Friday, April 25, 2014

Henry Hull

Another wonderful and enjoyable character actor with decades of impressive performances.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bomba, the Jungle Boy

As a young child, I had been a fan of Tarzan movies on Saturday afternoon TV, many of which featured a kid about my age as "Boy," Tarzan and Jane's son. As Sheffield got too old, he was phased out of the movies but that's okay as he ended up in his own franchise. Twelve movies were made starring Johnny as Bomba, the Jungle Boy, a popular Tarzan rip-off who had appeared in a series of young reader novels. The movies were made a few years before I was born but were played daily on TV before I headed off to school in the early grades. They remained popular enough that DC even gave the character a spin-off comic book in 1967!

The early entries were produced by Walter Mirisch who would go on to produce decidedly more A-list pictures such as the PINK PANTHER series, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

The aging but wonderfully named Ford Beebe directed the entire series, wrote most of them and even took over as producer on the later ones. He was an expert in low budget action films, having directed many of the netter serials as well as tons of B Westerns.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


This one would have been a good one for my BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY series, "Movies That Fell Through the Cracks." I had never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago. Admit it. You hadn't heard of it until just now!

If mentioned at all, it's usually described as a blaxploitation movie...which it isn't. In fact, star Richard (SHAFT) Roundtree is nearly the only person of color in the whole picture. EMBASSY plays more like an unsold TV pilot, actually. But for a few PG words throughout, I'd swear that's what it is. Roundtree is an assistant to the US Ambassador to Beirut, played by veteran Ray (THE LOST WEEKEND) Milland. We see the everyday operations of their embassy in Lebanon on the day when Russian Max (THE EXORCIST) Von Sydow decides to defect. Broderick (HIGHWAY PATROL) Crawford is the embassy's head of security. Then Chuck (RIFLEMAN) Conners arrives, looking much like his character from that same year's SOYLENT GREEN, trying to assassinate Von Sydow.

This was apparently Roundtree's second film (not counting his appearance in Alan Funt's WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED LADY?) and his immediate follow-up to the game-changing SHAFT. For a former male model, he is honestly quite good here, although much more mainstream and without that feral charm he exhibited as "the sex machine with all the chicks."

EMBASSY was distributed by the notorious "K-Tel" for some reason. It was produced by Audrey Hepburn's ex-husband, Director/actor Mel Ferrer and helmed by veteran director Gordon Hessler whose vast TV experience may be the reason this looks like aTV movie.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Huntz Hall and the Bowery Boys

Starting back when I was a kid, one of my absolute favorite movie series has always been the Bowery Boys. In fact, the first book I ever attempted to write was about the Bowery Boys series but I abandoned it when another such book came out!

Broadway's Dead End Kids traveled to Hollywood and later became, in various combinations, the East Side Kids, the Little Tough Guys, the Junior G Men and finally, The Bowery Boys.

Over the course of the various series, the team of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall coalesced into a funny comedy team!

Thus it was a blow to the series when Gorcey quit after the death of his father. Stanley Clements was brought in to fill the contract for 3 more films, with Huntz Hall's name now being placed above the title.

 Clements, although a more traditional "tough guy" than Gorcey, proved popular enough that 4 additional entries were ordered, with "Huntz Hall and the Bowery Boys" lasting a total of seven films.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Jimmy Stewart Top 10

James Stewart was one of my Dad's favorites. I first discovered him via his TV series, THE JIMMY STEWART SHOW, and then spent much of the seventies discovering his light-hearted comedies, then his tough westerns and searing dramas. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer

Long on my list of films I wanted to see, I finally caught this veddy British dark comedy a few years back and was quite impressed until it petered out about 2/3 of the way through. leaving on a weak ending I thought. Rumored ot have been inspired by David Frost, Cook plays a man who wanders into a business one day acting like he's supposed to be there and continues getting moved up until he's in English politics! 

Known in the US primarily for his work with Dudley Moore, Cook is widely ad rightly revered as one of the deftest wits in all of English comedy and this film is without a doubt his best solo vehicle.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The U.N.C.L.E. movies

When spy movies became all the rage, spy TV shows did, too, and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., itself partly developed in a sorta/kinda way by James Bond creator Ian Fleming, was the clear frontrunner right out of the gate. The immense popularity of agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin on the small screen led to not one, not two but EIGHT theatrical feature films, every single one of them edited together from 2 part episodes of the series itself.