Raiders of Ghost City #3: Death Rides Double

Last week on Raiders of Ghost City! Jeff, black-clad resident of Oro Grande and member of Regis Toomey’s gold raiders, confesses that he’s really a spy named Jim, and Captain Steve “Bland” Clark’s brother. Meanwhile, the real but secret leaders of the gold theft ring, the dapper Alex and Trina, are speeding toward Oro Grande. They are desperate to have Jeff-Jim silenced permanently, and wouldn’t be upset if Steve also got accidentally killed in a hail of bullets, either. Steve and detective pal Idaho Jones make it to Oro Grande just in time to find out that the raiders have Jeff-Jim holed up in a shack. Just as Jeff-Jim gets ready to spill the beans on the thieves, he’s shot! Then the raiders set the shack on fire! As always, for those of you playing the Raiders of Ghost City home game, the serial can be found on YouTube in an iffy (but free) print here. How do our heroes escape? Because the second the recap ends, the United States Cavalry literally comes to the rescue. All right, great writing, guys. Good job. When we last saw our heroes in the burning cabin of death, Idaho and Steve were taking Jeff-Jim into what looked like the basement. This chapter, they carry him right out the front door as soon as the cavalry chases the baddies away. Lying is common with cliffhangers, but this is straight-up cheating right here. Once outside, Cathy tends to Jeff’s newest gunshot wounds with… water. That’s … Continue reading

March Movies to Watch For

Here are some films on Fox Movie Channel, Sundance, IndiePlex, RetroPlex and TCM for the month of March, 2013 that you might be interested in. Remember, these movies may be edited, time compressed, in the wrong aspect ratio, have commercial interruptions, be preempted, or have never existed in the first place. You know how it goes. All times Eastern. SUNDANCE The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009) March 5, 8:00 PM – only time it’s on this month The original Opley version starring Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace and Lisbeth Salander, about a young hacker who helps a cop with a 40-year-old unsolved murder.   Marathon Man (1976) March 7, 10:00 PM and 12:15, plus March 11th and 25th Dustin Hoffman as a man mistaken for a spy in John Schlesinger’s classic.   Phantom of the Paradise (1974) March 9, 6:00 AM and 11:45 AM, plus March 15, 20, and 28th More evidence that the 1970s can simply never be fully explained, this Brian De Palma retelling of the classic Phantom of the Opera story stars William Finley and Paul Williams.   FOX MOVIE CHANNEL Panic in the Streets (1950) March 5, 6:00 AM Zero Mostel and Jack Palance as two gunmen carrying a deadly virus around town. With Richard Widmark as the doctor who must stop them before they accidentally start a plague.   Three Came Home (1950) March 6, 6:00 AM Jean Negulesco film based on Agnes Newton Keith’s autobiography of her time as a Japanese war prisoner. Starring … Continue reading

Raiders of Ghost City #2: Flaming Treachery

The moment I started this chapter I knew I would love it, because its title is “Flaming Treachery.” As in treachery, an intangible yet powerful thing, which somehow caught the fuck on fire. Delicious. Raiders of Ghost City was produced by Universal in 1944, and is one of the last movie serials they ever did. Serials were falling out of favor, and the more popular television became, the less necessary (or wanted) weekly “shows” in the form of serials were. William Cline’s book In the Nick of Time lists Raiders as the last of the Desperado-type Western serials released by Universal, though Columbia, who had popularized them as far back as the 1930s, continued well into the 1950s. This was Dennis Moore’s first serial, however, and Cline notes that Moore was popular in serials and programmer Westerns precisely because of his bland demeanor; it was an asset, not a hindrance. For those of you playing the Raiders of Ghost City home game, the serial can be found on YouTube in an iffy (but free) print here. The VCI set is actually quite nice, restored and with the 13 chapters on two DVDs, so if you’re interested in owning this serial I can highly recommend the quality. I cannot necessarily recommend the quality of the acting, writing or fake beards, though this is better than Phantom Creeps thus far, and yes, that is both damning and faint praise. Last week on Raiders of Ghost City! Captain Steve “Bland” Clark (Dennis Moore) … Continue reading

Marie Prevost Project: Only Yesterday (1933)

For anyone interested in doing research using these posts, please read the note at the bottom of the post. Thank you. *** One of the most terrible yet fascinating facets of Marie Prevost’s Hollywood decline is how poorly she was treated in the latter days of her career. Precious little is available about what went on behind the scenes of her films, though one can hardly watch her performances from 1930 on and not realize there was a distinct hostility toward her. Her entrance into pre-Codes was the outre Party Girl (1930), an exploitation flick where her character was a ditzy, high-class prostitute, though savvy in her particular field, completely in control of her own body and career. That role was not a particularly huge step from her 1928 appearance in The Racket, both roles being women of the night, streetwise and desired, though her character is still given a respect in Racket that is noticeably absent in the midst of Party Girl’s exploitation antics. It’s impossible to see a strong female character in an exploitation flick as fully respectable, however, as silent star Mildred Davis in the execrable The Devil’s Sleep (1949) proves. She was hired solely as the butt of fat jokes, but Davis is so good-natured, funny, talented and completely unwilling to be humiliated that the jokes don’t work. Instead, her performance makes everyone seem like the rotten bastards they are, which undermines the entire concept of the film. Marie doesn’t quite achieve that sort of subversive … Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Mr. Benny!

Jack Benny February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974

Raiders of Ghost City #1: Murder By Accident

Welcome to SBBN’s new weekly movie serial, Raiders of Ghost City (1944). This fine matinee fare is brought to you by a generous contribution from SBBN partner in crime and official alibi Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. Thank you, Ivan! The plan, and there’s always a plan though it often doesn’t seem like it, is to post a chapter of Raiders of Ghost City every Thursday until someone bribes me to stop or we reach the final chapter, whichever comes first. Unlike The Phantom Creeps, this is not a serial I have seen before, so we’re all basically experiencing the amazing action-packed adventure at the same time, except for you weirdos who have seen Raiders already. But for the most part, when you read the cliffhanger at the end of the post, I won’t know how it’s resolved any more than you will.   On the off chance you want to follow along — and you might, because the first chapter of this is actually pretty good, as serials go — Raiders of Ghost City is on YouTube. This link should get you to a playlist with all the parts, but two people have uploaded it so if this disappears, another should be available.   Raiders of Ghost City is a Western set during the U.S. Civil War. Because it was produced by Universal, it shares some of the same crew as Phantom Creeps: Alvin Todd and Irving Birnbaum, editors; cinematographer William A Sickner; actor Monte … Continue reading

Bathing Beauty Days: Gloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson: Glamorous star of the cinema or victim of a horrible smear campaign designed to make her seem mortal, adorable and occasionally clad in a swimsuit, just like those harlot Sennett broads? Gloria Swanson clowning around with Phyllis Haver while on the set of The Pullman Bride (1917), absolutely not being a Bathing Beauty at all.   Gloria sulks while the Beauties yuk it up with Chester Conklin in The Pullman Bride.   Gloria Swanson’s career began when she was a teen and was given roles in a few slapstick shorts at Charlie Chaplin’s Essanay Studios. When she left Essanay, Gloria spent nearly a year out of films until hired by Keystone in 1916. She had worked with Wallace Beery at Essanay and again at Keystone, and they married in 1916 on her 17th birthday. The marriage did not last and was, by Swanson’s own account, a nightmare of abuse. Gloria and Mack Swain in The Pullman Bride; Chester looks on.   The Pullman Bride was Gloria’s final film with Keystone. She had been spotted by director Frank Borzage and cast in 1918 as the lead in his drama Society for Sale, co-starring William Desmond. Gloria always maintained she was not actually a Bathing Beauty, but rather a featured actress in Sennett comedies that also starred Bathing Beauties. More about her Bathing Beauty Days can be found at Anne Helen Petersen’s The Hairpin, which hilariously repeats the mistake that the photo of Marie Prevost on a boat helmed by … Continue reading

Elsewhere on the Internet: B-Rolls, Bergman and Bukowski

One of my goals for this year is to read more about art, film, literature, creative people, musicians, anyone fascinating. Instead of posting links only to my own content elsewhere on the web, I’d like to also share some of the more interesting articles I’ve found. I was going to call this feature Things I Read That You Might Like To Read, Plus Things I Write That You Might Also Like To Read, but when I tried it the Internet called and told me to cut it the hell out. The B-roll footage from Django Unchained. Contains a few naughty words, though the n-word is dubbed out. The featured video after this ends is most definitely NSFW though, and not safe in a way I thought meant YouTube would delete it, but there it is. *** From around the blogosphere: David Cairns’ short subject Cry for Bobo is premiering at the Glasgow Short Film Festival on Sunday, February 10. My BBFF Ivan announces that he has been made Associate Editor at ClassicFlix. Congrats, Ivan! shotonwhat? is the new Motion Picture & Television Technical Database, and it is amazing. Absolutely brilliant post by Jeremy at Moon in the Gutter on the underappreciated adult film director Radley Metzger and the recent restoration of his classic The Opening of Misty Beethoven. *** James Grissom’s blog Follies of God contains an astonishing amount of quotes and interviews from various actors, directors, playwrights, and more, all part of Grissom’s research for his upcoming book Follies … Continue reading

King Kong (1933)

This exhibition print by noted Hollywood still photographer Ernest Bachrach is the best King Kong promotional ever.   Another Bachrach exhibition print. Bachrach did a notable series of photos of Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s. During his time at RKO, he did a lovely set of close-up stills on Katharine Hepburn for Alice Adams, several of which can be seen here at the listings for a recent Profiles in History auction. A short blurb about retouching these photos can be found at The Katharine Hepburn Theatre.   Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray demonstrate the mechanism used to secure her inside the mechanical monkey’s grip during filming.   Fay’s tattered island couture.