fter working my way through the last round of DVD's, I found myself needing some more entertainment. I haven't been able to get home and get my newly increased Netflix movies, yet I can't very well be spending $50+ per week on movies. But I needed something. Then I discovered Vina Distributor. They make region free, super-budget DVD's of old films and TV shows. They have no special features, no subtitles, no language dubs, and questionable practices with concern to the printing of the case jacket.
I figure, if nothing else, I can probably turn them in a pawn shop for a buck if I decide not keep them. I sat in the floor of the Flying J truckstop and rifled through the cases, looking for the gems among the utter crap. Here's what I got, along with some notes and mini-reviews.
Buster Keaton plays Ronald, a brainy momma's boy who pursues collegiate athletics to impress a girl. Hilarity and hijinks insue. Made the same year as The General, but nowhere near as ambitious or engaging as that film. Still very entertaining and funny. Keaton's black-face scene, posing as a "colored" waiter might be offensive to some. Recommendation: only for fans of Keaton and silent comedies.
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
I'm certainly no authority on Hitchcock, in fact my experience with his films is limited to Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds and Vertigo. I am interested in becoming one, however: I have all of his films lined up in my Netflix queue for me to devour at some point in time. So, I wasn't sure what to expect from this, one of his earlier films. I have to admit, I was mildly surprised. It's a good old-fashioned train mystery with some Hitchcock twists, turns, and humor along the way. Recommendation: far from a must-see, but highly entertaining.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
The case claims "Alfred Hitchcock at his very best." It lies. Not that I was expecting anything along the lines of Rear Window or Psycho, but after having been impressed with The Lady Vanishes I had some hopes. It's not suspenseful at all and rather boring. It's only redeeming value are the scenes with Peter Lorre who is just too deliciously creepy for words. This is not to be confused with Hithcock's remake of this movie in 1956, with Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart. Recommendation: only for Hitchcock completists and Peter Lorre fans.
The Terror (1963)
Roger Corman is one of the film industry's most prolific producer-slash-directors, having made over 200 "B" genre films spanning a 50 year career. On the case of this title, it states that this film was directed by "Roger Corman and Francis Ford Coppola" which is blatantly wrong; Coppola was an associate producer according to the film credits, which basically means he had some money in it and nothing else. Among Corman's many achievements and gifts, he is often credited with having introduced the film world to a young actor named Jack Nicholson, who he utilized as a patient of the sadistic dentist in his production of Little Shop of Horrors. Corman gives Nicholson considerably more screen time with a lead role in this film, as a lieutenant in Napoleon's army who has been seperated from his company and stumbles upon a mysterious castle inhabited by Baron Von Leppe, portrayed by an aging Boris Karloff. The editing is rough, the acting is over-the-top melodrama, the dialogue is dodgy, the score is overbearing, and there are ample historical blunders (Nicholson is packing a revolver for most of the film). And yet, overall, the movie is 100% compelling and entertaining with a surprise plot twist that you don't see coming. Recommendation: a must for B-movie buffs.
The Outlaw (1943)
After seeing The Aviator a few weeks ago, it was only fitting to find this sitting on the shelf for me to uncover. This controversial film was shelved for six years because director Howard Hughes refused to backdown from Hollywood censors who insisted that he cut certain scenes which showed just a little too much of Jane Russell's ample cleavage. Of course, by today's standards these depictions are extremely tame and this film wouldn't receive anything more than a PG rating, but at the time it caused quite a stir. Prurient boob gawking aside, the film doesn't offer much else. Everything about it is cliche, from the one-dimensional American cinema western characters who treat women like horses and vice-versa to a score which literally employs the "wah wah wah waaaah" sound when someone tells a bad joke on screen. Recomendation: of interest only to film buffs for its historical importance pushing the envelope of "decency" in film and for being Jane Russell's cinematic debut.
There's only one more film I haven't gotten to yet, Corrupt Lieutenant starring Harvey Keitel and John Lydon (of Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd. fame). There are also two discs which aren't films: one is a collection of episodes from The Jack Benny Show and the other is a collection of scenes and sketches from Stuart Shapiro, known for his work on the television show "Night Flight" back inthe 80's and the cult-film Mondo New York.