Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stubs - He Ran All the Way

He Ran All The Way (1951) Starring: John Garfield, Shelley Winters, Wallace Ford, Selena Royle, Gladys George, Norman Lloyd. Directed by John Berry. Screenplay by Hugo Butler, Dalton Trumbo. Based on the novel He Ran All the Way by Sam Ross (New York, 1947). Produced by Bob Roberts. Run Time: 78 minutes. USA Black and White. Drama, Film Noir

The early 1950s were a turbulent time in Hollywood. Blacklisting for your political affiliations real or presumed had been going on since November 25, 1947 when ten writers and directors were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Hollywood Ten, which included Alvah Bessie, screenwriter; Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director; Lester Cole, screenwriter; Edward Dmytryk, director; Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter; John Howard Lawson, screenwriter; Albert Maltz, screenwriter; Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter;  Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter; and Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter, were summarily fired by their studios on advice from the Association of Motion Picture Producers, now called the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers or AMPTP.

Now being blacklisted and not working in Hollywood were two different things. Take Dalton Trumbo as an example. Using pseudonyms and other writers as fronts, Trumbo would work on such films as Gun Crazy, 1950 (co-writer, front: Millard Kaufman); He Ran All the Way, 1951 (co-writer, front: Guy Endore); The Prowler, 1951 (uncredited with Hugo Butler); Roman Holiday, 1953 (front: Ian McLellan Hunter); They Were So Young 1954, (under pseudonym Felix Lutzkendorf); The Boss, 1956 (front: Ben L. Perry); The Brave One, 1956 (under pseudonym Robert Rich); The Green-Eyed Blonde, 1957 (front: Sally Stubblefield); From the Earth to the Moon, 1958 (co-writer, front: James Leicester); and Cowboy, 1958 (front: Edmund H. North), before receiving screen credit again under his own name with Spartacus (1960) thanks to the star and producer of the film, Kirk Douglas.

But Trumbo was not the only involved with this film that was being blacklisted. The film’s star John Garfield was also being caught up in the Red Scare. When called before HUAAC, he not only refused to name names, but went so far as to say that he didn’t know of any communist party members in Hollywood. As a result of his testimony, Garfield was blacklisted in the early 1950s and He Ran All the Way would turn out to be his last film. He did return to Broadway in Golden Boy (1952), but also died that year from Coronary thrombosis at the age of 39.

Sam Ross’ novel He Ran All the Way was originally bought by Liberty Films in 1947 as a vehicle for director George Stevens. In 1950, Bob Roberts of Roberts Productions, Inc. bought the property from Liberty. The Production Code Office, or as it was known by then as the Breen Office, objected to much of the violence in the original script and alterations were made accordingly. Rather than having a policeman killed in the opening, he is rather mortally wounded.

Prior to the making of He Ran All the Way, Shelley Winters was under contract to Universal to make a low budget turn-of-the-century drama about the legendary World's Fair belly dancer named Little Egypt (1951). But Winters was so anxious to start work on Berry's film that she concocted a plan to get herself fired, gaining enough weight to make herself look particularly unappealing. The ruse worked and after she was fired, Winters went on a crash diet, losing fifteen pounds in a week right before He Ran All the Way went into production.

And as if Garfield didn’t have enough to contend with, a few months before the film went into production he suffered a severe heart attack at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. But despite the risks to his own health, Garfield insisted on doing his own stunts during the filming, including underwater swimming.

The film went into production on November 6, 1950 at the Motion Picture Center Studios, now known as Red Studios Hollywood. Location shooting took place at the Long Beach Plunge public swimming pool and Nu-Pike, formerly known as The Pike, a mile-long waterfront amusement park also located in Long Beach. (The Plunge would close in 1941 and the Nu-Pike in 1979.) Production would conclude in mid-December with the film going into release on July 13, 1951.

When the story opens, Nick Robey (John Garfield) lives at home with his mother (Gladys George).

Even though he has premonitions that he will forever be on the run for murder, Nick Robey (John Garfield) allows himself to get talked into committing a robbery by his disreputable friend, Al Molin (Norman Lloyd). The two men hold up a man for the local train yard warehouse’s payroll, but when they make their getaway, Al is killed by a policeman and Nick is forced to shoot a policeman so he can make his own escape.

Norman Lloyd (l) plays Al Molin, Nick's partner in crime.

Once out on his own, Nick tries to hide out in a public swimming pool to avoid detection by the police. There he makes the acquaintance of Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters), a nervous beginning swimmer. Nervous that he’ll be conspicuous on his own, Nick tries to help her. When the lesson is over, Nick offers to take Peg home. 
Flattered by his attention, Peg agrees and she lets him take her back to her family’s tenement apartment.

While running from the police, Nick takes refuge at a public swimmnig pool and befriends
Peg Dobbs (Shelley Winters), whom he helps learn to swim.

There, she introduces Nick to her father (Wallace Ford), mother (Selena Royle) and younger brother Tommy (Bobby Hyatt), who are on their way to see a movie. Left alone in the apartment, Nick is uneasy and even though Peg urges him to relax, he can’t. Nick finally breaks down and tells her that he is in big trouble.
When her parents return home, Nick is suspicious that they are talking to the police about him. Even though Peg tries to tell him that they’re talking down on the street with neighbors, there is no really talking to Nick. Convinced that they’re on to his real identity, he pulls a gun on Peg and admits to her that he’s a killer to her and her family.

Mr. Dobbs, a newspaper press operator, says that the paper only identified Molin in the article. But that isn’t enough for Nick. Even though he says he does not want to hurt anyone, Nick decides he must spend the night so he can collect his thoughts and plan his next move. He promises that he’ll be leaving in the morning.
However, when the morning paper arrives, it features a prominent photo of Nick on the front page. Mr. Dobbs tries to hide it from him, but Nick spies it and, thinking that he has caught the family in a conspiracy against him, decides he must stay.

Nick takes out his suspicions on Peg's father (Wallace Ford) while her mother (Selena Royle) watches. 

While he allows the family to continue their daily routine, he insists he keep one family member with him at all times, which usually means Mrs. Dobbs. While on lunch break from her bakery job, Peg returns to the apartment to plead with Nick to leave. She reminds him that he liked her at the pool, but Nick informs her the situation he was in at the time was the only reason he took interest in her.

When Peg returns to the bakery, her father comes to visit her. He demands that she hide out at a girl friend's house for the night and not come home.

One of her co-workers on the assembly line suggests that Peg shed her shyness and that, with some primping, she could get a man to do anything for her.

Peg takes advice from one of her co-workers at the bakery, Marge (Vici Raaf).

While he is at home with Mrs. Dobbs, an argument starts when Nick tells her that Peg thinks fondly of him. Distracted, Mrs. Dobbs has a sewing accident, getting her hand caught, and faints. After freeing her, Nick carries her to the couch.

Nick helps Mrs. Dobbs free herself when she has an accident while sewing.

When Mr. Dobbs returns home, he finds Tommy hiding outside the apartment afraid to go in the apartment because of Nick. They enter the apartment together and Nick gathers the family for a feast he has provided. Mr. Dobbs, however, refuses to allow his family to eat Nick’s food. Nick pulls out his gun and orders them to eat, but Mr. Dobbs calls his bluff, saying a gunshot would attract too much attention. Accepting the challenge, Nick fires his gun. When no one calls the police, Mr. Dobbs backs down. But it’s too late for Nick. With his banquet now spoiled, Nick rebukes the family for not willingly giving him temporary shelter, "something you would give an alley cat."

Mr. and Mrs. Dobbs  and Tommy ((Bobby Hyatt) refuse to eat the feast that Nick has provided.

Even though her father had told her not to, Peg does return home late in the night. She is wearing an evening gown and her womanly figure catches Nick's eye. He comes onto her, kisses her and asks for her support, to which Peg replies "all the way." Later that night, while the others are asleep, Mr. Dobbs inspects the living room and finds Peg's gown draped across the chair. He assumes the worst has happened: sex.

The next morning, while Mrs. Dobbs and Tommy are at church, Nick asks Mr. Dobbs what he wants out of life. Mr. Dobbs turns the question around on him, to which Nick answers "money." He then informs Mr. Dobbs that Peg is out buying a car for him. Tensions between the two men escalate and a fight ensues. Only Peg’s return breaks it up.

When Nick asks about the car, Peg informs him that it will be delivered later that evening after some work is completed on it. Mr. Dobbs manages to leave.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Dobbs and Tommy report to the police that Nick is hiding at their apartment.

Nick, now paranoid, demands to know the kind of car Peg has bought and to see the receipt. She describes a yellow convertible that he wanted her to buy, but when she cannot produce the receipt, Nick pulls a gun on her and drags her, at gunpoint, down the stairs to the lobby, all the way hysterically accusing her of double-crossing him.

Nick doesn't seem to trust that Peg has done as ordered and bought him a car.

Once they reach the lobby, Mr. Dobbs is waiting outside and fires several shots into the foyer. Nick drops his gun near Peg and leaps for cover to the other side of the foyer. Nick orders her to pick up the gun. When she does, Nick lurches forward to take it from her, but she shoots him, fatally wounding him.

Nick manages to stumble outside, just as the convertible is delivered and parked at the curb. Staring into its headlights, Nick dies. Meanwhile, Mr. Dobbs holds his traumatized daughter to his side.

Nick dies in the gutter, only then realizing the car Peg purchased has arrived.

This is not a feel-good film either, so don’t expect to come away with a smile on your face. The world in which the Dobbs live is no picnic to begin with, as they struggle to make ends meet. Add to that an armed cop-killer keeping them hostage and the days only get longer.

The film drew praise for Garfield’s performance. Bosley Crowther, the film critic of the New York Times, wrote "John Garfield's stark performance of the fugitive who desperately contrives to save himself briefly from capture is full of startling glints from start to end. He makes a most odd and troubled creature, unused to the normal flow of life, unable to perceive the moral standards of decent people or the tentative advance of a good girl's love. And in Mr. Garfield's performance, vis-a-vis the rest of the cast, is conveyed a small measure of the irony and the pity that was in the book."

The marriage of actor and role was rarely better than John Garfield and Nick Robey. While Nick was being persecuted for murdering a policeman, Garfield had to feel the same way about his own career as he was feeling the heat for his testimony at the HUAAC hearing. The sense of paranoia Garfield must have been feeling was channeled into his portrayal of Nick. While not necessarily the most enjoyable film he had been in, his acting was never better.

While there are other characters in the movie, they are minor in comparison to Nick and Peg. The story revolves around their relationship. While there is an attraction on both sides, Peg is the key. The script and director John Berry do a good job at making her look ambiguous about it. There are other fine performances in the film, but it does boil down to Garfield and Winters as most of the film is spent with them acting with each other.

Shelley Winters has the unenviable task of playing Peg in this neutral way. As an audience member, we’re never really sure if Peg was really in love with Nick or just playing him to protect her family. The arrival of the car doesn’t necessarily change that either. Even the fact that she shoots him doesn’t really answer that either. Love is a powerful emotion and many a lover shoots their partner when that love goes sour; and nothing says the relationship has gone sour more than when Nick pulls a gun on her.

While Garfield is remembered as one of the greats, Winters doesn’t get the credit she deserves. Too many people only remember her later in her career, when she was overweight in such films as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), even though she would receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her part, that seemed to be as much about her past work as it did her work in that film.

Shelley Winters began her career in the films playing blonde bombshells.

Originally a blonde bombshell type of actress, Winters soon tired of those types of roles. She purposefully sought out the role of Alice Tripp in A Place in the Sun (1951). She had to convince director George Stevens that she could play the very unglamorous role. She also showed she could act, receiving a nomination for the Academy Award as Best Actress in a Leading Role. She would win the award for Best Supporting Actress twice, once for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and A Patch of Blue (1965). Her role in this film is more of a continuation in Winters’ exploration of non-glamorous roles. In part similar to the one she played in A Place in the Sun, her character works on an assembly-line at a bakery.

For a film noir, most of the story takes place in the Dobbs’ apartment. The main action in the film does seem to take place at night, which seems to fit in with the genre. The film is more psychological than anything else, which again is not unusual for a film noir. But unlike many other film noirs, there is not a lot of action outside the beginning and ending of the film nor detective work involved. The film makes up for this by two fine performances by the lead actors. Even though you won’t come out of the theater or your living room with a smile on your face, this is still a movie worth watching.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Stubs - One Mysterious Night

One Mysterious Night (1944) Starring: Chester Morris, Janis Carter, William Wright, Richard Lane, George E. Stone, Robert Williams, Robert E. Scott, Dorothy Malone (aka Dorothy Maloney). Directed by Oscar Boetticher Jr. Screenplay by Paul Yawitz Based on the character created by Jack Boyle. Produced by Ted Richmond. Run Time: 62 minutes. USA Drama, Mystery

Boston Blackie is the brainchild of Jack Boyle. A former newspaper reporter, Boyle became an opium addict and was later jailed for writing bad checks before being convicted of robbery. While spending time in San Quentin, Boyle created the character of Blackie, a jewel thief and safecracker. Under the nom de plume “No. 6066” Boyle published his first story, “The Price of Principle," in The American Magazine in July 1914. Blackie’s adventures would continue in short story form, appearing in such publications as American, The Red Book, The Strand Magazine and Cosmopolitan until December 1920.

Hollywood began making films based on the character in 1918 with Boston Blackie's Little Pal starring Bert Lytell. Some of the films made were based on some of Boyle’s short stories, like The Silk Lined Burglar (1919) based on "Miss Doris, Safe-Cracker," and Blackie's Redemption (1919) based on “Boston Blackie's Mary" and "Fred the Count". A few used the character of Boston Blackie, even if he was not the lead role in the film, such as William S. Hart’s The Poppy Girl's Husband (1919); while Boomerang Bill (1922) doesn’t even have Boston Blackie as a character in it. The last of the early Boston Blackie films was The Return of Boston Blackie (1927). By then, nine different actors had played the character, perhaps the most famous amongst them was 
Lionel Barrymore in A Face in the Fog (1922).

Columbia Pictures revived the character with Meet Boston Blackie (1941), starring Chester Morris in the title role. Like most actors in Hollywood, Morris developed his craft on the stage, appearing on Broadway as far back as the 1918 production Copperhead at the Schubert Theater in New York. By then he had appeared in one film, An Amateur Orphan (1917). Throughout the 1920s, he would appear on both the Broadway stage and in films until Alibi (1929). In his first starring role, Morris was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, losing to Warner Baxter for his role as The Cisco Kid in the film In Old Arizona. Alibi would also receive nominations for Best Picture, losing to The Broadway Melody, and for William Cameron Menzies’ work as Best Interior Design, losing to Cedric Gibbons’ work on The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

Morris was a busy actor in the 1930s, appearing in such film as The Big House (1930) and Red-Headed Woman (1932), but by the mid-decade, his popularity had waned and he was appearing in B-movies like Smashing the Rackets (1938) and Five Came Back (1939).

Playing Boston Blackie revived Morris’ career. From 1941 to 1949, he would appear in fourteen films in the series, after which he virtually retired from films, though he would appear in the 1950s and in The Great White Hope (1970). He concentrated on television work after the series ended, but usually in guest star roles.

One Mysterious Night was the seventh in the series and marks the directorial debut of Oscar “Bud” Boetticher, Jr. Boetticher would be best remembered for the B-Westerns he made with Randolph Scott in the late 1950s, including Seven Men from Now (1956), The Tall T (1957) and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958).

The film was shot over two weeks between May 31 and June 13, 1944, and released on September 19, 1944.

The film opens with the world famous Blue Star of the Nile diamond, on exhibit to help raise funds, being stolen despite a heavy police presence at the Carleton Plaza Hotel. William Wright (Paul Martens) and Robert Williams (Matt Healy) create a disturbance and when it’s cleared up, the diamond is gone.

When pressed, Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) tells reporters that it is the work of reformed jewel thief Boston Blackie (Chester Morris). Of course, Blackie had nothing to do with it, as he has turned to legitimate business. In fact, it is while he is in a meeting at his friend Arthur Manleder's (Harrison Greene) tool factory that his sidekick, The Runt (George E. Stone), shows him the accusatory headline in the paper.

Boston Blackie (Chester Morris) with The Runt (George E
Stone) go to confront Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane).

Blackie goes to the police station to confront Farraday, who apologizes for the rouse but explains that planting the story was the only way to get Blackie to come to his office. Farraday needs Blackie’s help and deputizes him to recover the stolen diamond. Blackie agrees as long as he can go about it his way.

Blackie returns to the scene of the crime disguised as Professor Hunter.

In disguise as an elderly Professor Hunter, Blackie visits the jewel exhibit firsthand. Feeling around, he discovers a wad of chewing gum stuck underneath one of the display cases. When he learns that George Daley (Robert E. Scott), the hotel’s general manager, is in charge of the exhibit. He first calls Daley’s office and his sister Eileen (Dorothy Maloney), who also works at the hotel as a phone operator, answers the call. She’s been suspicious since unknown men have been calling her brother. She doesn’t know where her brother is, but tells Blackie that he can wait for him in his office. She then intercepts him in the office and, seeing that he’s an older man, feels comfortable leaving him alone in her brother’s office.

Reporter Dorothy Anderson (Janis Carter) turns in Blackie to the police.

Unbeknownst to her, Blackie has already been searching the office and finds a pack of chewing gum in Daley’s desk. When he later goes downstairs to the hotel’s newsstand to ask about Daley’s gum chewing, the woman behind the counter (Ann Loos) tells him that Daley chews a lot of gum. While he’s standing there, a reporter, Dorothy Anderson (Janis Carter), sees through Blackie’s disguises and turns him into the police.

Blackie is questioned by reporters after being arrested.

Back at headquarters, after being questioned by the press, Blackie tells Farraday he’ll have to tell the press that Blackie escaped and then returns to the hotel. This time, with The Runt’s help, they pose as repairmen from the phone company. When Eileen isn’t there, Blackie convinces one of the operators that she and he are an item to get her address.

Blackie returns again, this time as a telephone company repairman.

Meanwhile, back at the apartment Eileen and George share, George refuses to answer any of her questions and instead goes into her room and through her dresser. In the drawer, he takes out one of her purses. In one of her pockets, he’s hidden the Blue Star.

Blackie convinces one of Eileen's co-workers to give him her address.

Later, when Eileen decides to leave, she switches out her purses, taking the one from the drawer. But before she leaves, Blackie rings the doorbell. Once inside the apartment, he accuses George of being involved in the robbery. George denies it, of course, and Blackie leaves. When he does, Eileen decides to follow him. After she’s gone, George realizes that she’s taken the purse with the diamond in it.

Blackie visits George ( Robert E. Scott) and his sister Eileen (Dorothy Malone) about the robbery.

But Wright and Williams show up at the apartment and demand the gem. When George confesses that Eileen has it with her, they give him until later that night to obtain it.

Eileen, meanwhile, has followed Blackie to a Chinese restaurant. There, he shows her the wads of gum and explains his theory about how her brother stole the diamond and hid it in the room. The Runt informs Blackie that the reporter Dorothy is outside the restaurant. Blackie tells Eileen that he’ll see her later that night and then escapes out the back door.

When Dorothy enters, she almost immediately follows Eileen into the powder room. There, using the rouse that she has something in her eye, Dorothy gets Eileen to help her. And while her attention is taken, Dorothy swaps her black purse for Eileen’s very similar looking black purse. Dorothy’s goal is to discover Eileen's name and address.

Upon Eileen’s return to the apartment, George grabs her purse and is very disappointed to find the diamond missing and that she has the wrong bag. But soon after, Dorothy comes to the door to return Eileen’s purse. Soon after she leaves, Eileen discovers the diamond and insists that George meet Blackie that night to give it back.

Later, when George tries to give it back to Blackie, Williams and Wright show up and demand the diamond at gunpoint. Dorothy, who happens to see the confrontation, goes nearby to use a payphone and call the police. But before they arrive, in the ensuing struggle, George is shot and killed. Wright forces Blackie and The Runt into his car and speeds away.

Based on Dorothy’s eyewitness testimony, Blackie is charged with George’s murder. To ensure that the police continue to believe that, Wright takes Blackie and The Runt prisoner. In an effort to buy some time, Blackie tries to convince them that the diamond is a fake and that the real diamond is locked away in the hotel’s safe.

Wright and Williams decide to have the gem examined by Jumbo Madigan (Joseph Crehan), the owner of a
pawn shop. In order to keep Blackie and The Runt from escaping, they are tied upside down to the bottom of a Murphy bed. When they’re left alone, the two manage to escape their ropes and Blackie telephones Farraday with an update. He directs him to Madigan’s shop.

But Wright and Williams are already there and Madigan is examining it when the bell at the back of the door rings. Blackie acts like a delivery boy to get Madigan outside and then tells him to claim the diamond is fake and stall the robbers until the police can arrive.

When they hear the police sirens, Wright and Williams try to take Madigan hostage. But when he fights back, they shoot him. When the police enter the shop, the two gunmen pretend to be a pair of mannequins to fit in with others that are in the shop. They continue to pretend while two fairly dimwitted policemen stay with Madigan until the ambulance arrives.

Once the police leave, Wright and Williams also leave, returning back to the apartment where they had left Blackie and The Runt tied up. Blackie offers to get the real gem back, but Wright and Williams insist on keeping Runt as collateral.

Blackie returns to police headquarters and gives the diamond to Farraday, who orders his assistant, Matthews (Lyle Latell), to organize a police dragnet around the crooks’ hiding place while he and Blackie go in. But the two crooks aren’t fooled so easily and take Farraday and Blackie hostage and they tie them up. Wright and Williams try to escape out the back door. They even go so far as to set the apartment on fire trying to create a diversion to aid their escape.

The police notice the fire and break in and rescue them. Blackie captures Williams and Wright and Farraday apologizes for misjudging him. Dorothy, ever the reporter, takes their photograph for her paper. Blackie ends up chasing after her and the Runt after him.

While not a great actor, Chester Morris seems very comfortable in the role. It’s one of those blends of actors and roles that makes it difficult to imagine anyone else in the part. There was a short-lived ZIV syndicated series, The Adventures of Boston Blackie, which ran for two seasons in 1951. Kent Taylor played Blackie in that series, but I don’t think many people would think of him as the definitive Boston Blackie, that is if anyone thinks of Boston Blackie at all.

The movie plays more like an hour-long TV drama. With regulars like Morris, George E. Stone and Richard Lane playing against this episode's guest stars, Robert E. Scott, Dorothy Malone and Janis Carter.

The plot is fairly straight-forward despite the attempts at having plot twists. The use of chewed gum is both clever and a little gross at the same time. The police from the Inspector on down to the beat cop are shown to be incompetent, which is nothing new for these types of films. If they were better at their jobs, they wouldn’t need an ex-con like Blackie to come in and save the day for them. There is little or no fat on this bone of a story, though the murder of George is sort of passed over as a plot point and his sister, Eileen, is unceremoniously dropped as well.

It was actually the actress playing Eileen, an uncredited Dorothy Malone, under the name of Dorothy Maloney that caught my eye and kept me watching. Dorothy Malone began her film career at 18 at RKO and her first appearance was Gildersleeve on Broadway (1943). She would spend most of her film career in supporting roles in B-movies, many of them Westerns. Perhaps one of her most notable film roles was as the pretty and brainy Acme Bookstore proprietress in The Big Sleep (1946) in which she shares a bottle of Rye with Humphrey Bogart while he waits for Geiger to show.

She would later shed her good-girl image and become a platinum blonde in Douglas Sirk’s Written in the Wind (1956), in which she plays Marylee Hadley, the nymphomaniac daughter of a Texas oil baron. For the role, Malone would win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Malone would later star as Constance Mackenzie Carson in 342 episodes of TV’s Peyton Place. Her presence in this film didn’t really have much impact, as Eileen is little more than a throwaway character.

The fact that George and Eileen are portrayed as brother and sister, rather than husband and wife, suggests there may have been something left unexplored about the story. There is little in their give and take that wouldn't have worked as spouses rather than siblings. Not sure why this difference was necessary otherwise to the story. It might have made sense if Eileen was supposed to be a love interest for Blackie, but she's not.

The main love interest, if there is one, is Janis Carter, who plays Dorothy Anderson, a reporter for one of the many daily papers in the city. She’s good, but ultimately forgettable in the role. While she would appear in a couple of movies in the Whistler series, The Mark of the Whistler (1944) and The Power of the Whistler (1945), she may be best remembered for roles in Night Editor (1946), I Love Trouble (1946) and Flying Leathernecks (1951).

While it is not too involving, One Mysterious Night is still a well-made mystery film. But it is one of those films that you’ll like while you watch, but don’t expect for it to stay with you very long after you’re done watching it. Fun, but forgettable by the light of day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Special Announcement - From the Writers of Trophy Unlocked

To readers of Trophy Unlocked,

We're glad that you are visiting our blog site and hope that you find the reviews here balanced, educational and informative.

The writers of this blog would like to make you aware of another project that we've been working on for the past several years, a comic book called Powers Squared. The story revolves around twin brothers Marty and Eli Powers who, while attending college, are revealed to have superpowers that were granted to them when they were younger. They also discover that there are people who want to take away and synthesize those powers for their own use.

The first issue of Powers Squared is now available at comiXology and we would ask that you check it out and hopefully purchase. It's only $1.99 and would help us to fund future issues. If you like what you see, please tell your friends. If you're interested in more information on Powers Squared, please check out our website.

And, if you're saying to yourself, I'll wait for Issue #2, you don't have to wait long. On July 19th, this link will be active and you can buy the new issue as well.

In Issue #2, Marty and Eli learn from Mocha how they got their powers and then she shows them how to use them to free their Uncle Brian, who has been taken hostage by Dr. Atlas.

                                                                                     Thanks for your consideration,

                                                                                      -- the writers of Trophy Unlocked

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

When Disney started releasing live-action remakes of their animated films, I honestly wasn’t really interested in watching any of them, as I didn’t see the point. This trend continued with the 2017 live-action remake of the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast film until I decided to watch it as part of my in-flight entertainment during a recent trip. While the praise behind the remake isn’t completely undeserved, it doesn’t do too much to separate itself from the original, almost to the point where you may wonder why they even bothered to remake it in the first place.

In 18th-century France, an enchantress named Agathe (Hattie Morahan), disguised as an old beggar, arrives at a ball and offers a young prince (Dan Stevens) a rose in exchange for shelter. When he refuses, she curses the prince, transforming him into a beast and his servants and guests into household furniture, while erasing the castle from the memories of their loved ones. This curse can only be lifted if the prince finds true love before the last petal falls from her rose, or else everyone under the curse will lose their humanity forever. Years later, in the village of Villeneuve, Belle (Emma Watson), a known bookworm, brushes off the advances of the arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans), who has just returned from war. Her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), gets lost in the forest and seeks refuge in the Beast’s castle, but is imprisoned for stealing a rose during his attempt to leave. Belle searches for him and, upon finding him in the dungeon, has the Beast agree to let her take her father’s place.

The remainder of the story is largely the same as the original movie. However, this version of the story does include some differences in an attempt to stand out. Some of the smaller changes include Gaston’s role as a hunter is now that of a former soldier and there is a new scene where Belle is showing a girl how to read, only for the other villagers to discourage the attempt. Additionally, the Beast is now well-read and able to discuss literature with Belle as a bonding point. Some of the smaller changes also attempt to fill minor plot holes, including how the villagers are able to find the Beast’s castle near the end of the story.

Belle (Emma Watson; right) bonds with the Beast (Dan Stevens; left) in his castle.

Of course, there are also some larger changes to the plot, which seem to appear somewhat as an attempt to answer lingering questions raised by the original. This includes a mystery of the whereabouts of Belle’s mother and why she lives alone with her father, Maurice. The answer involves the introduction of a new plot device which may raise a new question to the viewer and the new knowledge of what happened to Belle’s mother comes off as a little underwhelming. In addition, the enchantress now has somewhat of a larger role in the story, though to say how would involve spoilers (though this could be said of a lot of the other changes as well).

There is one particular change that I feel worth at least mentioning, as it has to do with the setting. In this version of the movie, the character LeFou (Josh Gad) is now more explicitly gay as opposed to supposed undertones in the original version. While LeFou doesn’t come out as gay, given that the movie takes place in 18th-century France, it would be unlikely that a gay person at the time would be able to display their sexuality without dire consequences. Even then, the hype over LeFou’s sexuality didn’t seem worth it, considering the payoff is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment mere seconds before the credits roll.

Outside of the different yet very similar story, the casting choices were pretty good overall. Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, was a surprisingly good choice for Belle and her singing is rather decent for an amateur. Dan Stevens also does well as both the Prince and the Beast, as he complements Emma Watson’s Belle pretty well. Like Emma Watson, his singing is also pretty decent for someone who had no real singing experience beforehand.

Two other standout actors are Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou, who make the most of their roles and complement their performances well. Unlike Watson and Stevens, the two of them have had prior experience singing in musicals. Luke Evans had starred in productions for musicals such as Rent and Avenue Q for London’s West End before he made a leap to films, one of the more recent being the role of Dracula in the failed Dracula Untold. Josh Gad is perhaps best known for his role as Olaf in Disney’s Frozen, likely a reason he was cast as LeFou, though he is also fairly well-known for his role as Elder Cunningham in the adult-oriented musical The Book of Mormon, in which he also displayed great singing talent.

Luke Evans (left) and Josh Gad (right) are good in their roles as Gatson and LeFou.

Music is very important to Beauty and the Beast, given that it’s based on the original Disney animated musical. For the most part, the soundtrack is the same and the cast does a good job singing it. Naturally, there are also some original songs to help make it stand out from the original, including the placement of songs in a couple places originally non-musical, one of which is the moment when the Beast sends Belle away from the castle. Where he originally roared in agony, he now sings the original “Nevermore.” It should also be noted that some of the plot differences lead to slightly altered lyrics on some songs, which feels fairly appropriate to do.

A lot of the budget also clearly went into the visuals, especially the CGI and the period clothing. Dan Stevens’ Beast is rendered with very good CGI, although the more humanlike approach to his design can be off-putting to some viewers. This commentary on design could easily be extended to the servants of the castle while they are household objects. I was able to get used to them, but I know that others may not feel the same way due to the approach taken by the artists. One scene in particular where the CGI stands out is the “Be Our Guest” sequence, which features a lot of unique visuals and movement on a level similar to the animated version.

When it comes to my thoughts on Beauty and the Beast (2017), I can easily understand why it’s popular. The story is one with a lot of romance, the music is great, the casting is well-done and the visuals create a sense of wonder and draw viewers into an intriguing world. In short, it has all of the right elements coming together in the right way, maybe even enough to be nominated during award season. However, even with all of the changes made to the story, both major and minor, which extend the runtime by about 45 minutes, the 2017 live-action version of Beauty and the Beast still sticks so closely to the 1991 animated original that I wonder why they even bothered to remake it in the first place. The 2017 version will appeal to the whole family, but you might as well just watch the 1991 version instead.

Monday, July 10, 2017

In-Flight Tetris

While this blog normally covers video games or movies under certain parameters, sometimes we dare to go outside the box and review something weird. In this case, we have In-Flight Tetris, a version of the popular game Tetris that can only be played on airlines which feature in-flight entertainment. As a major fan of Tetris, upon spotting this game when perusing my options on a couple recent flights I took, I knew I had to check it out.

The game offers three different modes of play: Marathon, Forty Lines and Ultra. Marathon is the basic mode of Tetris where you can play indefinitely, though most games have a cap where the game will end once you clear Level 15. Due to the conditions in which I played the game (more on that later), I was not able to discern a level cap, if any, however Marathon still proves to be solid entertainment. Forty Lines, as per the name, is a mode that ends once you clear 40 lines, with the goal of clearing them as fast as you can. Ultra is essentially the opposite of Forty Lines, where you must clear as many lines as you can within a time limit; most Tetris games give Ultra a limit of 3 minutes, however in this version you only have 2 minutes. In general, the game is geared towards shorter bursts of play, which is better suited for air travel and adds to the addictive nature of Tetris.

Some sample gameplay (Marathon mode pictured).

Since the in-flight entertainment is provided via a touchscreen, the game plays using touchscreen controls, which involve tapping and swiping the screen to manipulate pieces. While the game is certainly playable this way, your performance can be greatly affected by outside forces since to the screen is placed on the back of the seat in front of you (in the case of the front row of a section of an aircraft, the screen is presumably placed on the wall in front of you). Such outside forces can include turbulence and how the person in front of you positions their seat, which can easily lead to a lot of mistakes.

First Class passengers are known on flights to get special accommodations. As I discovered first-hand, one of these benefits is a remote attached to the seat, which can be used to control the screen as an alternative to touch controls. On the back of said remote is a keyboard/game pad, allowing a different way to play the gaming options available. While this did work for In-Flight Tetris, the controls are a little awkward, since, while generally following an Xbox controller's face buttons, Y is used for confirm rather than A, which takes some getting used to. On top of this, the control stick provided is rather sensitive, which can also lead to making numerous mistakes that can ultimately cost you the game.

The graphics are actually pretty decent, with a general background aesthetic modeled after aviation and a usage of bright colors. The game also uses a ghosting effect to display where the next block will fall, presumably to make it accessible for more casual Tetris players. The game includes a special mix of “Tetris Theme A” (aka “Korobeiniki”) that is more comparable to elevator music or “muzak”, which is actually more appropriate for an airline environment. There are also some sounds cues during gameplay that appear to be recycled from previous Tetris iterations (including Tetris Elements and possibly Tetris Worlds), though this didn’t really bother me that much. You can’t actually hear anything though unless you are using a headset, which can be connected via a headphone jack located underneath the screen (between seats in First Class; earbuds will suffice either way); your airline may provide you with a headset, though it is generally recommended that you bring your own.

In-Flight Tetris is an interesting variation on the long-standing puzzle game, one that I would recommend to anyone looking for something to keep them busy on a flight, to say nothing of any passengers who happen to enjoy Tetris. Since I played it on an American Airlines flight, I have no idea what the general availability of the game is amongst other airlines, though this may depend entirely on which one you choose to fly with. In any case, if the game is available to you and you find yourself on a particularly long flight, and/or have a good grasp on the provided controller, In-Flight Tetris may keep you occupied for a good while. And remember, please fly responsibly.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review Hub - Spider-Man

Since his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man has gone on to become one of Marvel's most iconic characters prior to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Amidst other Marvel characters, Spider-Man's rouges gallery is perhaps one of the best remembered, arguably topped only by Batman. Like Batman, however, Spider-Man's representation in a plethora of media (including film, TV, video games and countless comic book series) should serve as a testament to his lasting popularity.

Below is a list of every Spider-Man review on this blog, sorted by continuity and in a general order. (Links to related reviews are listed in parenthesis.)

Sam Raimi Trilogy


The Amazing Spider-Man Trilogy Duology


Marvel Cinematic Universe

For a list of additional links, visit our Review Hub for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Stubs - Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr. Directed by Jon Watts. Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers. Based on Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Produced by Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal Runtime: 133 minutes. USA Color Superhero, Action

Sony has had an interesting history with the Spider-Man franchise. There were the three films directed by Sam Raimi, starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. After breaking with Raimi over creative differences, the studio tried to relaunch the franchise as The Amazing Spider-Man directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. While successful at the box office, these efforts paled by comparison with the original series.

Following the North Korean hacking of SPE's emails and the executive reshuffle that followed, Sony allowed Spider-Man to appear in an Avengers' film, Captain America: Civil War (2016), with a new actor, Tom Holland, playing the web-slinger. Now, Holland gets to star in his own reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man.

As compared with The Amazing Spider-Man series, this new film is a success. Holland is at 21, a good choice to play the teenage Peter Parker, and runs rings around Garfield's depiction. However, this version seems less like a Spider-Man series and more like Iron-Man 3.5. Like his depiction in the Amazing Spider-Man films, Spider-Man is less organic than the first go around. The web not only doesn't come out of Parker, but originates from devices that were apparently designed by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Even the Spider-Man suit is an elastic version of Stark's Iron Man outfit. A reboot without an origin story, Homecoming does hint that Parker was bitten by a spider, but it seems that much of his powers originate from the suit and not from the spider bite.

Iron Man is never far away in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The connection to Iron Man is underlined by the nearly constant presence of "Happy" Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark's bodyguard/chauffeur, as well as the repeated appearances of Stark/Iron Man. Part of the backstory involves the move of Avenger headquarters from New York to some location upstate and the cleanup in the aftermath of the epic battle at the end of Marvel's The Avengers (2012), placing this film well within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The villain, Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) is taken from the pages of the long-running comic book series, but his origin story has been updated to fit into the MCU. Keaton, who started out as a comedian, has proven himself to be a very good dramatic actor. He came to fame playing the caped crusader in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) and has most recently been seen in such films as Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) and The Founder (2016). As good as he was a hero, he is equally good as a nemesis, which the film sets up for a possible return. While I have no idea what Sony/Marvel have in mind for the next Spider-Man film, we're told Spider-Man will return, they could do a lot worse than bringing Adrian Toomes back.

Michael Keaton plays Adrian Toomes/Vulture.

Now that we're up to three different versions of the story and three different actors, so far, playing the lead character, one starts to do a James Bond-like comparison. While Holland is good, Maguire gets the nod as the best so far to have worn the suit. Garfield, unfortunately, will end up with a comparison to George Lazenby, an actor who tops no one's list as the best 007.

This is definitely a different way to view Spider-Man. He is more Spider-Boy than Man, though he seems to be growing into the role. Homecoming is definitely aimed as much to a millennial audience as it is to the longtime fans of the comic book. This time around Parker's world is explicitly diverse. There is no Mary Jane or Harry in this version, rather there is a Michelle "MJ" Jones (Zendaya), a
non-love interest, and Ned (Jacob Batalon), who plays his best friend. These two will no doubt be back, as will his modernized Aunt May Parker (Marisa Tomei). His love interest, Liz (Laura Harrier), is a senior while he is a sophomore, but there never seems to be any real chemistry between them as Parker's secret life keeps trumping his love life.

Like any superhero film, there are the requisite big battles and action scenes and Homecoming has at least three that would qualify. The special effects are very good and the film looks very good in 3D/Imax if you're in the mood to pay more to see more.

One of the problems with the MCU is that you don't feel like you can miss any of the films without falling behind. I've used the analogy of school to describe how this makes me feel as a movie-goer. I feel like I'm required to see some of these films. However, Spider-Man: Homecoming was not that kind of film. I would have seen this one even if it wasn't so entrenched in the MCU.

That said, while I can definitely recommend this film, beware that it doesn't supplant Spider-Man 2 (2004) as the best in the series and I would go so far as to place it third behind Spider-Man (2002). Good, but not quite great, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good summertime movie and should be seen if you want a good time at the theater.