout—makes it passable. Look fast for Ward Bond as a drill sergeant.
A great voice-cast and some Dr. Seuss-inspired production design wasted in service of a story about cultural appropriation that ends in a sing-along.
Better than I expected thanks to Keaton’s MVP performance and the script’s reducing the origin story to a single sentence.
Right in my nihilistic, trap-movie-loving wheelhouse. So deft and surprising. More than once, I’d bemoan a plot point as weak writing, only to have it twist, circle back, and punch me in the gut. I bought everything Toni Collette’s all-in performance was selling. And I loved the ending.
John Wayne’s first starring role. He’s good but raw—on par with the poverty-row oaters he’d headline for the next nine years. Here he plays a trapper leading a wagon train up the Oregon Trail. The script includes the requisite character drama and romantic interest. Disregard them. The production itself is the real star. Continue reading...
Quill’s man-child characterization wears thin. Drax remains funny as ever. Baby Groot steals the show.
Peter Cushing’s second film for Hammer. He plays a botanist who hitches a ride aboard Forrest Tucker’s Himalayan expedition to find and study the legendary Yeti. Of course, Tucker’s motives prove less than scientific. And of course, one-by-one the party members meet unfortunate ends. Continue reading...
Powell’s third outing as amateur detective Philo Vance. After the disappointing Green Murder Case, the franchise returns to form with a closed-circle mystery pitting Powell against a notorious bootlegger. The early thunderstorm generates a terrific atmosphere and the eccentric supporting cast sprinkles in the right dose of light comedy.
I’d like to revisit a better print. All the uploads online appear sourced from the same low-res scan.
William Powell’s first talkie. Despite only rating third billing, he carries the picture. Powell plays a womanizer believed dead in the first World War. When he’s discovered living under an assumed name, a former flame—played by top-billed Evelyn Brent—seizes the opportunity to blackmail her former rival, Powell’s ex-wife, now married to an upstanding doctor. It’s a stiff drama with no emotional stakes. The quiet dignity of Powell’s performance provides the film’s only resonance.