Friday, April 20, 2018

Sin Takes A Holiday (1930)

Oh the morals of the fabulous people of late 1920s New York, cheating and divorcing left right and centre apparently. Constance Bennett plays a dowdy secretary to a womanising divorce lawyer (Kenneth MacKenna). They form a marriage of convenience to help Kenneth avoid marriage to his mistress though Constance secretly loves him for real.

Constance gets sent off to Paris so Kenneth can continue his cheating ways, there she is seduced by Basil Rathbone and a bit of European sophistication. She undergoes a bit of an Eliza Doolittle transformation before she returns to New York and confront her husband.

It's an enjoyable little film, some of the characters are a bit annoying but there enough good lines in this romantic comedy to keep the interest. There are some supporting parts such as that of ZaSu Pitts and the three main leads, especially Constance who is appealingly sardonic throughout, shine. The snapshot of late 1920s/early 1930s life is fascinating.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Top Bet (1991)

No one can make films about gambling quite like HK cinema used to, often giving a mystical bent to it.

The Saint Of Gamblers has gone off on holiday which is inconsiderate as the Triad boss needs a top gambler to win the gambling championship. Uncle Ng Man-Tat is tasked to find someone to win or he gets the chop (literally).

He happens upon the Queen of Gambling (Carol Cheng), basically a tough HK fisherwomen who does some card tricks. She pretends to have magical gambling powers in order to get the money to help her paralysed brother. Still with me? No? I'm not surprised.

Meanwhile real magical powers arrive in the shape of the Saint's sister Mai (Anita Mui) from the mainland but she refuses to use her magical powers to help gambling and capitalist imperialist activities (this was before the Mainland Communist Party discovered the love of cash of course). But then, with the Triad's rival is also getting help from psychic power, Mai decides to help the Queen in her battle against the bad guy with the help of magical card tricks and plenty of kung fu.

If you've seen a HK gambling movie before you know what to expect. Grand entrances in slow motion, sharp suits and stirring music. Plus a lot of slapstick humour and fun. Its ridiculous, its bizarre, its pretty banal. But you'll love it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)

A low-budget science fiction B-movie which was filmed in 3-D (though does not seem to really take a great deal advantage of the extra dimension). The plot is simple: Earth sends a rocket to the Moon, discovers ancient race of Cat-Women who want to steal the rocket and enslave Earth. The film is complete nonsense of course though campy fun.

The Cat-Women (heavily made up in black jumpsuits) are able to control women but not men, luckily one of the human crew is female (Marie Windsor) whom they are able to manipulate. Can the humans led by Sonny Tufts and Victor Jory foil the plans of the Cat-Women led by Carol Brewster?

Well yes of course but a lot of the film is absurd, starting with the ridiculous interior of the spaceship with wooden tables. The Moon seems to reuse familiar science-fiction tropes including giant spiders and the Cat-Women City looks like the reused set from another film. Well you can have a lot of fun with this tripe to be honest. I did.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Repeat Performance (1947)

Repeat Performance is a late 1940s Noir with elements of fantasy. It stars Joan Leslie as actress Sheila who at the start of the film is standing over the dead body of her husband (Louis Hayward) holding a gun.

It is New Years Eve and Sheila is distraught, at the stroke of midnight she wishes the dark turn of events that led to the death of her husband could not have taken place and she could re-run the year. Her wish comes true.

Once she realises what happens she tries to change the events that led to her husband's death but finds that some things are just fated to happen. The film is melodramatic and has an appealing inevitability about events with some terrific performances from Leslie and Hayward.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Monkey's Paw (1948)

The Monkey's Paw is a rather slow horror film involving a cursed monkey's paw that grants it's owners three wishes before extracting a heavy price. The paw is reluctantly sold by a dealer who fears the bad luck it could befall it's owner (not including himself though strangely).

The story is good though the production is rather low budget. It is still an enjoyable film once things get going (the problem is it takes a long time getting going). The paw ends up owned by a shop keeper (Milton Rosmer) with crippling gambling debts. He decides to use the wishes granted by the paw to solve his problems but finds the true cost very high.

Some parts of the film don't really make sense though, the Irish poacher Kelly (Michael Martin Harvey) recoils in horror from the paw one minute then pinches it not long after. Don't expect dramatic horror thrills (though do expect some ridiculously low budget speedway scenes). Do expect a fair bit of creepiness... once things finally get going.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Savage Streets (1984)

Savage Streets is a revenge action film involving gangs of Los Angeles. Thus it is a very violent film, shamelessly exploitative and full of unnecessary gratuitous female nudity. It's not all good though, the acting is nearly as bad as the violence.

It stars Linda Blair as a tough girl at college, fiercely protective of her deaf sister (Linnea Quigley). They become involved with a gang of thugs led by a rather psychotic Robert Dryer. This leads to the brutal rape of Linda's sister and the murder of her pregnant friend. Linda dons the leather, picks up her crossbow and is out for revenge.

It is all rather video nasty with a high body count... accompanied by a not-terrible mid-1980s rock soundtrack. The acting is generally awful but the gang members are pretty scary in a overdose-on-speed kind of way. Its a film full of violence and sex but devoid of much plot... sometimes though that kind of low-art is just what you want.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Rulers of the City (1976)

Rulers Of The City (also known as Mr Scarface) is a basic and violent gangster film. It stars Harry Baer as Tony, a happy-go-lucky young hoodlum very good with his fists... and the ladies. He runs with a mid-level gang but tangles with the big boys led by Scarface (Jack Palance), ripping him off. Naturally Scarface isn't one to laugh off being done over. Tony finds himself targeted by Palance's gang and betrayed by his former boss...

The film is rather predictable and low-rent. Don't expect much depth or shades or grey. Tony is a good likeable character but is a little too cocky and foolhardy to take serious (and yet is some kind of ultimate warrior). The film is very violent but has a light tone despite all the regular killings and beatings which might jar at times but at others it seems oddly just right.

The final showdown is a bit silly and much of the action pointless. The film is entertaining though. The pace is high throughout.