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...
William 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.
Hal Skelly plays Hap, a well-named vaudeville bicycle-clown eking out a meager living. He takes in another vaudeville performer named Gardoni (just Gardoni—like Bono or Madonna), played with an Italian accent by William Powell. Continue reading...
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Stephen Strange, a hotshot neurosurgeon. After a car accident cripples his hands, Strange’s search for a miracle cure leads him to Nepal. There he meets The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton, who trains him in sorcery. Continue reading...
Hammer’s first plunge into sci-fi horror stars Brian Donlevy as bulldog scientist Quatermass dealing with a rocket ship returned from space whose lone-survivor, played by Richard Wordsworth, may no longer be human. Donlevy’s commanding presence overcomes his suspect casting as a scientist, and Wordsworth steals the film with his dead-eyed performance. Love director Val Guest’s decision to adopt a realistic style—it helps the film age well. He keeps the special effects off-screen as much as possible. When he does show the goods they often deliver, and even when they fall short they’re still unsettling. The Kino Lorber print looks great.
Followed by Quatermass 2.
A thick fog envelops London. A mysterious killer strangles several men in the shadowy streets. We learn the killer is targeting officers in a particular WWI unit. The setting shifts to a manor house. Roland Young delivers a charming, wry performance as the story settles into a closed-circle mystery. Then Dorothy Sebastian and Boris Karloff burst in. Sebastian over-emotes and struggles to maintain her ludicrous accent. Karloff struggles with his own invented accent and looks lost. The tonal shift proves fatal as the film limps along to an elaborate climax with a cheat ending. Great title, poor execution. The archive.org print—sourced from TCM—is passable.
Bela Lugosi’s first talkie. He plays a sharp-dressed police inspector investigating a mysterious murder at a British estate in colonial India. I always assumed a) Lugosi and director Tod Browning first worked together on Dracula and b) Dracula was Lugosi’s first significant talkie. Wrong on both counts. Back to this movie. It’s an atmospheric mystery undone by a convoluted ending that reveals a slew of information the audience couldn’t have intuited. Disappointing, but Lugosi’s performance remains strong. The Warner Archive DVD print is watchable.
If The Quatermass Xperiment marked Hammer Horror’s conception, this marks its birth. Dean Jagger plays a scientist battling a radioactive blob spewed forth from the earth’s core. Unlike the other blob movie (that came two years later), Jimmy Sangster’s screenplay—his first produced—plays more grown-up, remixing the Quatermass essence into an efficient thriller exploiting the era’s atomic-age fears. Engaging performances and gruesome makeup effects offset the budget-constrained miniature work. Love the pervasive hints of cold, from the ice in the mud to the foggy puffs of breath in every outdoor shot. The Scream Factory print looks great, though not as good as the Kino Lorber Quatermass.