19 Movies Visits the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, June 26th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller


Daimajin: Daiei Film

This time around we’re taking a look at Japanese films from a number of different genres.  I’m not going to mention any of the Japanese movies I’ve discussed in previous columns. There’s plenty of great films to cover, more than enough to revisit this topic again in the future.

19. Daimajin (1966: 8) The first, and best, of the Daimajin Trilogy released by Daiei Films, which are historical fantasies concerning a giant statue that comes to life to wreak just vengeance on various evil-doers.

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Goth Chick News: Anne Rice’s Vampires and Witches Get a Final Resting Place on AMC

Thursday, June 25th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Gotch Chick 1

To say I was a fan of Anne Rice’s stories is to under-report the nature of my obsession. Not only do I have all of her work in multiple formats (at least all of it up to 2005), I have hardcover first editions of many, signed by the lady herself. These were the results of multiple pilgrimages to New Orleans to attend her book releases at the Garden District Book Shop as well as her annual Vampire Ball which used to be held every October. These trips lead to my own love affair of NOLA which remains to this day, all thanks to the incredible mystery, terror and romance Rice conveyed in her works, most of which were anchored in the city time forgot.

So, what happened in 2005 that changed everything?

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans that year. Rice had decamped in 2002 when her husband passed away, selling all her properties and moving to California to join her son Christopher, a successful author in his own right. However, her leaving the city had not stopped the tourism generated by Rice’s stories. Following Katrina, city leaders appealed to Rice to come back to New Orleans to host an event or two and help get the city back on its feet. Unfortunately, Rice declined, which was understandable if it had been too hard to return to the place where her husband’s memory was everywhere. But Rice’s stance went much deeper.

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One Impossible Thing at a Time: Star Trek: Picard

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Picard 1

It’s not the way I would have done it.

But it is pretty close!

Star Trek: Picard (ST:P), now available for free at CBS All Access, is the antidote to Star Trek: Discovery. As opposed to the heedless headlong rush of Discovery, Picard takes its time, building a story slowly and meticulously.

Others have said it before and likely better, but I’m going to say it myself — ST:P is made to appeal to people of, well, a certain age. Maybe age is not the right word, maybe it is made to appeal to people of a certain mileage. A mileage that includes some success, some failure, some pain, some loss, and some punishment for good deeds. ST:P has, as some of the best Star Trek has, a kind of multi-level relevance that is hard to beat.

Speaking of which, some people object to the overt political message of this series. I am not one of those people. If you are one of those people, hey guess what, we’re not gonna agree.

And, of course, it has Patrick Stewart, an iconic actor, reprising his iconic role as Jean Luc Picard.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Philip Marlowe – Private Eye (Boothe)

Monday, June 15th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Marlowe_BootheSuit“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

In April of 1983, HBO aired the first episode of Philip Marlowe, Private Eye. Powers Boothe played Raymond Chandler’s world weary detective. I am a big fan of the movies which Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet) and Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep) made from Chandler’s novels. But neither man played the character very true to the books.

Picking Iron (trivia) – Powell was a successful song and dance man when he was quite unexpectedly cast in Murder My Sweet. He nailed the part and it was the first of four hardboiled movies out of his next five: all good flicks. It allowed him to recreate his  Hollywood career. It also made him perfect for the light-hearted, singing radio detective, Richard Diamond.

Season one covered five stories: “The Pencil,” “The King in Yellow,” “Finger Man,” “Nevada Gas,” and “Smart Aleck Kill.” Season Two returned in 1986 with six more episodes: “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot,” “Spanish Blood,” “Pickup on Noon Street,” “Guns at Cyrano’s,” “Trouble is My Business,” and “Red Wind.”

Philip Marlowe made his first appearance in The Big Sleep, which was a novel cobbled together from several existing short stories. Marlowe was really a composite of previous detectives, such as John Dalmas and Carmody. It’s those stories, written mostly for Black Mask and Dime Detective, that were adapted for this series.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Bullets or Ballots (Bogart)

Monday, June 8th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Bogart_BulletsLobbyposter“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Humphrey Bogart worked his way up the ladder at Warner Brothers, frequently playing a bad guy who went up against James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson, who were big stars and a part of Warner’s ‘Murderer’s Row.’ I count seven times Bogie was pitted against one or the other, in a supporting actor role. Bogart was the star the eighth time, in Key Largo. It comes as no surprise that Bogart inevitably lost, up to that last time.

Bogart had failed twice in Hollywood before The Petrified Forest gave him the traction to stick on the west coast. He was so grateful to star Leslie Howard, who insisted that Bogart reprise his stage role as Duke Mantee, that Bogie named his daughter after Leslie. Bogart’s first film after that one is my favorite of his gangster flicks, Bullets or Ballots. It’s a typical thirties gangster film from Warners, which is a good thing.

Picking Lead (trivia) – The Petrified Forest was a smash on Broadway, and Warners bought the rights. Howard was the star and signed on to do the film. Warners wanted to use Robinson for the role of Mantee. Howard was determined the part be played by Bogart, saying he wouldn’t do the movie otherwise. Warners blinked and Bogart returned to the west coast, receiving strong reviews.

Picking Lead – Howard was killed in 1942 when the Luftwaffe shot down the Dutch commercial airliner he was flying on. His son, Ronald, also became an actor and starred in a British Sherlock Holmes television series. He played a younger Holmes and it’s an under-appreciated performance: in part because of poor scripts and low production values.

Edward G. Robinson plays Johnny Blake, a pipe-smoking cop finishing his career out-of-favor with the current leadership. He’s from the two-fisted school, and makes bad guys tip their hat to him. When one refuses to do so, Blake punches him out. When the thug takes a swing at him, he throws him through a glass door and has him arrested for destruction of property.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: It’s a Hardboiled June on TCM

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Sheridan_Solo“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Coming off of Edward G. Robinson as the May Star of the Month on TCM, June is Ann Sheridan Month. The ‘Oomph Girl’ appeared in several hardboiled/noir/crime movies, so we’ll tell you some movies to look for.

Every Tuesday, there is a batch of Sheridan movies, and things kicked off June 1st, with eight flicks, including two Bogart movies: Black Legion, and The Great O’Malley. But the past is prologue.

Now, all of these films can be streamed live on Watch TCM if you get Turner Classic via your cable company. But even if you don’t, most of them can be viewed for at least one week after airing on WatchTCM. Some, like Casablanca, don’t get put up. I assume it’s to help sell mover DVDs. But most do. So, if you miss a movie, you can watch it via the app, or the website.

Having laid all of that out, let’s take a look at some of the June films, all EST:

June 2 (look for on Watch TCM)

8:00 PM – Black Legion

A 1937 ‘social cause’ movie. It’s based on the real-life Black Legion, which was a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan. Humphrey Bogart is a factory worker with seniority who gets passed over by a smarter, harder-working foreigner. And ends up joining the hate group. It was a strong performance by Bogart, who was just being forced by Warners to crank out B-movies (this was four years before High Sierra). Sheridan is fourth-billed and is really only the third main female. The speech from the judge at the end is as heavy-handed propaganda as you’ll run across in a Bogart film. Worth a watch.

9:30 PM – Dodge City

This is a big budget western, starring the swashbuckling Errol Flynn. Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) directed, with a great musical score by Max Steiner. One of my favorite comic supporting actors, Frank McHugh, is here, as Sheridan plays female second banana to Olivia de Haviland. This movie features a heck of a bar room brawl, and the cast is solid. There was an unrelated follow-up with Flynn, Virginia City. Which included Bogart as a Mexican raider with a cheesy mustache.

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Jetpacks and Bazookas: Jonny Quest

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Jonny Quest

Who was the most influential person in the history of the American fantastic imagination? Was it a founding father like Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, or Nathaniel Hawthorne? Or could it be a golden-age great like Robert A. Heinlein or Isaac Asimov or the editor who shaped their early careers, John W. Campbell? Certainly, the big three of Weird Tales, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, have set the pattern for countless imitators down to the present day. Perhaps it was a pure pulpster like Edgar Rice Burroughs or a more literary type like Ray Bradbury, or someone who came to the fore later, like Frank Herbert or Poul Anderson. Maybe it was someone less traditional, like Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, or Samuel R. Delaney.

It’s a fun question to contemplate and a tricky and enjoyable argument to make, whoever your choice is. For myself, I don’t think any of the worthies I’ve mentioned had the widespread, long-term influence of my nominee(s): William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. (But then, if asked to name the single greatest work of American fantasy, I’m likely to blurt out that it’s the 1964 Rankin-Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.)

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Johnny O’Clock (Powell)

Monday, June 1st, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Powell_OClockPoster1“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

And for the third year in a row, A (Black) Gat in the Hand makes a hardboiled reservation for Monday mornings. It’s a limited run, but for the month of June, I’ll look at some hardboiled/noir on screen efforts: Ones that you might not be quite as familiar with. Not totally off the beaten path, but not the big names, either. And we kick things off with Dick Powell’s follow up to Murder My Sweet, Johnny, O’Clock.

When you think of the hardboiled movie, or book, it’s usually a private eye that comes to mind. There’s Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe, and Mike Hammer. Of course, there were also cops in movies, like Glenn Ford’s Dave Bannion in The Big Heat; and Frederick Nebel’s MacBride in print. Those stories were changed into seven Torchy Blaine movies, and quite different from Nebel’s hardboiled stories about MacBride, unfortunately.

Other occupations were covered, including reporters, and lawyers. Ex-soldiers of various stripes, like Alan Ladd in The Blue Dahlia, were popular. A movie that I really like in this genre starred a gambler. Like Humphrey Bogart’s Dead Reckoning, this film doesn’t appear on any top ten lists, but it doesn’t feature a private eye, and it’s a ‘could have been really good’ film.

Like James Cagney and George Raft, Dick Powell was a successful song and dance man in Hollywood. Then, he was surprisingly cast as Raymond Chandler’s world-weary Phililp Marlowe in Murder My Sweet, and he nailed the part. That 1944 effort was the first of four hardboiled films he made in a five-movie span, of which Johnny O’Clock was the third.

Picking Iron (trivia) – This new side of Powell made him perfect for the singing, funny, tough radio PI, Richard Diamond (I love that series).

Powell plays the title character, and he’s manager of a fancy (and legal) gambling joint in NYC. He dresses well, knows lots of people, and lives in a fancy apartment with an ex-con named Charlie, who is his jack of all trades assistant.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Friday, May 29th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Kirk-Spock-McCoyDo you remember your first hero? Any kind of hero. It could have been a hero from a movie or a book or a television show, even a hero from real life.

As a child of the 1970s, one might think Luke Skywalker was my first hero, but I would turn eight years old a month after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, and by then I already had plenty of heroes.

Re-runs of the original Star Trek TV show from the 1960s were still airing, and I watched every one of them. Of the crew of the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk seemed the most heroic of the figures presented to us viewers, or at least he stood in the most traditional of the heroic modes.

Then there was the Six Million Dollar Man, starring actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1978 on television. For those not familiar with the series, Majors played U.S. astronaut Steve Austin who was seriously injured in an accident. Not only did Steve survive his accident, but the government decided, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” And they did. Steve got some bionic legs and an arm and an eye. He fought crime. And Bigfoot. It was awesome.

Some might not consider Godzilla a hero, but by the time of my childhood in the ’70s, Godzilla was mainly a good guy, so he was a hero of sorts to many of us. For better or worse, my first Godzilla movie was Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film sometimes not remembered fondly by Godzilla fans. Either way, I was maybe five years old when my dad drug me into an old downtown theater to witness the spectacle of this movie, and again, I have to say it was awesome.

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Goth Chick News: The Shining Opera. And No, I’m Not Joking…

Thursday, May 28th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Shining Opera poster-small

As much as I love the movie The Shining, I never thought I’d ever see that title in the same sentence with the word ‘opera;’ and yet here we are.

Turns out the Minnesota Opera, located in Minneapolis, has become known for showcasing rare and unusual operas. For instance, they’ve performed operatic versions of Where the Wild Things Are, Frankenstein, and The Handmaid’s Tale. They’ve even done one called Nixon in China. Admittedly, I’m not much of an opera fan. However, I understand there are those aficionados who make it a hobby of ‘collecting’ performances of strange operas and if this happens to be your thing, keep reading.

The Minnesota Opera’s head musical director, Eric Simonson and the artistic director Dale Johnson, came up with the idea to turn Stephen King’s novel into opera. They contacted Pulitzer Prize winning composer Paul Moravec, and Grammy Award winning lyricist Mark Campbell, and three years later The Shining opera premiered at the Ordway Music Theater in May 2016.

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