Film Review: Beat the Devil (1953)

Release Date: November 24th, 1953 (London premiere)
Directed by: John Huston
Written by: John Huston, Truman Capote
Based on: Beat the Devil by James Helvick
Music by: Franco Mannino
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley, Bernard Lee, Peter Sellers (voice, uncredited)

Romulus Films, Dear Film, Santana Pictures Corporation, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.” – O’Hara

I decided to check out Beat the Devil because a description I read for it referred to it as John Huston’s parody of his own movie The Maltese Falcon. Since this also starred Humphrey Bogart, I was intrigued to see what exactly that description meant.

Well, that description was terrible, as this isn’t a parody of one specific film, it is actually a crime comedy with adventure and romance thrown in. And while that description was bullshit, the movie is not. It was mostly amusing and fun.

Overall, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me but it wasn’t dull and it was cool seeing Bogart ham it up a bit with Robert Morley and Peter Lorre, along with Jennifer Jones and Gina Lollobrigida.

The story is actually about an ensemble of people stranded in Italy while trying to get to Africa. All of them are shifty types that are trying to lay claim to a property that is believed to be rich in uranium. So it’s definitely not a straight parody of The Maltese Falcon, other than it has the same director, two of the same stars and has some criminal scheming and twists.

In the end, I was disappointed by this being very different than how it was sold to me. It was still refreshing and kind of unique. I liked the camerawork, the on location shooting and how this felt like you were in a genuine space with these actors, whom are usually surrounded by lavish, indoor sets on big budget sound stages.

Beat the Devil wasn’t a waste of time and it’s kind of charming.

Side note: Bogart got into a car accident during production and lost some teeth; so he had a hard time speaking. Therefore, up and coming actor, Peter Sellers, was brought in to record dubbed dialogue for Bogart while he was having trouble adjusting to his lack of canines.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Humphrey Bogart films of the time, most notably his film-noir work.

Film Review: The Skydivers (1963)

Also known as: Fiend From Half Moon Bay, Panic at Half Moon Bay (alternative titles)
Release Date: November 13th, 1963 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: Coleman Francis
Written by: Coleman Francis
Music by: John Bath
Cast: Kevin Casey, Eric Tomlin, Anthony Cardoza, Marcia Knight, Titus Moede, Keith Walton, Paul Francis, Jimmy Bryant, Harold Saunders

Crown International Pictures, 75 Minutes

Review:

“Suzy, you’re a broad. Get lost!” – Harry Rowe

There are very few things in life as dull and boring as this movie. This is also painful to sit through, even with the added laughs provided by Mike and the ‘Bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Coleman Francis is synonymous with the dullest of all schlock. And out of all of his films, this one is absolutely the dullest of the lot.

What’s the plot?

There is none.

There’s just a fuck ton of skydiving and then some mundane talk about coffee sprinkled in to add some excitement.

According to Google, though, the film’s premise is this: A spiteful rich girl plots murder in an attempt to sabotage a sky-diving school run by an ex-GI and his wife.

Yeah, I guess it does have a semblance of a plot but I barely noticed.

Additionally, Wikipedia claims that this is generally considered to be the most watchable Coleman Francis film, albeit still of sub par quality. Citation definitely fucking needed there, Wikibois. I’d watch The Beast of Yucca Flats a hundred times over this shit festival.

There really isn’t a whole lot to say about the movie. It’s mostly just skydiving footage with terrible acting, directing and writing trying to string this all together into something coherent. But it failed miserably.

Rating: 0.5/10
Pairs well with: other Coleman Francis schlock. Or if you want something less painful, skydiving into a volcano.

Video Game Review: Fire Pro Wrestling World (PS4)

I had a Fire Pro Wrestling game back in the day for PlayStation 1. I enjoyed it but it didn’t consume as much of my time back then as WWF Attitude, a game where I had hundreds of customized wrestlers added to the mix.

The main reason why I gave this Fire Pro game a shot is because it featured wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling and I really wanted a game where I could play as Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Guerrillas of Destiny, Tetsuya Naito and other massive Japanese stars.

I also wanted to create myself, as I do in every wrestling game, and live out the dream of beating the best to become a world champion.

At first glance, I love the visual retro style of these games. However, like those retro games, the gameplay mechanics leave a lot to be desired. While this certainly is more playable than those WWF games for the original Nintendo, it still feels like a button masher where you sometimes have to rely on unreliable luck.

In the creation process, there are so many options it is actually kind of ridiculous. Now I know that this is the real selling point for fans of this series of games but I found it poorly organized, overly complicated and heinously tedious.

I wanted this to be the wrestling game of my dreams and was damn excited to fire it up. But ultimately, I was left disappointed and kind of bored.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Fire Pro games as well as retro wrestling games.

Comic Review: Joe Golem: Occult Detective, Vol. 1: The Rat Catcher and The Sunken Dead

Published: 2015-2016
Written by: Christopher Golden, Mike Mignola
Art by: Patric Reynolds

Dark Horse, 138 Pages

Review:

I’ve been wanting to read the Joe Golem comics for quite awhile. I figured, what better time to start than the month of Noirvember?

What really attracted me to these comics is that they have a really old school pulpy vibe to them that taps into two major pulp magazine genres: horror and crime.

Add in the fact that Mike Mignola was involved in the creative process and I was already sold.

Overall, this was pretty enjoyable and a good introduction to the character and the world he inhabits, which is a version of New York City that is halfway underwater. It’s also full of all types of occult threats, which see our title character, a private investigator, go toe-to-toe with some weird stuff.

I love that this has some Lovecraftian flavor to it in subject matter, visual style and narrative tone.

This chapter in the series sets everything up but it is still two tales that are both entertaining and engaging as standalone stories.

This didn’t set my tits on fire, if I’m being honest, but it did make me want to read beyond this first installment. So I’m hoping that as the Joe Golem series movie forward, it finds its footing a bit more and gives me a series I can happily return to every time a new story is published.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Joe Golem comics, as well as Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series.

TV Review: Stumptown (2019- )

Original Run: September 25th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jason Richman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Stumptown by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Justin Greenwood
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson, Tantoo Cardinal, Cole Sibus, Adrian Martinez, Camryn Manheim, Michael Ealy, Donal Logue

Don’t Tell Mom, The District, ABC, 7 Episodes (so far), 44 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After reading the first Stumptown comic, I figured I’d give the television show a shot, as it just premiered a month and a half ago and because I generally like Cobie Smulders and Jake Johnson.

This is adapted from a neo-noir comic series by Greg Rucka and while the show adapts it fairly well, at least, its framework, this feels a little less neo-noir and a bit more like a network television crime show. While that’s not a bad thing, network TV is generally a pretty watered down and sterile version of the things it tries to adapt.

At least this has the same spirit as the comic.

It feels and looks different in that it loses its stylized visual allure and the edginess is scaled back quite a bit.

Additionally, the first episode starts with a familiar story for fans of the comic but it quickly veers off in its own direction. The show is episodic, usually solving a crime in one or two episodes where it then moves on to the next plot. So if you’re expecting the first graphic novel to basically be the first season, it isn’t.

Now all of this might sound like criticism but it’s not.

The fact of the matter is, I like the show, at least the half dozen episodes I binge watched to see if I wanted to keep moving forward with it. Based off of my experience, I’ll probably watch a full season of this and then decide whether or not I want to stick with it. But, so far, so good.

What really works for me is the cast. Everyone is really good in their roles and the main players all have great chemistry. I especially like the chemistry between Cobie Smulders, Jake Johnson and Cole Sibus.

I also like that the show features a special needs character that isn’t treated unrealistically. In fact, Sibus’ Ansel is one of the highlights for me. The kid is just damn good.

Additionally, within the first episode, the show accomplished what it needed to do in that it made me care about all of these characters.

Also, Stumptown is pretty refreshing in 2019, in that it features a tough, female lead but this show is written in a way that makes her a very anti-Mary Sue character. She struggles, she fails, she adapts, hell… she gets her ass kicked… a lot. Yet she grows as a character, becomes better at her newfound job and works through her flaws.

I can’t yet say that this is a hands down good show. It’s off to a solid start though and I care about these people and their situations. Maybe I’ll have to give an update after season one concludes sometime next year.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: probably other network television crime and P.I. shows but this one does seem cooler and more fun than the majority of them.

Video Game Review: Jackal (NES)

Jackal is one of those underrated gems that gets overshadowed by other Konami releases for the original Nintendo.

Sadly, the Konami Code didn’t give you 30 lives like Contra or Life Force, or even 10 like Super C. But despite not having an easy hack, it was a game that I, and my friends, would often times play for hours.

It’s just simple and fun and it makes me miss the simplicity of ’80s action games.

You just play as a jeep that works its way through the map vertically, killing all the baddies and rescuing all the POWs you can. Each level has a helipad where you can drop the surviving POWs off before moving on to a big boss battle.

All the boss battles in this are also pretty solid but Konami were damn good at creating boss battles across the board from this game, the Contra games, Life ForceMetal GearRush’n Attack, etc.

In the end, this is a cool game that probably deserves more love and definitely should have had a sequel or multiple sequels.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other NES Konami games like the Contra series, the Metal Gear series, Rush’n Attack, etc.

Film Review: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Release Date: July 25th, 1980
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, William Finley (voice, uncredited)

Filmways Pictures, Cinema 77 Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Doctor, I am not paranoid. Bobbi was making threats over the phone. She said she’s going to hurt me. My patient was slashed to death. And now my razor is gone. Now you don’t have to be a detective to figure it out, do you?” – Doctor Robert Elliot

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this picture but if Brian De Palma’s early films are any indicator, I knew that this would be bizarre, artistic and intelligent.

And it was those three things but it was also damn compelling and honestly, damn impressive.

I loved this film and it’s a shame that I hadn’t seen it before this. It was intense, melodic, sweet, scary and most importantly, intriguing.

While this picture is very De Palma-esque, maybe the most De Palma-esque of the man’s work, it is also very Hitchcockian, as the narrative and the shot framing displays a young De Palma’s callback to Hitchcock’s style and tropes.

Still, this is very much De Palma’s composition and not a cheap attempt at trying to emulate one of the masters before him. Honestly, it comes off as a respectful homage that creates a familiar framework that De Palma could then artistically build off of.

This is also very much a noir story. It has twists, turns, mystery, secrets that evolve and a shocking reveal when all is said and done. It’s pretty damn impressive that they were able to do some of the stuff they did in the time that this was made.

What really solidifies this as a great movie, aside from the solid direction and story by De Palma, is the cast.

Nancy Allen really carries this movie once she becomes the focus. And honestly, I’ll always love Allen simply for being a huge part of RoboCop but I never really thought much of her as an actress. Not to say she’s bad, she’s perfectly fine. But in this film, she really got to do some daring things. Honestly, it has motivated me to check out De Palma’s Blow Out in the near future as it also features her under De Palma’s direction.

I was really impressed with Keith Gordon and Angie Dickinson as well.

Michael Caine also plays an very important role but it’s Michael Caine, so one should expect a damn fine performance because I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy not deliver.

I’d love to go deeper into the story and analyze some of it but I don’t want to spoil this for anyone. It’s a film that needs to be seen without knowing much about the plot and a Google search will probably spoil some major details.

If you like De Palma, Hitchcock influenced cinema or neo-noir, than you’ll probably like this picture.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other early Brian De Palma films, especially Blow Out and Body Double.