Adventure In Manhattan (1936)

adventure in manhattan 1936

Jean Arthur gives her usual good performance. Too bad the movie is an annoying dud. Joel McCrea is a crime reporter who can’t shut up and comes on like Sherlock Holmes but he’s not nearly as clever..even though he thinks he is and doesn’t hesitate to say so.

The Koor-Hal ruby is stolen and four people are killed in the robbery. The gang escapes and head overseas. Gazette Editor Phil Bane (Thomas Mitchell) brings in ace crime reporter George Melville (Joel McCrea) to write the stories. He has a habit of making predictions that come true. He also has an out of control ego.

He sees a woman on the street asking people for money. He goes to her and is about to give her some bucks when there’s a squeal of brakes. He goes to investigate. Then he finds out his wallet is missing. He sees the woman moving fast down the sidewalk. He follows her to a beauty salon. When she comes out he confronts her and invites her out to dinner. Her name is Claire Peyton (Jean Arthur)

She says she has an appointment that night to see her young daughter who lives with her ex. They both go over. She’s told her daughter is in the next room and she goes in while Melville waits with her ex. They hear a scream and rush into the room. There’s a coffin. Her ex says it happened a day ago. She faints.

Back at his apartment Claire comes to and asks him to go back to the house and get her daughter’s ring. There’s a surprise waiting. Another surprise occurs next door. A famous painting has been stolen. All along Melville has been saying the famous art thief Belia was behind the theft of the ruby and the stolen painting is also his work. Everyone else thinks Belia has been dead for years.

It’s revealed that theater producer Blackton Gregory is Belia. He’s producing a play about World War One. It has a lot of sound effects that will cover his real objective…breaking into the bank next door through the cellar to steal another valuable gem.

Melville predicted the robbery and a special edition of the paper has been made ready with the story of the robbery. It doesn’t happen and Melville is fired. The rest of the movie is dragged out and in a word…dumb. Skip it.

Victor Killian, known to TV fans as the grandfather Raymond Larkin on “Mary Hartman,Mary Hartman” (1976-77) plays Mark Gibbs.

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Open At Your Own Risk-Edited by Joan Kahn

joan kahn (editor)-open at your own risk

Kahn’s seventh antholgy of fact and fiction shows she ran out of the A and B stuff. Still there are a few very good stories and articles from 1911,23,24,29,35,41,43,47,49,53,57,58,62,63,67. Twenty-five entries in all.

Favorite Fiction:

“A Place Of One’s Own” (1953) – Osbert Sitwell – A couple retires to the countryside and moves into a house reported to be haunted. A woman hanged herself there and a servant couple met a strange death two years later. The new tenant thinks a neighborhood child is playing games and that’s why she hears knocking and voices. Her husband sees things moving on their own. Their maid takes a month off just to get away. The situation continues to get more dangerous.

“The Toll-House” – W.W.Jacobs – Another haunted house story. Four men go to spend a night in a haunted house. Two of them fall asleep. The others are not having a good time.

“A Theme For Hyacinth” (1967) – A man who is not attractive to women is more than surprised when a very pretty girl comes on to him. She has a good reason. She’s also married.

“Stay Of Execution” (1963) – Michael Gilbert – An innocent man is charged with murder. He gave his girlfriend his gun. Later he discovers her body. Instead of reporting it he gets rid of the body, the gun and the car. He’ll pay for his dumb moves.

“The Beast With Five Fingers” (1947) – William Fryer Harvey – The classic story about a hand with a mind of its own.

“Sensational Occurrence At A Poetry Reading” (1943)  – P.G.Woodehouse – Very funny story about the planned robbery of an expensive necklace. The story contains a number of entertaining quirky characters.

Other authors: Charlotte Curtis Stetson Gilman, W.Somerset Maugham, Shirley Jackson, Sir Walter Scott, Gerald Bullet, Stella Benson, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Jorge Luis Borges, E.F.Benson, Christopher Lazare, Violet Hunt and Jan Gerhard Toonder

Favorite Fact Articles:

“Murder In Solitude” (1955) – Alister Karshaw – Grisly account of France’s answer to Jack The Ripper, Joseph Vacher. He killed at least eleven people.

“Miss Parsons” (1907) – Henry Wilson – What happens when people fake a haunted house to cover up murder.

There are a number of other factual articles but they didn’t garner a whole lot of interest.




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Land Of The Giants (1968-70)

land of the giants

Gary Conway is Captain Steve Burton and Don Marshall is his co-pilot Dan Erickson. They fly the Spindrift, a spaceship that does commercial flights. On a trip from New York to London they pass through a cloud and end up on a Earth type planet where the natives are seventy-two feet tall. To save on special effects the inhabitants look just like humans.

Opening episode: September 22,1968 – “The Crash” – June 12,1983. The Spindrift runs into a storm. They try for reentry but get pulled into a cloud. Once they get through and have control of the ship again there’s a city below. Sure doesn’t look like London. Steve goes out to take a look and almost gets run over by a giant car. Footsteps. Back inside he tries to take off. A giant has a hold on the ship. Steve and Dan manage to get the ship out of there only to put down again in a jungle.

Heading outside is Alexander Fitzhugh (Kurt Kasznar) and the annoying kid passenger Barry Lockridge (Stefan Arngrim) and his dog Chipper. Barry thinks Fitzhugh is some kind of secret agent since he’s wearing a uniform. He’s really a thief who stole a million dollars. No wonder he won’t let his briefcase out of his sight. Neither one sees the plastic dinosaur.

Steve heads out and he notices giant spiders. They could care less about him. The next monster on stage is a giant cat. Chipper doesn’t even bark. The cat has fun with the ship for a while but the hot engines don’t agree with him. Everybody back inside.

Steve goes out again. He told her not to but heiress Valerie Scott (Deanna Lund) has a mind of her own and joins him anyway. Time for a rescue mission since Steve’s radio conked out. Fitzhugh has a pistol. Barry drops a dime on him and now everyone knows. He threatens to shoot Dan unless he flies them out of there. He’s mad because he swung his briefcase at the cat and some money spilled out. Dan reminds him no one else can fly the ship except him. Now he gets it.

Steve tells Valerie not to go into that structure. Once again she doesn’t listen. It’s a trap. A giant scientist carries them back to his lab. This gives a chance for more giant props to be used as he probes Valerie with a pencil and Steve with a scalpel. They tried escaping using a giant spool of thread and a needle but clumsy Valerie knocked over a beaker.

In the jungle the rescue party, which includes passenger Mark Wilson (Don Matheson) who is an engineer and stewardess Betty Hamilton (Heather Young) hear Valerie screaming. Chipper still doesn’t bark.

They come across the lab and Dan tells Mark to cause a distraction. He creates a gas explosion which allows Dan to cut Steve and Valerie loose. The coughing scientist grabs a butterfly net. He gets Dan. Fitzhugh puts a bullet in his knee and Dan escapes. They all head into a pipe. The scientist reaches in. Fitzhugh gives him two bullets in the hand.

The pipe leads to a garbage dump. No one thanks Fitzhugh for getting them out of trouble. The girls and Barry climb into an empty egg carton as a giant dog approaches. He barks. Chipper….nothing phases this mutt. Steve manages to get the guard dog to take off. He makes Fitzhugh realize they’re trapped in this world.

The episode is not a bad opener. The problem with it and the rest of the show is the Will Robinson-Dr.Smith riff from the characters Barry and Fitzhugh. Without that this would have been much better.

Gary Conway was Detective Tim Tilson on “Burke’s Law” (1963-65).


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Meet Boston Blackie (1941)

meet boston blackie 1941

There were nine silent films in the series. This is the first of the fourteen Chester Morris movies. The last was 1949’s “Boston Blackie’s Chinese Venture.” Series regulars were Richard Lane as Inspector Faraday and Frank Sully as Detective Sgt.Matthews. Blackie’s pal The Runt was played by George E. Stone and later Sid Tomack. In this first entry the part was played by Charles Wagenheim. Frank Sully isn’t in this one. A good start to the series. Later films put more emphasis on comedy.

Blackie and The Runt are just back from Europe and are docking in New York. Blackie spots a blonde passenger named Marilyn being threatened and interferes. She says thanks and isn’t interested in any more conversation. Blackie goes after her and runs into Inspector Faraday.

Faraday thinks he went to Amsterdam to fence pearls from the Mansfield robbery. He takes his landing pass and puts him under arrest. Blackie tells him he wants to go to his cabin but will be available. Faraday agrees.  Back in his cabin Blackie discovers the body of the man who was threatening Marilyn. He takes the man’s landing pass and gets off the boat. He leaves a note on the mirror for Faraday.

Blackie and The Runt see Marilyn getting into a cab. They trace her to a Coney Island carnival. He tells the Runt to have Faraday meet him in his apartment while Blackie goes after Marilyn. The two go into the Tunnel Of Horrors and are followed by two men. One throws a dart into Marilyn’s back. Before she dies she gives a few clues to Blackie. They involve the Mechanical Man at one of the shows.

Blackie confronts the Mechanical Man in his dressing room. The killers show up and Blackie escapes. He jumps into a car driven by Cecelia Bradley (Rochelle Hudson). She gets involved in the investigation. Blackie figures out a code being given out by a carnival barker. He disguises himself as a blind man. He doesn’t fool Faraday who wants to arrest him. Blackie knocks him out and escapes along with Cecilia.

They’re on the trail of a spy ring that wants to take a Navy bomb sight out of the country. Blackie has to stay a step ahead of Faraday and Cecilia refuses to leave so Blackie traps her in a Murphy bed. The movie is only an hour and comes to a quick ending. It is worth checking out. Chester Morris is a lot of fun.

Character actor Byron Foulger is the “blind” man Blackie pays to give him his disguise.

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The Solaris Book Of New Science Fiction Volume Three-Edited by George Mann (2009)

george mann-the solaris book of new science fiction volume three

Fifteen good stories all from 2009. Favorites:

“Fixation” – Alastair Reynolds – A two thousand year old mechanical device is discovered underwater. It’s now in a museum and is being cleaned and put together by a scientist who likes to work alone. In another part of the museum a lecture is being given on the device. The theory is that it’s getting restored thanks to leaks from alternate universes.

“Providence” – Paul De Fillipo – The Earth is populated by machines that were created by what they call carnals. They were humans who have all disappeared. Reddy K. is a big fan of vinyl 45’s and LP’s. He heads from Manhattan to Providence, Rhode Island to pick up a warehouse full.

“Carnival Night” – Warren Hammond – A homicide detective on a grungy world is investigating the murder of an off worlder whose wife hates the planet where her husband wanted to try and open a business and can’t wait to leave. She thinks a jealous citizen killed him. The last line is great.

“Long Stay” – Ian Watson – There’s a twenty-six mile parking lot between airports. Back from a trip a man can’t find his car. He discovers a small population that gave up looking for their cars and now live there.

Other authors: Jack Stillingstead, Stephen Baxter, John Meaney, Scott Edelman, Paul Cornell, Adam Roberts, Jennifer Pelland, Daniel Abraham, Tim Akers and Ken MacLeod.

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Hercules Against The Moon Men (1964)

hercules against the moon men 1964

Sword and Sandal meets SF with the expected results. Some decent laughs along the way.

The Moon Men have landed. They’re inside Mt.Samara outside the village of Samara ruled by Queen Samara. That makes it easy. Every full moon the village’s young people are led to the mountain to be sacrificed. Since the Moon men have been there forever it’s strange the village hasn’t run out of people. Then again, you don’t watch this stuff for logic.

Gladius is the adviser to the Queen. He’s had it up to here with the goings on. He tells the Queen he knows someone who can take care of business. She wants nothing to do with that. She’s got her own agenda. Now she gets word that Gladius sent for Hercules anyway.

On her orders soldiers waylay Hercules (Sergio Ciani aka/Alan Steel) outside of town. Bad mistake. Even though he looks like he missed a few months at the gym he dispatches them without breaking a sweat or even losing some oil.  Gladius’ daughter Agar shows Hercules how to get into the village. Later Agar and Gladius are overheard by the Queen plotting to stop the sacrifices, She has them followed as they head to meet Hercules and the conspirators.

Gladius and Hercules go through a secret passage. It’s not so secret and Gladius is killed and Hercules is dropped into a pit that fills with water. Agar is somewhere way behind. Having had enough of a bath Hercules breaks out only to run into..whatever it is. He makes quick work of it.

Rudolphis,the leader of The Moon men appears before the Queen and warns her to get her act together is she wants to rules what’s left of the Earth after the Moon closes in and ruins almost everything. She has twenty-four hours to get her half sister Billis to the Mountain Of Death. The Moon’s Queen Selene is out of it and needs a transfusion. Since they could be twins Billis has to be the lucky one to provide blood. Nobody told Billis.

Billis has her own agenda. She wants to marry Samara’s cousin, Prince Darix. The Queen seems agreeable but first…Darix has to go on a mission for peace talks. He doesn’t know it’s all fake to get him out of town and make sure he doesn’t come back. Naive Billis doesn’t have a clue. Hercules finds out and heads out of town to rescue him.

Hercules doesn’t get to him before Darix gets an arrow in the shoulder. He manages to defeat another small army and get him back to tavern owner Tirteo’s place to heal up. Meanwhile Agar and Hercules are giving each other “The Look.”

Of course Hercules is captured by the bad guys and Samara invites Agar to watch him die in a scene that takes forever. Now he has to face his deadliest foe yet…Samara’s love potion. There’s trouble now as Hercules recommends the death penalty for Darix and Agar.

The movie comes to a slam bang ending but it’s a boring ride getting there. There’s fifteen minutes of sleep worthy film and then it finally steps up. If nothing else this movie will awaken your inner comedian.

One note. In the original Italian-French production the character was called Meciste. That name was used in other movies for the son of Hercules. They thought American audiences wouldn’t have a clue about the name and decided to go with Hercules.

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Outside The Law (1930)

outside the law 1930

Really bad movie directed by Tod Browning and starring Edward G.Robinson before “Little Caesar.”

Cobra Collins (Edward G.Robinson) spots thief Fingers O’Dell doing a mechanical man act in the window of a bank. He knows he’s planning a robbery. Later in his office Cobra tells him he’ll have to do a fifty-fifty split if he wants to do a robbery in his town.

Connie Madden (Mary Nolan) pulls a stunt in order to meet Cobra. She works in a joint called The Palace Of Fine Arts. It’s just a peep show where girls strike poses from famous paintings. Cobra doesn’t know she’s in cahoots with Fingers….or does he?

Fingers hides in a locker in the bank’s bathroom. Cobra has a man watching him. It doesn’t matter. He hands a half million out the window to Connie who posing as an old woman.They hole up in an apartment across from a widower who is a cop and has a three year old Fingers likes to call Duke.

Connie can’t stand the way he plays with the kid and Fingers tells her he wants her to have a kid just like him. There’s a loooooong sequence in the apartment with Fingers, Connie and the kid that bogs the movie down beyond repair.

Edward G.Robinson is almost a parody of his future gangster roles and Mary Nolan is beyond terrible. Louise Beavers is good in her role as Judy the maid who looks after the kid while Dad is at work.

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