I felt a little guilty sloughing off on the blog stuff, because I had already seen most of them (Married to the Mob, 28 Days Later, Used Cars, etc.) with the exception of Midnight Cowboy (1969—I’d seen bits and pieces, but never sat through it all the way through) and Coffy (1973).
But in an attempt to clean up the DVR, I have sampled a few offerings from The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™…and since it has been a while since I’ve done a “TCM potpourri” post, here we go.
As such, his oeuvre is fairly small; his best-known work is his final film, Witchfinder General (1968—a.k.a. Conqueror Worm), a first-rate horror entry that features Vincent Price in one of his best roles. I hadn’t seen Reeves’s penultimate film (The Sorcerers) but TCM ran it some time ago, and while it’s not a perfect movie the underlying theme of pessimism in the director’s other features is present and accounted for (Danny Peary once posited that given Reeves’ view of a world where “people are inherently monstrous and too weak to control their own impulses” his death shouldn’t have been all that surprising).
TDOY fave Boris Karloff is a professor of hypnotism who invents a device that will allow him and his wife (Catherine Lacey, the high-heels wearing nun in The Lady Vanishes) to control the mind of a young subject (Ian Ogilvy) and live vicariously through his experiences. It starts off innocent at first with petty theft, but then Lacey starts to develop of thirst for power and she’s soon having Ian commit murders. Boris’ mind isn’t strong enough to stop his mahd wife—but…he…must…find…a…way.
We’re only given a smidge of Karloff and Lacey’s background history, so when she goes on the power trip it’s certainly horrifying but yet not quite as effective if a foundation for why she does so had been more effectively established. Ogilvy’s character is underdeveloped as well; it’s hard to be sympathetic to a guy who seemed pretty much a wanker even before Karloff got hold of him. (You could argue, of course, that this was Reeves’ intention all along.) Despite my quibbles, I enjoyed Sorcerers; it’s an excellent example of making do with less and Karloff (as well as Lacey) are really excellent in their performances.
This is the only one I’ve had time to watch: Claudio Brook is the titular saint, a prophet whose devotion to the Almighty is so strong that he’s spent years standing on top of a column in the desert, preaching to anyone within earshot the word of the Lord. The sad thing is—the viewer gets the impression that God’s not all that interested in his disciple; at one point in the movie Simon vows to only stand on one leg until he receives a sign from his Creator. (Spoiler warning: God sends no sign.)
Buñuel doesn’t so much mock Simon as he does empathize with a man whose devotion to his cause blinds him to the fact that God appears to have decided to opt out of this world and he’s no longer checking his voicemail; furthermore, Simon—who is truly capable of performing miracles—doesn’t get many thanks for his good deeds, as witnessed by a man (Enrique del Castillo) whose hands are restored after they were previously cut off for stealing. (“There’s no pleasing some people,” to quote a Life of Brian line.) Silvia Pinal is The Devil, who tempts Simon repeatedly. Simon of the Desert runs an abrupt forty-five minutes before it calls it a day, and while the movie is quite funny its unsatisfying ending mars it a tad.
If you listen to any of his surviving broadcasts (there aren’t many, but there are some) you might wonder how this could be the case—personally, I’ve never found the gurgling grotesque who popularized the “Wanna buy a duck?” catchphrase all that amusing…and keep in mind that I like the Ritz Brothers. (In Jordan R. Young’s marvelous book The Laugh Crafters, December Bride creator Parke Levy recalled working for Penner and asserted that the comedian’s success can be attributed to his appeal to kids; once Joe set his sights on more sophisticated humor that pretty much started his decline.)
RKO tried to make him a movie star starting in 1937, but most of his movies are an acquired taste (Go Chase Yourself has Lucille Ball in it, which helps a little). Since Millionaire Playboy, his second-to-last film, only runs 64 minutes I decided to have a go; Joe is the son of wealthy Arthur Q. Bryan (one of the reasons I went with this) but because he’s got a psychosomatic condition where he uncontrollably hiccups after kissing women, Bryan hires slickster Russ Brown to cure his progeny. What results is pretty mild comedy—a lot of the “body-in-the-sack” material in the final third is clearly inspired by Laurel & Hardy’s Habeas Corpus (1928) (and Max Davidson’s Dumb Daddies, released the same year)—but any movie with Fritz Feld, Tom Kennedy, Grady Sutton and Mantan Moreland is certainly worth some effort.
And I just like Tim Holt; even when he was playing wankers in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) or Hitler’s Children (1943) he had an earnestness that was quite appealing.
But here’s the real reason why I liked Hot Lead, which is admittedly your run-of-the-mill western stuff involving guys both good and bad:
That’s Mister John Dehner (as Turk Thorne!) in the center, and I’ll watch him in anything. (If you don’t believe me, you will when I start the fourth season of The Doris Day Show.) His head stooge is played by the perpetually sneering Robert J. Wilke, and the two of them (along with Paul Marion) are trying to blackmail ex-con Ross Elliott into helping them rob a train’s gold shipment. Holt is working for ranch owner Joan Dixon, and though he’s leery of Elliott’s past he convinces Joan to take Ross on as a ranch hand when they’re short on manpower.
Tim’s sidekick in many of his westerns was actor Richard Martin, who went by the handle of “Chito” (not the snack food) and was unusual as far as sidekicks went because Chito demonstrated a love for the company of the ladies. (He was also better-looking and taller than Holt…I’ve just always found that odd.) To compensate for his offbeat interest in the womenfolk, Chito was handicapped with a talent for mangling the English language rivaled only by Leo Gorcey.