TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Next up from 1939, we have the classic Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda.

In New Salem, Illinois, Abe Lincoln (Henry Fonda) is running for the state legislature. After making a speech, he makes a trade with the Clay family, who is passing through in their wagon. Since they don’t have any money, he takes a barrel containing some books, including Blackstone Commentaries. The book inspires him to learn more about law and Ann Rutledge (Pauline Moore) encourages him to study it. After Ann’s death, Abe moves to Springfield, where he tries to set up as a lawyer. One Independence Day, Abigail Clay (Alice Brady) comes to town with her two grown sons, Adam (Eddie Quillan) and Matt (Richard Cromwell). That night, they get into a fight with deputy Scrub White (Fred Kohler, Jr.) who pulls a gun on them, but ends up being killed by a knife. Abigail gets there just before it happens, and Scrub’s buddy J. Palmer Cass (Ward Bond) gets there, and starts accusing the two of murder. The sheriff comes and arrests them, but a crowd gathers and gets riled up, becoming a lynch mob. Abe gets in their way and manages to talk them down, while declaring himself to be their lawyer. So now he has the challenge of going against a more experienced lawyer as he tries to help the Clay family avoid either brother being hanged.

All I can say is this is just an absolutely wonderful movie! Of course, it goes without saying that Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln is the best part of the movie. He just seems to fit the part, giving us a performance of a man who wants to learn, and wants to do the right thing, no matter what. His speech may be simple, but he is still smart! My own opinion is that, if this were released in any other year, I would have said he should have at least been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar (if not win it). But, this was 1939, Hollywood’s golden year, with so many great films and performances.

But I would hardly say Henry Fonda is the only reason to see this movie. The rest of the supporting cast is great, too! With a few future TV stars, such as Ward Bond (from Wagon Train), Milburn Stone (from TV’s Gunsmoke) and a very young Jack Kelly (Maverick), it’s a lot of fun! And Donald Meek as the opposing prosecutor is wonderfully nasty, making us hate him when he tries to make Abigail Clay reveal which of her sons killed the deputy. And the whole courtroom section of the movie is worth it alone, not just for some of the drama, but for some of the humor, too (especially when Henry Fonda’s Abe Lincoln is grilling Ward Bond’s character about his name 😉 ). Honestly, the only really disappointing thing about the movie is that it is, for the most part, fictional (although the court case was based on one Lincoln dealt with in the 1850s). Still, it’s fun to see some of the various historical figures connected to Abraham Lincoln. However you look at it, I can very easily say this is a wonderful movie, and one I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection and is one hour, forty minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

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TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959)

And now we’re here for the 1959 adventure movie Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, starring Gordon Scott!

Under cover of darkness, four men raided an African village, stealing some dynamite and killing two people in the process. Led by Slade (Anthony Quayle), they took their boat up the river, barely escaping Tarzan’s (Gordon Scott) notice. When he heard about the raid, Tarzan went off in his canoe after them. He was slowed down when he had to rescue Angie (Sara Shane) after her plane crashed. With Tarzan slowly following the men, Slade and his crew continue to make their way towards a hidden diamond mine, with everybody slowly turning on each other for different reasons. As Tarzan catches up, he finds himself hunting down fewer men, but has to rely on Angie for help when he is injured by dynamite.

For years, my only experience with the classic Tarzan movies was some of the Johnny Weissmuller films. So, comparatively, this is a different beast. As you could see from my plot description, there’s no Jane in this movie, and while there’s a hint of romance between Tarzan and Angie, they don’t end up together at the film’s end. Tarzan’s chimpanzee buddy Cheeta is also barely there, mostly showing up at the beginning and then not being around for the remainder of the movie. As well known as Tarzan is for swinging on vines and that famous Tarzan yell, he doesn’t do either until near the end of the movie, spending a good deal of the movie in a canoe and on foot.

In spite of so much being different from the Tarzan movies I am used to, this turned out to be a wonderful surprise! It was fun seeing Sean Connery in one of his early film roles (and he was asked to be in more Tarzan movies, but he had to decline because he had been given a certain role in a little movie called Dr. No). The movie looked fantastic in high definition (although it does make Tarzan’s fight with the crocodile look a little more obviously fake, but that can’t be helped). The scenery just looks so fantastic, and it works, since it was filmed on location in Africa. Depending on how you want to look at it, the beginning might bother some, when the villains raid the village, all clad in blackface. Of course, as I say, it is the film’s VILLIANS who do this, so it’s not exactly portrayed as a positive thing here. I certainly enjoyed this movie, and would easily recommend trying it out, as it certainly comes close to living up to its title!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, twenty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Home From The Hill (1960)

Next up, we have the 1960 drama Home From The Hill starring Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker, George Peppard and George Hamilton.

Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) is a big man in town. However, his son Theron (George Hamilton) is a bit of a “mama’s boy.” After some of the men in town play a prank on Theron, Wade decides to teach him to be more of a “man’s man,” much to the dismay of his mother Hannah (Eleanor Parker). Wade has Rafe Copley (George Peppard) help Theron learn to hunt. Theron learns hunting quickly, and becomes a town hero after he single-handedly kills a wild boar that has been terrorizing the area. Theron also asks Rafe for help in asking out Libby Halstead (Luana Patten). While her father doesn’t approve, she likes Theron, and they go out together. However, when Hannah tells Theron that Libby’s father didn’t want Theron dating his daughter because Wade had a reputation of sleeping around (a fact Hannah had tried to keep hidden from Theron), then he tries to go off on his own, which results in even more trouble.

Coming off my first time seeing this movie, one word kept going through my mind : “Wow” (and I mean that in a good way). For the most part, I’ve never really gone in much for melodramas, but I enjoyed this one! The cast alone is fantastic! Robert Mitchum gives a wonderful performance as a flawed but powerful man who usually gets what he wants (except from his own wife). Eleanor Parker is wonderful as his hate-filled wife, angry with him ever since… wait, I didn’t mention it in the plot description, so I better shut up, but still, it is such a departure from the main role I associate her with, that of the baroness in The Sound Of Music. George Hamilton as Theron does well as a son who wants his father’s approval, but the constant hate between his parents has driven him to improve himself on his own. But George Peppard has the greatest presence, as a guy who has had to work hard his whole life and live in a less than ideal situation, all the while still making the best of things. All wonderful performances, which easily make this a movie I would highly recommend!

I tried this one mainly after seeing Warner Archives announce it for Blu-ray (also available from them on DVD).  I had some recognition of some of the cast members from other movies that I’ve seen over the years, not to mention director Vincente Minelli, so I thought it would be worth trying (and it was). As usual, Warner Archive has given us a first-rate transfer, and it just helps bring to life a fantastic story! This movie is two hours, thirty minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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*ranked #9 in Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Never So Few (1959)

We’re off to the jungles of Burma for the 1959 war movie Never So Few, starring Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida.

Captain Tom Reynolds (Frank Sinatra) leads a force of American and Kachin fighters in Burma during the second World War. After losing his aid in a skirmish with the Japanese, Tom sends a message to headquarters to request a meeting with his commander. In Calcutta, he demands medicine and a doctor to help deal with his wounded soldiers. Tom and British Captain Danny De Mortimer (Richard Johnson) are forced to take two weeks leave. They are invited to stay with a wealthy merchant named Nikko Regas (Paul Henreid). Tom immediately falls for Nikko’s mistress, Carla Vesari (Gina Lollobrigida), but she rejects him at first. Tom and Danny return to their troops in time for Christmas, but during the holiday celebrations, they are attacked by the Japanese. They are able to repel the attack, but Tom is wounded and sent to the air base hospital. When he recovers, he is given orders to attack an airfield, with support from a supply convoy. When the convoy doesn’t come, they go on ahead to the airfield. Their attack is successful, but they lose quite a few men in the process. On the return trip, they run across what remains of the supply convoy, which was apparently attacked by a group of rogue Chinese, and so they cross the border of China to go after them, which has political consequences.

Originally, this movie was apparently intended to feature three members of the “Rat Pack:” Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr. However, an argument between Frank and Sammy over some of Sammy’s recent comments resulted in him being fired. So then-newcomer Steve McQueen (who at that time was mainly known for the western TV series Wanted: Dead Or Alive) was cast in his place. Between the director, John Sturges, and Frank’s urging, Steve McQueen was given a relatively prominent role, which gave him his big chance in the movies. Several years later, McQueen would work with the director again in the classic The Great Escape.

Honestly, my main problem with this movie is the romance between Frank’s Captain Reynolds and Gina’s Carla Vesari. It just feels off, and because of that, it takes up a little too much of the movie’s two hours and five minutes runtime. If there could have been less of that, and a little more time spent with the men under Captain Reynolds’ command, including a young Dean Jones (before he started doing live action movies for Disney) and Charles Bronson, the movie would have been much better. I think the war scenes work quite well (although anybody expecting lots of blood and gore would come away disappointed, as I think the censors still had enough power at the time to minimize that). So, while it has its problems, I do like this movie and would recommend giving it a shot!

Previously available on DVD from Warner Home Video, Never So Few has been given a Blu-ray upgrade by Warner Archive Collection. As the Blu-ray is my first time seeing the movie, I can’t really speak to any earlier releases/transfers, but I think that Warner Archive has given this the transfer it deserves (or better, depending on your opinion of the movie). I have no complaints on the picture quality, which allows the action and the scenery to shine through!

My Rating: 8/10

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TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Gun Crazy (1950)

Now we have another couple-on-the-run film noir, the 1950 classic Gun Crazy, starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall.

As a kid, Bart Tare develops an obsession with guns (although he can’t bring himself to kill after he kills a baby chick).  This obsession leads him to break into a store and steal some guns. He is caught, however, and sent off to reform school.  After several years in reform school and a stint in the army, Bart (John Dall) returns home.  His childhood buddies take him to a carnival, where he meets sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins). Bart briefly joins the carnival with Laurie, but they are both soon fired.  They get married, but, after a while, they start running out of money, and Laurie convinces Bart to help her rob a few places.  Bart reluctantly goes along, with the condition that they don’t kill.  They are successful on their crime spree, but their luck starts to run out when Laurie kills two people during a robbery. They find themselves on the run from the FBI and the police, as the law slowly closes in on them.

I admit, I was going into this movie for my first viewing after having just seen the recent Netflix movie The Highwaymen. After watching that movie, I was definitely feeling interested in seeing another Bonnie-and-Clyde type of movie, and this one was in a stack of Blu-rays given to me for my birthday, so it jumped to the front of the pack. Watching it, I found myself very impressed with what the filmmakers were able to do with this movie. I know one famous scene from this movie is the long take from the back seat of a car as they drove up to a bank, robbed it, and then drove away. The fact that it was apparently filmed at a real bank (plus the fact that the two leads did most of their own driving) really astounded me, and it helped their performances, considering they had to deal with the real problem of parking and improvise some of their dialogue. I definitely have to applaud the director and how he was able to do so much with so little, especially for the final scene (I’m not saying anymore, so that I don’t spoil anything). So, yes, I do like and recommend this noir to anybody that would be interested (and certainly to those familiar with the classic Bonnie And Clyde, which was apparently influenced by this movie)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection and is one hour, twenty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Here we are for the 1962 movie Two Weeks In Another Town, starring Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson and Cyd Charisse.

Washed-up actor Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) has been staying at a sanitarium due to his alcoholism and general life issues. He got a message from his frequent director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) to come to Rome and do a small part in the movie he was working on. Once there, however, he finds that there is no part, but Kruger asks for his help in getting the dubbing done for the movie. Of course, he finds the whole production to be a mess, with a quick deadline in which to finish the entire movie before somebody else is brought in to do it, the leading man (George Hamilton) is angry with the whole business and Kruger is apparently having an affair with the leading lady (and his wife knows about it, too). When Kruger has a heart attack, Jack tries to help finish the movie.

I have to admit, going into this movie, I had some relatively low expectations due to a lot of what I had read. The movie is the follow-up to what is considered one of the best dramas about Hollywood itself, The Bad And The Beautiful, which also stars Kirk Douglas and was directed by Vincente Minelli (heck, this movie even shows a few scenes from that movie as an “example” of what Andrus and Kruger had done before). I haven’t seen the earlier film, and I admit, it wasn’t one I had any interest in. I tried this movie because of actress (and dancer) Cyd Charisse (although having Kirk Douglas and Edward G. Robinson in this movie didn’t hurt, either). In spite of what I had heard previously, I ended up enjoying the movie and the performances of all the actors and actresses involved. And right now, I admit to also being curious about the earlier movie as well.

Does this movie have flaws? Yes. I’m not thrilled with the fact that Kirk Douglas’s character is somewhat abusive with some (but not necessarily all) of the female characters (but then again, outside of Daliah Lavi’s Veronica, very few characters come out of this movie looking squeaky-clean for one reason or another). The movie is a little loose with its plot (although, from what I’ve read, nowhere near as much as the novel it is based on). Part of the problem here is apparently how involved the censors and studio executives were in trying to make this more of a family movie (and how well they did with that is debatable for the reason I already specified). The use of rear projection screens is also somewhat disconcerting and quite noticeable, especially in a later scene when you should be feeling a little more fear because of how Jack Andrus is driving, but the rear projection really takes you out of the moment. If, and only if, you can get past these points, then I do think this is an enjoyable movie, and one I would recommend.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, forty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

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TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Mame (1974)

Time for us to “open a new window” and dig into the 1974 musical version of Mame, starring Lucille Ball.

In the late 1920s, young Patrick Dennis’ (Kirby Furlong) father Edward Dennis dies unexpectedly, and he is sent, along with his nanny Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell), to live with his flapper Aunt Mame (Lucille Ball).  She tries to raise him her way, but Dennis’ will had stayed that Patrick should be raised traditionally. The representative of the Knickerbocker Bank (who is supposed to reimburse Mame for raising Patrick the right way) discovered that Mame wasn’t raising him right, and so took him away and put him in a boarding school. Of course, this is also the same time the stock market crashed, so Mame has been wiped out and must find work. She meets Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Robert Preston), who falls for her and they spend a few years together until he dies in an avalanche. Meanwhile, Patrick has grown older (now played by Bruce Davison), still loving his Aunt Mame, but he has become more traditional like his father had intended, much to Mame’s dismay.

Personally, I’d like to think that this movie qualifies as a Christmas movie. I know, it’s only for about fifteen to twenty minutes near the beginning of the movie and it supposedly takes place just before Thanksgiving, but I think it’s still enough. It’s a wonderful scene in which we get to see how much Mame and Patrick mean to each other, along with Agnes Gooch and Mame’s butler Ito (George Chiang). We get the song “We Need A Little Christmas,” which evokes the feeling of wanting positive feelings and memories and the general spirit of Christmas, particularly when life was otherwise threatening to drag them down.

I admit, I was a little wary going into this movie after having read a number of negative reviews about the movie, specifically with regards to Lucy’s singing ability (or lack thereof). I will agree, she really couldn’t sing (and I certainly feel sorry for the sound technicians who had to piece together what we did get from many different takes). And I will agree that maybe she might have been too old for the part, but as an actress and comedienne, I like her very well in the role, and I certainly enjoy listening to her and Beatrice Arthur as Mame’s friend Vera Charles trading insults for the “Bosom Buddies ” number. It’s not the best movie in the world, but it is just good fun, and one I would suggest trying out!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is two hours, eleven minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

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