If you missed Part I, look no further.
I’m continuing something of an abbreviated look at these films. Maybe less is more? I hope you’ll find something of interest to check out. Here we go…
Berlin Express (1948)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced by Bert Granet
Screenplay by Harold Medford based on a story by Curt Siodmak
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
“Sometimes I think we shall never get together on this Earth. Until we find someone on… Mars to hate. Sometimes I wonder why we keep trying.”
Aboard a U.S. Army train traveling from France to Berlin, we find a vast assortment of interesting characters including a French woman named Lucienne (Merle Oberon), a German activist Dr. Bernhardt (Paul Lukas), an American agricultural expert named Robert Lindley (Robert Ryan), and many others of varying nationalities. When Dr. Bernhardt – who only seeks to mend as much of war-torn Europe as possible – disappears from the train, a small group of passengers seek to discover what happened. Yet not all the passengers are genuinely concerned for Dr. Bernhardt’s health…
Berlin Express is a good Post-War melodrama with generally good performances, suspense, and nice train sequences. Sure, there are a few stereotypes here and there, but the story and the mystery hold up fairly well.
The Blues Brothers (1980) (10x)
Directed by John Landis
Produced by Robert K. Weiss
Written by Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Cinematography by Stephen M. Katz
Universal Blu-ray (extended cut, 2:28)
I can think of few films that give me more pure joy than The Blues Brothers. I have many, many stories I can tell about the film, but I’ll only share a brief one. Years ago I had just become friends with a guy named David who loved this movie. We never got to watch it together, however. David had a rare medical condition and died at the age of 27. I did watch the movie later with David’s brother Brian and we had a great time, with Brian pointing out David’s favorite scenes and songs. The Blues Brothers was a special film in my life before meeting David, but much more so afterward.
The Invisible Ray (1936)
Directed by Lambert Hillyer
Produced by Edmund Grainger
Written by John Colton
Cinematography by George Robinson
The Bela Lugosi Collection DVD (1:19)
A film I first heard about on the Attaboy Clarence podcast, The Invisible Ray is a very strange affair… Astronomer Janos Rukh (a curly-haired Boris Karloff) invents a telescope that can look into space and photograph light rays that can reveal images from Earth’s ancient past. Rukh invites skeptical scientists Benet (Bela Lugosi) and Stevens (Walter Kingsford) to accompany him on an expedition to Africa to find a meteor that landed there thousands of years ago. Why? Rukh believes the meteor contains Radium X, an element of remarkable healing powers. Things get pretty weird and, as frequently happens when they’re paired, Karloff outshines Lugosi, but both are excellent. The film is rarely talked about today, but it should be. You can track it down on the Universal Bela Lugosi Collection DVD (which also includes several other films worth having) set as well as on a single disc from Universal’s Vault series.
The Brother from Another Planet (1984)
Written and directed by John Sayles
Produced by Peggy Rajski, Maggie Renzi
Cinematography by Ernest R. Dickerson
An alien (Joe Morton) escapes the slavery of his planet by crash-landing in Harlem and is mistaken by everyone he meets as a mute, homeless African American man. The brother has some unusual powers which come in handy in several different types of situations. He’s also being chased by two “Men in Black” (director Jon Sayles himself and David Strathairn) who want to recapture the brother. The film is a wonderful commentary on many topics, not the least of which is race, but it also works brilliantly as an outstanding science fiction comedy. I’m sorry it took me this long to see it, but I’m glad I did.
Kill List (2011)
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Produced by Claire Jones, Andy Starke
Written by Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Cinematography by Laurie Rose
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:35)
Previously discussed here
Used Cars (1980) (2x)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Written by Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Produced by Bob Gale
Cinematography by Donald M. Morgan
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:53)
Everyone knows Robert Zemeckis as the director of the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and several other big films, but most people have never heard of his second film (1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand was his first) Used Cars. In that film, you can see some of the genesis of Zemeckis’s later work, not only in its frantic action scenes, but in the way that its crazed characters interact with each other. (You see this somewhat in the Back to the Future movies, but see it in spades in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.) Yet Used Cars is an outrageous film loaded with great comedic scenes and lines. (Just know that this is not a film for the whole family!)
Kurt Russell plays Rudy Russo, a crooked (Is there any other kind?) used car salesman working for dealer Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), whose dealership is about to tank due to Luke’s brother Roy Fuchs (also played by Jack Warden) and his fancier, more prosperous used car dealership across the street. The plot – which I won’t get into – is absolutely outrageous, fierce, manic, ribald, slightly mean-spirited, non-PC, and often hilarious. Like many of the cars on Russo’s lot, Used Cars feels like it’s going to fall apart at any moment, but Zemeckis manages to hold things together until after you’ve driven off the lot.
The Killer is Loose (1956)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Produced by Robert L. Jacks
Screenplay by Harold Medford from a story by John Hawkins, Ward Hawkins
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
Amazon streaming (1:13)
This excellent noir thriller is rarely discussed but should be. Wendell Corey (in perhaps his best role and performance) plays Leon Poole, a bank employee who appears to be the hero in a bank robbery, but was actually in on the crime. The police catch up to Poole as he’s hiding and mistakenly shoot Poole’s wife. Captured by Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten), Poole vows revenge. The film is filled with tension and fast-paced, so much so that you can easily overlook some of its weaknesses (mainly convenient coincidences). Definitely recommended.
Rocketship X-M (1950)
Directed and produced by Kurt Neumann
Screenplay by Orville H. Hampton, Dalton Trumbo
Cinematography by Karl Struss
Music by Ferde Grofé
Amazon streaming (1:18)
Yep, that’s Lloyd Bridges checking out more than the instruments… Bridges is part of a four-man/one-woman expedition to the moon, a journey that ends up off course and headed to Mars instead. This is one of those films that you don’t want to show to someone who isn’t used to older films, particularly older science fiction films. There’s just too much for them to laugh at: the crew entering the spacecraft at T-minus 10 minutes, the men wearing ties, ancient-looking instruments (even for 1950), and so much more. But if you’ve seen a few classic sf films from this era and understand the limitations, you might enjoy Rocketship X-M, a combination of a sf film that takes itself too seriously and adds a romantic element that you can’t take seriously. It is interesting to note, however, that the film’s music is by American composer Ferde Grofé, best known for his orchestral Grand Canyon Suite (1931). Grofé wrote other films scores, but Rocketship X-M marks the first science fiction movie to feature the theremin, an electronic instrument that would grace many sf films in the 50s including The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and The Thing (1951).
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Produced by Clark Spencer
Screenplay by Jared Bush, Phil Johnston based on a story by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, etc.
Cinematography by Nathan Warner, Brian Leach, Thomas Baker
Netflix streaming (1:48)
One of the best things about having two young nieces who live close by is having them introduce me to movies I probably wouldn’t see otherwise. Such is the case with Zootopia, a film I greatly enjoyed, even though I’m probably the last person in North America to see it.
Hunters Lodge (2016)
Written, produced, directed, photographed, and edited by Martyn Tott
Netflix streaming (1:23)
Hunters Lodge was a true discovery, stumbled upon as I was searching Netflix for something interesting. Tim Ahern plays Harry, a Vietnam veteran who travels to a remote island hunters lodge to attend the funeral of an old army buddy named Peter. Once there, Harry discovers that others have arrived, not just for the funeral, but to fight it out over Peter’s will, and some of them have some pretty nasty intentions. The film successfully combines noir and supernatural elements without overblown special effects. This is a very satisfying film that I hope you’ll check out and support.
That’s it for this time. If you latch onto any of these, please let me know what you think.
Photos: DVD Beaver, Pyxurz, Vampires, Top 10 films.co.uk, The Last Drive-In, The Celebrity Cafe, The Peoples Movies