Night Monster (1942)

Despite the star billing of Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill, Lugosi doesn’t have much to do and Atwill even less. There’s lots of fog in the woods surrounding the Inkston Towers mansion. When the frogs stop croaking there’s something out there and people die.

Margaret Inkston calls Dr.Lynne Harper (Irene Hervey) to come out to the Towers. Her companion and housekeeper Sarah Judd is very upset about it. Servant Milly Carson quits. Too many strange things are going on there and she wants to report it to the local constable, Cap Beggs.

Laurie the chauffeur (Leif Erickson) drives Milly towards town. He stops and tries to come on to her. She gets out of the car and hitches a ride with Jed Harmon into town. Cap tells her she doesn’t have much info to go on and something has to happen before he can act. Even the murder of a doctor in the woods isn’t enough.

Three doctors meet at the train station. One is Dr.King (Lionel Atwill). They’re all headed for Inkston Towers at the invitation of its owner Kurt Inkston. He’s paralyzed due to a botched operation involving the three.

Before they get there Milly shows up to get her things. Then a message from Rolf the butler (Bela Lugosi) goes to the guard at the gate. Milly is staying the night. He drives off. Milly comes out and wonders where he went. She starts to walk through the woods. The frogs become quiet.

Dr.Harper’s car breaks down. She hears a scream and starts to walk away from the mansion. She’s met by Dick Baldwin (Don Porter) who was driving to the mansion. He’s a frequent guest there. He writes unsuccessful horror stories. He takes Dr.Harper to the house.

She starts to talk with Margaret but Sarah tries to run interference. That night Roy wants everyone to watch a demonstration of the powers of guest Agor Singh. He’s a believer in some strange powers of yoga. He asks for complete silence. Dr.King wants nothing to do with it and storms out.

Singh goes into a trance. A skeleton appears and blood drips from its hands. Some yelling distracts Singh. He passes out and the skeleton disappears but blood spots stay on the floor. In fact blood spots have been showing up all around the house.

Milly’s body is discovered. She’s been strangled. Cap suspects Singh and wants to arrest him. He says he has to arrest somebody. Dick reminds him about how silly his story will sound in court. Huge footprints were found in the woods and Cap measured them and now wants to compare all the men in the mansions foot size.

Starting with Dr.King people are dropping like flies in the house and out of it. It all gets wrapped up in a cop out way as the writers got lazy and just decided not to write themselves out of the paper bag they got into. At least Bela and Lionel didn’t have too much screen time in this mess.

 

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Pity Him Afterwards-Donald E.Westlake (1964)

donald e westlake-pity him afterwards

A murderous madman escapes from an asylum and goes undercover in a little theater group. It’s not long before he’s back to his old ways.

Robert Ellington kills a nurse while escaping from a maximum security asylum. He’s picked up while walking down the road by an actor. He has his portfolio complete with pictures and resume and shows them to Robert. Robert notices a slight resemblance.

The man is on his way to a small mountain town to appear at their little theater company. It’s the summer season  and they’ve been presenting plays for eleven years. The man is new to the troupe. Robert kills him and takes his pictures etc. He goes to a photographer and says he wants a similar picture of himself with the resume attached. The photographer does a rush drop for the promise of extra money. Robert kills him.

He kills two more people before getting to the small town and joining the group. Also arriving a day late is actor Mel Daniels. He’s only had a line here and a line there so this is an opportunity to get his Equity card. He gets there a day late and the director is his usual insulting self but the theater owner tries to keep things smooth.

Back at the asylum a doctor says he feels sorry for Robert but at the same time knows he has to be caught. He says Robert has a knack for imitating other patients and he thinks Robert is highly intelligent and must be studied.

Back at the theater Cissie Walker is a flirt. An innocent one that isn’t taken seriously….until Robert approaches her. Under his new identity he’s back to his old ways. After killing her he wrote “I’m Sorry” in soap on the bathroom mirror. Eric Sondgard, the local police chief, works there part time during the summer while on a break from his job as a college professor. The town usually only has one officer but during the summer they have four because it’s tourist season.

Eric tapes everyone of the troupe to try and get to the bottom of the crime. He’s reluctant to call in the nearby CID Captain. Maybe he should because things are really getting out of hand.

This is a good, suspenseful novel that doesn’t telegraph the ID of the madman among the troupe. This is obviously not the comedic Westlake. Like most of his work this is definitely worth picking up.

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Circus Boy (1956-58)

Before he was a Monkee

Before he was a Monkee

Micky Dolenz is twelve year old Corky the Circus Boy. His parents were acrobats who worked without a net. That act ended in a hurry and Corky is on his own. Noah Beery,Jr. is his pal Joey The Clown. Robert Lowrey is circus owner Big Tim Champion. Corky’s best pal is Bimbo the baby elephant.

Opening episode:September 30,1956 – “Meet Circus Boy – Hank Miller (Leo Gordon) and his boys ride into the circus. He demands the four hundred twenty-three bucks the former owner owes him. New owner Big Tim Champion isn’t there yet and no one has any money. Hank orders his gang to wreck the joint.

Tim shows up and pays him. Then he says he wants the money back for the damage. Hank’s not giving up that easily and the brawl is on. Tim makes short work of him, takes the money back and Hank rides out. Before he and his gang leave he promises it’s not over.

Tim sees Swifty doing the shell game. He takes a sucker for five bucks. Tim makes him give it back and fires him. Now he tells Joey to send Corky to his office. He tells Corky he can get him into a good school. Corky says his home is the circus. That’s what he thinks. Joey says he is a former school teacher who gave it up for the circus and adds that he taught Corky reading etc.

Too bad. Tim’s decision is final. Joey quits and he and Corky ride out to Prairie City. In town they run into Swifty. He brags that he set Tim up for an ambush by Hank and his boys. Joey slugs him and is arrested. He denies Corky is with him and gives the kid a sign to take off and warn Tim.

On the road Tim runs into Hank and his gang and they take a piece of him. But wait! Here comes Corky yelling “Hey Rube” with the circus following him. It’s a giant brawl. Awwwww shucks. Corky can stay and Joey too. And let’s not forget Bimbo.

The show was a western because of the time period. Despite a high violence content in the debut episode it was a kids show. Bimbo the elephant appeared as himself.

Robert Lowrey played Buss Courtney in “Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats” (1966-67).

 

 

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Caught In The Draft (1941)

caught in the draft 1941 2

Dated but a movie made for its time and well worth seeing. Bob Hope is a lot of fun as an actor in the army whose main goal is to marry the Colonel’s daughter.

Don Barlow (Bob Hope) is a successful actor. He’s about to film a battle scene when his gun goes off. He can’t stand the noise. Visiting the set is Colonel Peter Fairbanks (Clarence Kolb) and his daughter Tony (Dorothy Lamour). Don comes on to her but doesn’t get anywhere. She accidentally knocks over a prop and Don falls into a trench filled with mud.

Back home Don’s reads in the paper about the coming draft for men ages 21-40. His valet Bert Sparks (Eddie Bracken) and his manager Steve Riggs (Lynne Overman) suggest he get married to avoid it. He decides Tony should be his bride. It’ll only be for a year.

After some maneuvering he starts dating her. Bert is driving while Don and Tony are in the back seat. He finally asks her to marry him. That’s when the announcement comes over the radio that the draft will be for men between 21-31. Don is thirty-two. He tries to back out of the proposal and Tony catches on and calls him yellow. She leaves.

Now he tries a scam involving a recruiting station. He tells Tony he’s enlisting and if she doesn’t believe him she can drive him to the station. The scam doesn’t go off as planned and he’s in the army. He gets assigned to the post run by Tony’s father. Bert and Steve are also enlisted with him.

Now the movie has a lot of the expected gags involving Don having to clean fish and peel potatoes. There are bits with him driving a tank, being a paratrooper etc. The Colonel told him he’ll approve his marrying Tony is he can become a Corporal. The Colonel doesn’t think he’ll make it.

There’s a long and funny bit in the post hospital and things wrap up with a mock battle. Funny stuff with good one liners along the way.

TV fans know Clarence Kolb as Mr.Honeywell, Vern Albright’s (Charlie Farrell) boss on “My Little Margie” (1952-55).

Clarence Kolb

Clarence Kolb

 

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The Year’s Best Science Fiction-Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection-Edited by Gardner Dozois (2009)

gardner dozois (editor)-the year's best science fiction-twenty-sixth edition

Thirty stories from 2008. Favorites:

“Turing’s Apples” – Stephen Baxter – Finally…a return message from alien life. Not a good idea to make contact.

“From Babels’ Fall’n Glory We Fled” – Michael Swanwick – A human ambassador has a ringside seat for a war between two alien civilizations. The best thing to keep in mind is that aliens don’t think like humans.

“The Gambler” – Paolo Bacigalupi – If you think the media is headed in the wrong direction this story about a future internet journalist will confirm that. A lot of this rings true.

“The Six Directions Of Space” (novella) – Alastair Reynolds – The Mongol Empire rules the Earth. The have to battle it out with aliens from other universes known as phantoms.

“N-Words” -Ted Kosmatka – Thanks to cloning, the Neanderthals are back. Some even make the NFL

“Shining Armour – Dominic Green – A retired warrior comes out of retirement to take on a greedy corporation that wants to destroy his village.

“Crystal Nights” – Greg Egan – A multi-billionaire wants to develop Artificial Intelligence. He funds a project to develop it by evolution.

“His Master’s Voice” – Hannu Rajaniemi – A dog and a cat team up to find out what happened to their master after he was kidnapped.

“Balancing Accounts” -James L. Cambias – A robot space ship tries to stay honest but his principals are tempted as he takes on an unusual cargo.

“Days Of Wonder” _Geoff Ryman – The story takes place after humans are long extinct. It surrounds a horse and a relationship with cats that use horses as a food supply. One horse befriends a cat to the anger of its group.

“City Of The Dead” – Paul McAuley – In a small town on a distant planet a woman soldier retires and becomes the town constable. An old friend 0versees a colony of hive rats that have a secret. She has to protect  her as some heavies are on the attack.

“The Illustrated Biography Of Lord Grimm” -Daryl Gregory – It’s no fun living in a comic book type society with superheroes and villains complete with capes as they battle it out.

“The Ray Gun:A Love Story” -James Alan Gardner – A fourteen year old finds a ray gun from an ancient alien war. The story shows how it influences his life as he keeps it a secret over the years.

“Lester Young And The Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues” – Gord Sellar – Aliens hire Jazz musicians to entertain on their space ships. It’s a great gig until they find out the catch.

Other authors: Elizabeth Bear w/Sarah Monette, Ian McDonald, Karl Schroeder, Mary Robinette Kowal, Robert Reed, Jay Lake, Mary Rosenblum, Charles Coleman Finlay, Maureen McHugh, Gwyneth Jones, Kathryn Rousch, Nancy Kress, Garth Nix and Aliette de Bodard.

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Charlie Chan In The Secret Service (1944)

charlie chan in the secret service 1944

Dull entry that concentrates more on detection than comedy. That would have been a good thing but the investigation drags way too much. Unlike most mysteries this one has the suspects all gathered from the beginning instead of waiting for the end. The comedy is provided by Mantan Moreland, Benson Fong and Marianne Quon. This is the first one to feature Moreland as Birmingham Brown.

George Melton has invented a new torpedo that could destroy U-Boats. He’s always accompanied by two Secret Service guards and carries the only copy of his formula in his wallet. On the wall of his lab he has a lot of dummy bombs. One that’s marked with a black cross is loaded and will destroy anything within two hundred yards. He’s having a group over for cocktails and demands his guards stay in the lab. Bad move as he’s killed and the formula stolen.

Charlie is expecting number three son Tommy (Benson Fong) and number two daughter Iris (Marianne Quon) in from Honolulu for a sight seeing tour of Washington, D.C. That will have to be put on hold as the secret service asks him to investigate the Melton murder. He asks his kids to stay in the hotel. Of course they won’t as they recall howJimmy Chan used to get involved in their Pop’s cases…whether he wanted him to or not.

At the Melton house Charlie questions the guests and household staff. The staff includes Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland). A set of forged plans are discovered in a book inside a bookcase. Through all of this an eye is seen checking out the proceedings from behind a curtain. Later a safe is discovered behind a picture but no one has a key to open it.

Birmingham decides to make himself a drink while Charlie is outside with the guards. He looks in the mirror and sees a hand holding a gun,. He screams and the first attempt to kill Charlie fails. All this time it looked like Melton died of natural causes. The coroner’s report has a different story.

The questioning drags on and is interspersed with the interference of Tommy and Iris.d Birmingham just wants to go home. Before Charlie wraps it up there’s another murder.

Too bad the pace was so slow and the solution more contrived than clever. With all the Chan movies out there giving this one a miss is no great loss.

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Buck Benny Rides Again (1940)

buck benny rides again 1940

Gag filled take off on Westerns from Jack and his radio cast featuring Rochester, Phil Harris and Dennis Day. Some long production numbers slow it down but there are some very entertaining bits from Rochester and a lot of laughs along the way. The movie opens with an introduction from Don Wilson.

Phil Harris wants Jack to take the show to Caldwell, Nevada during the summer to work on the next season. His real motive is to romance a woman out there waiting for a divorce. Nothing doing.

Time to go to the studio. Rochester gets Jacks’ Maxwell. He pulls out of the building and runs into a cab. Jack comes along and starts telling a story to the cab driver when Rochester calls him boss. That takes take of that scam. Jack sees the cab’s passenger and is smitten.

He gets Rochester’s car, follows the cab and manages to run into it. He ends up with a ticket. The cab gets to the studio. The passenger is Joan Cameron (Ellen Drew). She and her two sisters are there to audition for a commercial. Jack gets there and spots them singing. That throws Joan off and they bomb.

Joan confronts Jack and tells him what he did and storms off. That night he sends Rochester up to the girls’ place with some candy and a note. Jack waits outside the building. Joan’s not home but the maid Josephine (Theresa Harris) is. Rochester’s in love. While he romances, sings and dances with Josephine it starts to rain and Jack is getting soaked.

Later Ginny Cameron (Virginia Dale) calls Jack pretending to be Joan and sets up a dinner date and audition. When the sisters and Jack get to the club Phil is there. So is Fred Allen’s press agent (Charles Lane). The girls are from out west and Jack tries to impress them and says he has a ranch in Nevada.

Fred’s press agent tells him about it and he starts making fun of Jack on the air. That shames Jack into going which is what Phil planned all along. They stay at a luxury hotel. Then here come the sisters. Jack runs into Andy Devine and Dennis Day. Andy says he’s having some trouble with a couple outlaws and some Indians.

Everyone ends up at Andy’s ranch. Jack made a deal with him that he’d pose as the owner to impress Joan. A number of gags follow. One has Jack asking Andy to have a couple of his boys start a fight with him so Jack can beat them up to impress Joan.

The two show up. They’re played by Ward Bond and Morris Ankrum. Turns out they’re the outlaws. Earlier Joan heard Rochester on the phone to Josephine telling her about Jack’s posing. Now Joan makes her own plans with the outlaws.

Everyone goes back to the hotel. There’s a very long production number and a song from Dennis and some singing and dancing from Rochester before the finish.

It’s not Jack’s best movie but Eddie “Rochester” Anderson is the best part of the whole thing.

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