Recommend a movie

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Deadline At Dawn - 1946 - 6/10

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Cockeyed murder mystery set in sleepless Gotham.
Sailor on shore leave wakes up with limited memory and a pocket stuffed with money.
Back tracing his steps, he discovers the corpse of the female who had earlier taken his payday.
Wait!  He also meets a dime-a-dance girl who reluctantly tries to help him.
He is greener than Kansas corn, she is big city bitter.  Will they hit it off?  C'mon.
Script by playwright Clifford Odets is peculiar is numerous ways.
Dialogue is arch and stilted throughout.  Characters employ erudite words and oddly constructed sentences.
The dance girl (a glowing Susan Hayward) is soon joined by a cabbie, then a slew of riders.
Characters who ought to disappear, squeeze tighter in the cab's back seat.  Numerous red herrings.
Fast paced mystery held my interest throughout, mostly for those odd details.

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Night Of The Cobra Woman - 1972 - 4/10

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Alert readers will note cobra and woman in title.
I safely predicted snakes, nudity, jungle magic, and budget limitations.
While the headlined star is the delicious Joy Bang, the film belongs to Marlene Clark.
After being bitten by a Fire Brand cobra, WWII nurse acquires immortality though the venom.
For reasons unexplained, she also drains manly wicks to remain youthful.
Decades later, a blonde researcher tries to meet the nurse, only she upsets the equilibrium.
That, and the arrival of her boyfriend, who gets the snake woman's juices flowing.
Plot makes little sense, editing us jumpy, but there are many breast shots.
For students of Serpentes, they appear in abundance.
Dumb film, fun in parts.  I watched to see Miss Bang.

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Les Châteaux de Sable - 2015 - 7/10
AKA - Sand Castles

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After Eléonore's father dies, she inherits his home in Brittany, which she decides to sell for the money.
She does not drive, so she asks ex-boyfriend, Samuel, to take her, and help her over the weekend.
Samuel's current girlfriend says she is OK with that arrangement, she trusts him.
Seasoned cinema watchers will recognize the plot of unresolved emotions.
And yet, this film is quite interesting.
Voiceover narrative weaves throughout, expressing character's histories and inner thoughts.
A third character is the real estate agent, more complex than her bubbling energy.
Then there is Eléonore's father, whom we see in flashbacks and in her own ghostly conversations.
Add a small parade of potential home buyers, good and bad, and the sum of parts add up to a excellent French drama.

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Bell From Hell - 1973 - 5/10
AKA - La Campana del Infierno

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Moody, Spanish film I have tried to like a couple of times without success.
Young male, released from asylum (criminal? mental?) roars off to family estate.
Now presided over by surviving aunt and her three daughters.
Did she loot his inheritance?  Was she responsible for his mother's death?
Was his mother crazy?  Did he inherit her instability?
A lot going on, to be sure. and hard to fathom for this observer.
Every copy I have watched is horribly dubbed, dialogue muffled beyond belief.
The visuals are dark and blurry, indicating nth generation copy.
Imaginative touches help, but not enough, and film becomes a bore.

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Death Of A Scoundrel - 1956 - 7/10

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George Sanders memorable as smooth talking con-man, cad, swindler.
Penniless Czech refugee arrives in US (after betraying his brother to authorities).
By smooth talk, and eavesdropping, he marshals information into modest wealth.
Then he fortunes hunts widows and unhappy wives.
Lovely rags to riches fable, marvelously upended by Sanders' unrepentant heel.
Cynical film also has Sanders' brother (Tom Conway) and ex-wife #2, Zsa Zsa.

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Forbidden Siren - 2006 - 6/10
AKA - Sairen / サイレン

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One of those J-horror films from their last great cycle that included Ringu, Juon, Kairo, Dark Water, several others.
Unfortunately, this is not at the same level, though the first two thirds of the film hold promise.
A writer (teacher?), his daughter and troubled son arrive at the remote Japanese island of Yamijima.
The inhabitants are a taciturn, dour lot, and the isle is a mix of superstition and leftover WWII Americana.
Island Yami also has a sinister history.
Villagers have rules, the main two being - do not venture out at night, and - NEVER outside when the sirens wail.
Will our newcomers obey those rules?
The opening is atmospheric, and an uncanny strangeness is compelling.
Excellent sound design of music, and the wind moaning and shrieking through the metal towers.
No "dead wet girls" which was a point for me.
Other viewers loved the ending - I thought it sputtered.
"Dogs will become gods - Live will become evil."

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Messiah Of Evil - 1973 - 6/10
AKA - Night Of The Damned

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Inventive B-horror, that boasts surprising visual style and unexpected plot turns.
Daughter (and friends) try to track down her missing father, an artist.
Last known residence, his stylish home in a remote coastal town.
The burg seems somnambulant, sites and places are often empty.
When buildings do fill up, citizens are listless.  For a while.
Good "deserted village" film, and worth a watch if it shows up late night.
I forget who the director was, this was his best directorial effort.  (His directing ended with Howard The Duck.)
Sadly, Joy Bang's last film to date.

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The Velvet Vampire - 1970 - 6/10

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One man's poison ...  Elsewhere, a reviewer (and Corman fanatic) dismissed this as one of Roger's WORST films.
Making it must-see for me.  I watched and was mesmerized.
Young couple at art gallery (the Stoker Gallery) meet the alluring Diane (LeFanu).
They accept her invitation to visit her Mojave Desert ranch.
The high desert is in the middle of nowhere, diversions include seductions and death.
Interesting locations, imaginative dream sequences (image above, Diane emerging from mirror into desert), hypnotic music, nudity, and references for horror insiders.
Although lumped into the "lesbian vampire" genre, it is not as smutty as Franco, and lacks the brio of Rollin.
If anything, this reminds me of the swinging, swappin' films of Radley Metzger (Score, Lickerish Quarter), reworked into surreal horror.
Unfortunately, Velvet Vampire bears the limitations of Corman's all too typical hasty production.
An audio commentary by Celeste Yarnall is entertaining, talking about Corman, Elvis, Star Trek, and the vagaries of fate and fame.

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Dokument:  Unterwasser Festung R'lyeh - 2047 - 8/10
AKA - Document: Underwater Fortress R'lyeh

Tantalizing what-if footnote in World War II history.
Between October and December 1944, the HMS Helford, frigate in the South Pacific, discovered wreckage of a German submarine, U-603.
To this day, anything related to the incident remains classified by the Admiralty.
Such as, what was a British frigate doing in the South Pacific?  Aside from its commander (Charles George Cuthbertson), nothing is known of HMS Helford.

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Fortunately, recently unearthed materials near Wewelsburg Castle provide a glimpse into the German side of the mystery.
U-603, reported missing in February 1944, had been sent midway between New Zealand and the southern tip of South America.
Aside from crew and Kapitän Hans-Joachim Bertelsmann, there were two scientists, an anthropologist, an archaeologist, a linguist, and Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, reported to have been assassinated in 1942.
By 1944, the war was going badly for Germany, but this unit was following clues written by a reclusive Rhode Island scholar.  Supposedly, there were undersea ruins and a force of unspeakable power at the coordinates 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W.
In the vast nowhere of the South Pacific, the area was known as R'lyeh.

Apparently, U-603 found the ruins, titanic in scale.  A yawning entrance, equally immense, appeared to descend.
According to the dive team, within the structures were compartments, inexplicably dry.
That, and there was "something."

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The final transmission from the u-boat indicated that Heydrich and specialists were going into the ruins, with the intent of subduing and controlling the "something" that had been found.
At that point, the documentary sidesteps into a trove of speculation, theories and nonsensical, Cassandra like warnings that become ludicrously far-fetched.  And tiresome.
This is packed with newsreel footage, maps, vintage radio messages, superb drawings, a few reenactments, and a gallery of talking heads.
The first 3/4 of this is outstanding.  The final twenty minutes were, frankly, preposterous.
I docked my score a point for that.  That said, I added a point for the sheer incongruity in the producers choice of narrator:  Robin Leach.
A sample of the prose, delivered in his over the top voice,  "... deeper into the ghastly, gargantuan chapel of grotesqueries and grim menace ..."  or  "... as a coruscating crescendo splashed flames into minds shattered by the crepuscular crypt poised over the chasm of ..."
Pure lunacy, and a must-see documentary!

 

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The Garden Murder Case - 1935 - 6/10

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Philo Vance mystery finds our sleuth sniffing amongst the well heeled set.
(Well, how much money is to be made helping poor folks?)
Steeplechase jockey murmurs repeatedly that he will die in his next race.
And so he does!
More deaths follow, with a gold-digging niece the obvious suspect.
Luckily, she's been making damsel eyes at old Philo, a known thorn to police types.
Breezy, a bit boring, dulled by indifferent chemistry between our leads.

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Tante Zita - 1968 - 6/10

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Aunt Zita is a survivor of the Spanish Civil War, giving piano lessons in Paris.
She collapses from a stroke, and family and nurses soon watch her struggle.
One who is especially anxious is the niece, Annie, earnest college student, with limited Life experience.
This gradually becomes her story, and the wondrous night she has when she leaves to clear her head.
Snapshot of late 60s Paris nightlife fuels the film from here on.
Nightclubs, music, various men, romance - the promise of romance, a stray goat, police, fashion models.
Her world slides into dream territory, tugging viewers along with her

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The Leisure Seeker - 2018 - 6/10

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Aged couple embark on a road trip, probably their final one.
The husband is clearly succumbing to Alzheimer's while his wife pops meds like candy.
He had been a college professor in Boston, their trip is to Key West, home of his touchstone, Hemingway.
Yes, there are small adventures, encounters, revelations along the way.
The story itself is of how they react to the presence of the final curtain.
Sutherland's character lingers in a fogged world, Mirren resents that the man she fell in love with has been stolen away by the disease.
Darkness tinges the proceedings, but one recognizes the feel-good tone of the whole.

I had relatives who did this, traveled huge swathes of the globe in their pickup camper.
Time passed, however.  They grew old, and destinations remote and nearby, became more challenging.
They stored decades of memories in boxes and boxes of slides.
Gone now.  The traveling pair, the slides, their possessions, a lifetime of memory.

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Nightmare Detective - 2006 - 6/10
AKA - Akumu Tantei // 悪夢探偵

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Kagenuma has the "gift" or curse of being able to enter into client's dreams - or nightmares.
Police detective Kirishima seeks his assistance with a string of violent suicides, that she believes are murders.
Alright premise, although the leads are depressed downers, lack chemistry, lack screen presence.
Yes, there are ongoing killings of a supernatural origin.
Film makers render this with rapid camera movement and tossing stuff around the set.
Colour has been heavily desaturated to heighten the gloomy ambiance.
Bearable for awhile, becomes monotonous, finally another cure for insomnia.

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Rich Hall's California Stars - 2014 - 6/10

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Scattershot history of the Golden State, named after a mythological Amazon queen.
Proceedings are hit n miss, though Hall avoids obvious fruit fly jokes or easy targets.
Instead, he gets right down to ridiculing fevered fortune hunters who flocked to California during the Gold Rush, then skewers robber barons who enriched themselves with the Central Pacific, and this bodes well.
To my mind, he spends way too much time on the Okie migration, possibly because this reinforces his Southwestern shtick.  The flow and pace seem to puddle at this point.
The first third is mercilessly funny.  Front loaded with acid jokes.  His withering comments of the witless Occupy Movement is laugh out loud funny.
The middle third chugs to amused entertainment.
Runs outta gas by the last act.  Hall yaks on and on, the humor evaporates.
I watch and wish it was better.  Too bad.

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Der Mann, Der Sherlock Holmes War - 1937 - 6/10
AKA - The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes

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Two men halt, then climb aboard the midnight train.
One carries a violin case and smokes a pipe, the other seems a medical man.
The conductor and guards immediately jump to the conclusion,  "This is Sherlock Holmes!"
Not necessarily, though the pair exploit the misassumptions constantly.
They are sucked into a "Russian Dolls" mystery within mystery within mystery.
Brisk comedy, thriller is quite fun, and despite being a Reichsfilme, strikes me as propaganda free.

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Un Coeur En Hiver - 1992 - 7/10
AKA - A Heart In Winter

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Two men run a classical instrument restoration business.
One is the suave, well-connected owner, the other is the technical genius.
The owner is smitten with a brilliant, beautiful violinist, but her curiosity is aroused by his austere partner.
Not really a ménage à trois, this story is more attraction - infatuation - obsession.
The tone is chilly throughout, most of the characters are reserved or repressed.
Ravel's music is an emotional counterpoint in a story where characters alternately pursue and shun each other.

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Female Ninjas: In Bed With The Enemy - 1976 - 5/10
AKA - Kunoichi Ninpo: Kannon Biraki  //  くノ一忍法 観音開き

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The passionate embrace, face to face.
Until!  The bandit realizes she is a female ninja, and he is caught in the technique known as octopus pot!
As she tightens, will he confess what he knows?  How much pain can he endure?  Will she leave him with a nub?
Back up.  A shipment of the king's gold has been stolen, and the prime minister deploys a trio of female ninjas.
Swordplay here and there.  Nudity makes up 50% of the film.
Oh, there's a wandering scholar, as well.
The plot ... I think it's ... I kept getting distracted.

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Poulet au Vinaigre - 1985 - 6/10
AKA - Chicken With Vinegar // Cop au Vin

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A trio of scoundrels try to fleece Ma and son out of their derelict homestead.
They are secretive, but the son is a mail carrier and he routinely opens their correspondence.
He is also aided by his postal colleague (an enticing Pauline Lafont as rich cheesecake).
The youth is soon out of his depth with the older males.
His silky colleague soon leads him around by his belt buckle.
And after the first murder, the police inspector takes no nonsense from him.
Odd, light-hearted mystery wanders out of category throughout

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Adolf Hitler The Itinerary - 2018 - 5/10

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Slap dash, two part series of der Führer.
The author has gone to great pains to correct numerous errors which, he declares, have crept into histories and biographies.
First fifteen minutes are somewhat interesting, showing Hitler's childhood, youth, student years, and starving artist period in Vienna.
Then events unroll rapidly.  World War I service, party building, the failed putsch, chancellor, war, end.
The final ten minutes also interesting, focus on what happened to the "body" in the years afterward.
Better WWII, Hitler, or Nazi docs out there.

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Lelíček ve Službách Sherlocka Holmese - 1932 - 6/10
AKA - Lelíček In Sherlock Holmes' Service

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The great detectrive agrees to find a double for an endangered monarch.
The king of Puerto Rico.
He finds a suitable candidate in Prague, persuades him, and they catch the train to Puerto Rico.
Bear with me.
Turns out the king, an anxious milquetoast, has reasons to be concerned with assassination.
Anarchists are easy to recognize as their garb is a cross between pirate and gypsy and Zorro.
Once the pair reach Puerto Rico, the kingdom is recognized instantly.
This is not the Caribbean, this is Freedonia!

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There is no Zeppo, but there are songs in this creaky comic gem from Czechoslovakia.
The double is a handful for Holmes, though the love starved queen knows a thing about scepters.

Note:  English subs can be difficult to locate for this.  The one set I found had some issues.
I fixed timestamps, clarified dialogue, and a few other tweaks.
http://www.addic7ed.com/movie/140729

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