Monday, May 30, 2022

Bogart is Mad Dog Earle in... The Maltese Falcon?

 Noticed this elsewhere earlier today. These 2 posters for the classic MALTESE FALCON don't show Bogart as Sam Spade at all, but as Roy "Mad Dog" Earle, from his star-making role in HIGH SIERRA, a film basically about a man and a on these posters. In both posters, he has his Mad Dog hairpiece...err...haircut, as opposed to his Sam Spade style. Also, as someone pointed out, there aren't exactly a lot of "blazing automatics" in FALCON. HIGH SIERRA had been such a huge hit and the two previous versions of FALCON were also-rans so I guess they were hedging their bets at Warner Bros., trying to make this look like HIGH SIERRA 2. Even the trailer image of Bogie references HIGH SIERRA. The ironic thing, of course, is that THE MALTESE FALCON is now considered one of THE all-time great movie classics while HIGH SIERRA is only remembered by film buffs.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Roger Corman Blogathon--Ski Troop Attack



SKI TROOP ATTACK is one of two movies produced in 1959 on the same South Dakota location with mostly the same crew and cast, one right after the other. BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE came first, a ten-day wonder produced by Gene Corman and directed by Monte Hellman. As it wrapped up, Gene’s always cost-conscious brother Roger moved right into production and direction on another ten-day wonder, SKI TROOP ATTACK. 


The picture plays like an ultra-low budget episode of TV’s COMBAT—itself still a few years away. It’s 1944 in Germany and a small, diverse band of American soldiers on skis (that way no army uniforms necessary) are on a reconnaissance mission in snowy German forest country. Although under orders to avoid conflict with Nazis, they keep running into them anyway and have to engage. In one early scene, Corman has lots of gun sound effects while onscreen we see only one man sneaking around behind the enemy. Ultimately, the four Americans are tasked with blowing up a railroad bridge, HOGAN’S HEROES-style, and slowly work toward that goal.


While probably 70% of SKI TROOP ATTACK consists of just watching all the actors skiing, the atmospheric musical score composed by jazz musician Fred Katz—a Corman regular—carries it along nicely. 


Most of the Germans are played by members of local high school ski teams, although there’s lots of grainy stock footage of real tanks and soldiers from 15 years or so earlier. Corman himself pops up as a Nazi skier in one scene, replacing the lead “German” skier who broke his leg skiing the day before. As Corman pointed out in later years, he himself couldn’t ski at all. 


The screenplay—such as it is—comes from another Corman mainstay, Charles B. Griffith, hailed in recent years by Quentin Tarantino as “the father of redneck cinema.” The highlight of the picture is the bickering chemistry between its stars, Michael Forest and Frank Wolff, respectively the Lieutenant and the Sergeant. Both men were good, trained actors with charismatic screen presences and their lives and careers would intertwine from that point on. 

As actors go, tall, muscular Forest has had an absolutely fascinating career and, as of this writing, seems to be still working at age 93. A veteran of acting teacher Jeff Corey’s training, he appeared on all sorts of episodic TV in the late ‘50s and all through the ‘60s, as well as starring in some Italian sword and sandal flicks and spaghetti westerns. His most memorable live-action role was probably as the god, Apollo, on a classic STAR TREK episode, a role he repeated nearly half a century later on an episode of STAR TREK CONTINUES. In more recent years, Forest has become a cartoon voice actor, particularly for anime, and IMDB shows him with a hundred or more credits just for that alone!


Frank Wolff was the definition of a character actor. He, too, started in episodic TV but after following Forest and Corman to Europe for a movie, Roger convinced him he might have a better career if he stayed there…and he did. Throughout the 1960s, Wolff appeared in spaghetti westerns, poliziotteschi, lowbrow comedies, and even some softcore porn. He could go easily from being a staid businessman, to a fascist police commissioner, to a wild-eyed western outlaw, to a cool spy. Sadly, Wolff committed suicide in 1972 in Italy. His longtime friend Michael Forest dubbed Wolff’s final role.



Although it received mixed reviews at best, SKI TROOP ATTACK played around in theaters and drive-ins for several years and is a great early example of how a bunch of talented and clever people could make something out of essentially nothing—a template that would end up defining the entire career of Roger Corman. 


Thursday, May 12, 2022

1940s Superman Ads



Hollywood Party-1934

It seemed as though every major studio felt compelled to put out an all-star production int he early days of talking pictures, featuring as many of their contract players as they could fit in. By their very nature, these were episodic but HOLLYWOOD PARTY is one of the best. The basic story deals with Jimmy Durante acting a Tarzan-like role opposite Lupe Velez--real-life wife of the "real" MGM Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller--but the real highlights of this one are appearances from Laurel and hardy and, as unlikely as it seems, a color sequence from Walt Disney, featuring Mickey Mouse--arguably the world's most famous star at the time!


Monday, May 02, 2022

1939 Radio Catchphrase Contest

Say! This is fun! From an online scan of a 1939 comic book, here's a radio catchphrase contest that the original purchaser of the comic actually tried to answer! I'll grant you some of these lasted better than others but I only missed # 4--which is one Miss or Mr. X actually got 83 years ago!


Sunday, May 01, 2022

The Bookstore Film Festival 2022--April

Another slooooow month, at least for movies. A lot going on behind the scenes but I did still manage to get in a few. 

The last starring comedy vehicle for the man who was my favorite movie star growing up. Although not without its moments, Jerry seems to be phoning it in for the most part. There are even a few slightly blue gags! Not a good movie by anybody's standards but diehard Jerry Lewis aficionados will likely get something out of it.

I had never heard of this 2007 thriller but I watched it on a  whim and it was pretty entertaining. AZ little slow and the killer was predictable pretty early on but good performances all around.

We got Netflix back for the first time in 2 years because my wife wanted to watch BRIDGERTON. Me, I immediately gravitated to this. I'ma  sucker for a good twisty time travel flick and this one hit all the right buttons! Even made me cry a couple times.

I know, I know. I was late, okay. Actually a much better film than its so-so trailer indicates, but Florence Pugh--whom I already knew from HAWKEYE--steals every scene she's in. 

A decidedly odd '60s comedy presaging Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS in its plot of a mob plan attempting to make a movie that can't possibly succeed in order to launder money, but accidentally making a bug hit! Chevalier shamelessly chews the scenery, as does Tamiroff. Jayne's basically window dressing and never once wears that bikini.

The biggest big-name cast ever assembled...even if they were all assembled in the editing room! This French action-comedy is made up of reduced and re-edited scenes from a score of other releases starring Paul Newman, John Wayne, Dean martin, Robert Redford, Jimmy Stewart, Dustin Hoffman, and more! Hilariously NSFW!