Review Quickie: The Spy in Black/U-Boat 29 (1939)

U-Boat 29_MPLike a perfectly prepared fine aged steak, this Alexander Korda/Irving Asher production of The Spy in Black (or U-Boat 29) comes in hot, sizzling and rare, offering strong performances by its cast along with the first teaming of director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, who would go on to work on 24 pictures including a number of absolute classics across a few genres.

Conrad Veidt is excellent as Captain Hardt, a German U-boat commander whose given the task of meeting with a fellow German, a female spy, as they attempt to deal major damage to British Fleet at Scapa Flow, as war raged on in 1917. As the film begins, Hardy and a fellow seaman arrive back in Germany to almost depleted food resources, even at the finely set officer’s restaurant where steamed fish and carrots are the sole offerings. Amusingly enough, the local newspapers trumpet the country’s U-boats and their sinking of English ships that have allegedly been hitting food supplies there, but they seem a bit suspect in their retelling.

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“WARNING: Smoking can cause Victoria”

Hardt is ordered to to a bit of infiltration into Scotland, as a plan has neatly been hatched to dispose of a teacher planning to move to a sleepy village near The Old Man of Hoy and with the aid of a disgraced British Navy officer, former Commander Ashington (Sebastian Shaw), who is no fan of the service that did him wrong. Hardt doesn’t want to be a common spy, but orders are orders and surprisingly, his part of the mission gets off to a fine beginning. When he meets his partner in crime, Fräulein Tiel (Valerie Hobson), things go a bit sideways and she locks him in his room every night and as his new commanding officer, keeps him in check even as he makes small advances towards her.

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An Animated Discussion (Part 3)

Feebles

So, here we are again. Let’s see how, this time, we’ll see what else was in the bag of cartoons I loaned a friend. I added some stuff that wasn’t animated or not quite cartoons, but they all fit a theme.  So here’s the final countdown with a few surprises for good measure:

roujin-zRoujin-Z:  Here’s the thing. Both kids don’t like anime, but I decided to pop this into the lot because it’s a family film of sorts and I know both parents would be into it because  they’d “get” it and enjoy it even if their two Teen Titans didn’t. Lo and behold, not only did the kids take to it, they were both deciding that the genre was much more that what friends at school were hammering them in the heads over endlessly.

I should have gone with Ghost In The Shell as well, but this Otomo flick was more of an acceptable choice and I didn’t want to overwhelm them, although, yes, I had to field a few questions regarding the crazy ending. That said, I wonder how Akira or something as nuts as a Fist of the North Star would have gone over. That said, I think a Miyazaki film might be a better thing (I’m looking at YOU, Lupin!)

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Random Film of the Week Quickie: Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight)

Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) MPA few years ago, I was sitting in a diner waiting for a few friends to arrive and overheard two guys in the booth behind me debating whether or not Orson Welles was a good filmmaker. Wait, what?  My ears perked up as one of the guys noted that he thought the only film he ever saw from the director was one he felt was overrated (and nope, it wasn’t Citizen Kane). He was talking about Chimes After Midnight.

It turned out both were film students who had a teacher who wasn’t a fan of the director, had shown the film in his class, and yep, both were new to Welles’ work while also in that uncomfortable place in one’s youth where one questions too much without searching for the proper answers. Eh, I think they were entitled to their opinions, but I’d loved to have sat down with them and made a few points on some of the man’s work they were clearly missing thanks to their biased instructor’s babbling and their lack of seeing more of his output.

The discovery a few years back of a fantastic quality print plus a few other things falling into place means we now have a superb high quality home video version of Orson Welles’ 1965 masterpiece Falstaff (Chimes at Midnight) which just so happens to be one of the better (and looser) adaptations of Shakespeare put on film. Even if you’re not into The Bard’s work, seeing a cinematic genius like Welles pull this off on a low budget while also creating one of the most effective and chaotic battle sequences set to film makes this a must-see movie. Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Margaret Rutherford, John Gielgud, Kieth Baxter and the rest of the cast all give perfect performances, the editing manages to make the year plus it took to put this together even more brilliant and overall, it’s a great film that’s influenced quite a few others that ended up becoming modern (and better remembered) classics.

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Random Film of the Week: Gold Diggers of 1933

(Thanks, Classic Fun!)

gold diggers mpFor too many reasonable to reasonably odd reasons, after all these years, I’d never seen ALL of the Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley film extravaganza that is Gold Diggers of 1933. I’d seen the fantastic beginning many years back as a kid, but it was late at night and I fell asleep at some point, waking up to some other film playing. Another time, the film was on but I missed about half of it and I hate sitting down to watch half a film, and the back half, as that.

Years later, it was on rotation on TCM by this time, so I figured I’d always catch it at some point. By then, I’d seen 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, and a few other similar musicals, so I thought it would be along the same thematic lines. It is to some extent, very much like the others: a simple plot but elaborately made escapist film for the masses.  With its fantasy of three pretty young ladies in a Depression-era New York City finding love and wealth despite their showgirl roots and assorted shenanigans via a case of mistaken identity that stretches credulity as it should in a film like this, it was gong to be as light and breezy a time as could be, I thought.

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He’d buy that for a dollar: Aileen MacMahon, a lucky Guy Kibbee and Ginger Rogers, who. despite her charms, doesn’t get the guy here.

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Shout Factory’s Shocktober Sale Will Have Your Wallet Screaming

Shocktober

Scared? Your wallet sure is, I’ll bet.

Mo’ horror, mo’ problems (for your wallet): Yes, the fine folks at Shout! Factory are having a little sale you may want to check out, as some great horror flicks are up for grabs at a discount. As usual, you have to act FAST, as the sale ends October 21. While I’m not a steelbook guy, some of them caught my interest and hell, I can use the steelbook to smack that monster in the closet with. Some also come as non-steelbook releases and the prices on a few are low enough to have my interest. Enough yakking from me, though. Go scare tour wallet into a tizzy here. Oh, there’s also a contest to enter if you like.

-GW

Not-So Random Film of the Week: Way of the Dragon/Return of the Dragon

Hey, look! it’s that time of the month again – you know, when us guys get together and do the usual, but in public and with way too many people watching (well, hopefully). Yes, it’s time for an all-new (but not very much improved) installment of…

(theme song plays):

Video Store Action Heroes - Banner 9 final

If you did NOT hear a theme song, let me know. I paid some guy on eBay a pretty penny for a theme song. Hmmm… I think I need to stay off eBay for a while…

This month’s other entries can be found at Mike’s Take on the Movies, The Cinema Monolith, and Wolfman’s Cult Film Club, so go get reading (you’ll need your own popcorn and beverage of choice, though).

WotD MP

A bit of misleading marketing copy here thanks to this getting a US release after Lee’s unfortunate demise and Enter The Dragon popping up in theaters first in the States.

If my fading memory is correct, the first martial arts flick I’d ever seen was Way of the Dragon (or Return of the Dragon) sometime in the mid 70’s on a black and white TV, either on WOR or WPIX, I believe.  It was pretty horribly dubbed from what I recall, but then again, so were way too many foreign films of all genres from what I can remember.  That version was what I saw as “definitive” in my youth until I finally heard from a few friends in the late 80’s that I’d probably want  to see it in its original language. That took a while, as I finally got around to seeing a cut of the Cantonese/Mandarin version with English subtitles about 10 years back and it made for a much better experience.

As a kid, I didn’t pay close attention to dubbing other than cracking up at the way the mouths moved while wondering how those actors onscreen often said the dopiest things. As I grew older and gained more knowledge about films and the dub/sub process, I saw that more often than not, bad dubbing was the result of rewriting dialog and trying to fit those words into the mouths of whichever actor was speaking lines. Granted, Bruce Lee’s first complete work as a writer/director/producer isn’t exactly going for the gold on the scripting front, but it works far better when you see how Lee uses the language barrier as a major part of the film’s plot.

(Thanks, fortunestarmedia!)

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SEGA AGES Phantasy Star: Pretty Much, Perfection

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And quite well, in this case (Ha and ha-ha).

As soon as I heard that Phantasy Star was making a return as a digital exclusive on the Nintendo eShop, there went that not needing to ask for a review code stuff. Yeah, I  immediately bought it outright (it’s a mere $7.99) because back on the Sega Master System, it was the first JRPG I played and it’s been a game I’ve gone back to a few times, the last being om the Game Boy Advance where we got three of the first four games squeezed onto a single cart (to mixed results). Yes, I still have that one in the library, but I’m not even going to bother comparing it to what’s here (just yet) because once you fall down the Phantasy Star rabbit hole (Rappy hole?), you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.

 

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Trilogy of Terror: Your Triple Case of Nightmare Fuel TV is Here

As I’m er, vintage enough to have been around to see it when it premiered back in 1975, it’s just great to see Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror getting a snazzy 4K version and unleashed on the masses by Kino Lorber. This flick put me in a sleepless zone for a while, but it also became one of my favorite scary films that’s lingered in the memory in terms of nailing a particular set of moods and generating a superb amount of tension.

While I kind of wish this restoration would have included Curtis’ nowhere as impressive 1996 followup, Trilogy of Terror II, I’ll take what’s here for the pure scare factor and still somewhat timely Richard Matheson stories. Kino sadly has no new trailer up, but this tiny snippet from the final episode of the anthology, “Amelia” is all you need to know about what’s coming your way when you place that order. The rest of what’s on the disc is listed below the jump.

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The C64 Mini: Some More Retro For Your Early Gamer Gifting (Or Yourself)

C64 mini boxed

Remember kids, when you retro-trip, wear proper headgear. Falling too hard can be a hazard to your gaming skills. Or something like that.

 

Remember that C64 Mini post from a few months back? Well, the system is now available and it’s got a fair enough price point ($79.99 US) to recommend if your tastes roll towards the old school and you don’t mind a few quirks from the old days of gaming.  There are a bunch of these mini-consoles out already or coming out this year and next thanks to Nintendo’s success with its shrunk-down NES and SNES systems, so we’ll see how well each does among gamers, collectors and anyone just looking for a simple to get into gift for that special someone.

 

 

Yeah, yeah, the emulation only crowd is chuckling away at these to some extent as they cut themselves a nice slice of Raspberry Pi. But if people who just want a fuss-free gift or just aren’t tech savvy enough to grab some sort of emulation device and swipe ROMs off the internet with relish, I say let them spend their money as they please especially if it makes them happy.

EDIT: Ah, I see one issue I’d read about elsewhere has been addressed. This is a good thimg:

 

 

-GW

 

 

Sega Genesis Classics Switch Bound This Winter

Sega Genesis Classics Switch

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Oh, yeah. It’s SO on this Winter on the Switch.

Hot on the heels of the SEGA AGES™ titles announced last week and set to launch during the Tokyo Game Show, SEGA continues a winter of bringing great classics to the portable Switch. Retro fans can now finally play the Genesis Classics collection on their way to school or work, in their lunch break or basically anywhere on the go! SEGA Genesis Classics has over 50 retro favorites to experience across every genre: arcade action, shooters, beat’em ups, puzzlers and hidden gems, with a raft of modern features. Exclusively for the Nintendo Switch players can now compete in same-screen local coop mode and use each Joy-Con individually if desired. Familiar features like online multiplayer, achievements, mirror modes, rewind and save states are all part of the collection for everyone to revisit and enjoy.

The physical edition of SEGA Genesis Classics is now available for pre-order from U.S. retailers. Details of the digital pre-order will soon be announced.

On one hand this was wonderfully inevitable, but on the other, it’s a case where some stubborn Sega or Nintendo-only diehards will need to pipe down and accept what’s going to be a superb deal when all is said and done. Remember, Sega games new and old have popped up on Nintendo’s systems for quite some time after the company got out of the console business.

I’m guessing that “winter” release timeline means before the end of the year, but I’ll err on the side of “sometime between December and next March” just to be on the safe side. Between this and the upcoming Sega Ages collection, it’s certainly going to a great time for Sega and its legion of loyal fans. Yep, I have this set already on other consoles and PC but it’s still a triple or quadruple dip so that nostalgia thing spreads like fresh butter on hot toast.

-GW