Heart and Soul: Bonus Features

April 12th, 2016 by admin

Here’s a special treat that none of you have been asking for: brief reviews of every movie I watched while I was hospitalized.

Early on, when I learned open-heart surgery was in the cards, I bought a small portable Blu-ray player. Beyond its obvious use, during the upcoming hospital stay, I knew it would be cool to have on trips where early-to-bedder Barb could go to sleep in our hotel room while I watched something on the Blu-ray player, listening through headphones and not bothering her. Getting that Blu-ray portable was smart of me.

Here’s where I was dumb. Instead of picking DVDs and Blu-rays (from my stupidly large collection) that were either old favorites or which had a lot of potential, I filled a little CD case with oddball stuff I hadn’t got around to yet, and that I was pretty sure Barb would have no interest in.

But it was Barb who soon realized I was making my hospital time even worse by torturing myself with crap movies. I guess when you almost die, you have less patience for spending time pointlessly. So here’s a rundown on a bunch of movies that you should avoid. I’m using the Leonard Maltin four-star system, just don’t look for any four-stars. I usually am loathe to write bad reviews of movies. But since I loathed these movies, I’ll make these exceptions.

SMART GIRLS DON’T TALK (1948) – * ½. Pitiful excuse for a film noir with Virginia Mayo (her character all over the good-girl/bad-girl map) supported by Bruce Bennett and Robert Hutton, two of the dullest leading men on record.

CHRISTMAS EVE (1947) – * ½. Two of my favorite (if limited) actors, Randolph Scott and George Raft, in a sort of anthology movie that is among the dreariest Christmas movies ever made. After this contemporary misfire, Scott made only westerns. Good choice!

THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (1953) – *. Worst John Ford movie ever. A personal favorite of his, and the pits – cornball smalltown humor, sentimental slop, and incredibly racist attitudes even for its era (Stepin Fetchit co-stars). A remake of a much earlier Ford starring Will Rogers. Full disclosure: the only one of these terrible movies I didn’t make it through.

CAPTAIN CAREY U.S.A. (1950). 1 ½ *. Incredibly dull, slow-moving Alan Ladd almost-noir. Don’t believe the “U.S.A.” – it takes place in a studio-created Italy. Somebody betrayed Ladd during the war and he wants to get even. I watched the thing and I’d like to get even myself.

THE CROOKED WAY (1949) – 1 ½ *. I’m a fan of John Payne, whose MIRACLE ON 34th STREET performance is pitch-perfect. Here he’s earning a paycheck as an amnesiac in a rote would-be noir that remembers only to hit every cliche, hard. I wish I could forget it.

YOU AND ME (1938) **. Probably the most interesting of these movies, but nonetheless an oddball misfire from director Fritz Lang. It’s a musical starring George Raft! Neither Raft nor co-star Sylvia Sidney sing. A Greek chorus of lowlifes, courtesy of Kurt Weill, recalls THREEPENNY OPERA, but nothing here was worth Bobby Darin covering. Bob Cummings plays a gangster!

MAN IN THE SHADOW (1957) 1 ½ *. Brain-numbingly predictable modern-day western in which the whole town stands up against a sheriff (Jeff Chandler) who wants to stand up against the rich guy who owns the place. That the rich guy is Orson Welles in a fake nose somehow only makes it worse. Written by STAR TREK scripter Gene L. Coon, who should have known better.

ASSAULT ON A QUEEN (1966) **. Conceived as a nautical take on OCEAN’S 11, and based on a Jack Finney novel, this one has Frank Sinatra very much in TONY ROME mode. Fine, but then the plot turns out to be about using a recovered Nazi sub to rob the Queen Mary. Sinatra participates because he likes the way Virna Lisi looks. I don’t disagree with that, but I wouldn’t try to knock over the Queen Mary for her, particularly in the company of an unbearable Tony Franciosa.

No Man's Woman

NO MAN’S WOMAN – (1955) *. This by-the-numbers low-end crime melodrama (calling it noir is a stretch) holds a strange fascination by playing like an early PERRY MASON episode, right down to Marie Windsor’s femme fatale racking up an array of suspects in the early reels for after she gets murdered. Just about every actor here appeared on a MASON, but without Raymond Burr, William Hopper and Barbara Hale, the result is lacking somehow.

THE ANGRY HILLS – * (1959). Barb actually brought me this at the hospital (it had arrived in the mail) because she was concerned about the effect lousy movies were having on me. Much looked forward to by me, it’s the rejoining of KISS ME DEADLY’s director (Robert Aldrich) and writer (A.I. Bezzerides). And it stars Robert Mitchum! And it blows!
During World War Two, reporter Mitchum wanders around Europe to deliver a message to somebody. The Warner Archive DVD must be the European cut, because there’s a lengthy topless dancer scene that doesn’t mitigate the agony.

CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN – (1958) **. Slow-moving, unexciting rip-off of THE MUMMY. Standard B schlock from notorious team of director Edward L. Cahn and producer Robert E. Kent. Another STAR TREK writer, Jerome Bixby, shares the guilt. Why do I do this to myself?

BEACHHEAD – (1954) **. Tony Curtis gets out-acted by Frank Lovejoy as they portray two soldiers during World War Two, who openly hate each other, yet are somehow selected to cross enemy territory together to deliver a message (Robert Mitchum wasn’t available). They pick up a cute love interest along the way (Mary Murphy of THE WILD ONE) but I still fell asleep in the middle of it and didn’t bother going back to see what I missed when I woke up.

SPELLBINDER – (1988) **½. Probably my favorite of these movies, which is the faintest of praise. An okay ‘80s horror flick with Timothy Daly doing a nice job as a regular guy who falls for gorgeous coven escapee, Kelly Preston. Think of it as ROSEMARY’S BABE, with a predictably downbeat ending.

A LOVELY WAY TO DIE – (1968) **. A goofy, crazily sexist private eye mystery that is almost enjoyable, thanks to the high energy of Kirk Douglas. But it goes on forever…well, an hour and forty-one minutes, which is long enough. Remember when a helicopter chasing a car was exciting? Me either.

And you thought you’d heard about the worst horrors that greeted me during my hospital stay!

* * *

Here’s a terrific MURDER NEVER KNOCKS review.

Jeff Pierce at the Rap Sheet wrote about the pending publication by Brash Books of my complete ROAD TO PERDITION novel. Scroll down for it.

Here, from Open Book Society, is a review of the recently re-published QUARRY’S CUT.

My pal Bill Crider wrote this great piece about QUARRY’S VOTE, also recently republished.

Finally, here’s a terrific ANTIQUES FATE review from the great Ed Gorman. The book is out soon!


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8 Responses to “Heart and Soul: Bonus Features”

  1. Tom Zappe/St Louis says:

    It’s refreshing to not have to damn something with faint praise all the time.

    I just finished MURDER NEVER KNOCKS, absolutely terrific. I didn’t need the audio book to hear Stacey Keach do the narration.

  2. Tim P says:

    Hi. Remembering your Man of Steel movie review, I was curious as to whether you’ve seen Batman vs Superman. I wouldn’t suggest you see it though. For me, it was rather depressing story, and a letdown in terms of movie vs comics.
    Glad to know you’re on the mend.

  3. Max Allan Collins says:

    Thanks for the praise, Tom!

    Tim, I thought BATMAN V. SUPERMAN wasn’t bad, though I continue to be dismayed by the lack of joy and fun in these movies. Also, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was flat-out terrible.

  4. Mike Doran says:

    Thanx once again for reconfirming the wisdom of not going to the movies as often as I used to.

    I did actually pay to see “The Dank Knight vs. The Man Of Stool” in 3D/No Waiting, no less.
    What I mainly came away from this one with … one severely overloaded bladder, not helped by the most false endings since Count Basie’s “April In Paris”.
    Pity – there actually seemed to be a movie in there somewhere …

    As to your list of wowzers from the C2C stacks (or is it piles?) – my morbid curiosity is alive and … well, it’s alive, anyway.

    Imagine, Bruce Bennett and Robert Hutton (Brix and Mortar?) in the same movie! The mind reels!

    CAPTAIN CAREY, U.S.A., which gave the world the song “Mona Lisa” (and the world has been waiting to give it back ever since).
    By the way, U.S.A. means United States Army, meaning Captain Carey is a career man, which you probably knew anyway, but I like to show off, so there too.

    The Fritz Lang musical got a big write-up at MYSTERY*FILE, complete with embedded scene.
    Some things I need to see for myself …

    CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN: I believe I mentioned some time back that my brother was STAR TREK-obsessed, which caused me to get bored with the whole schmeer while it was still in NBC first-run.
    In the many years since, I’ve seen actors, writers, directors, Teamsters – anyone who ever got a credit on so much as one STAR TREK episode is IDed with the show as if he’d done nothing else in his career.
    I get it with Gene Coon – he was in management, after all – but Jerome Bixby had a long career in print and film, both pre- and post-TREK, and it seems scarcely fair to dismiss all the rest of it because of one script he did, for a show whose greatest success (it must be said) was mainly ex post facto.
    My own opinion – yours differs, I know – but I had to say it.

    The Others: Oh, why bother?
    Maybe ASSAULT ON A QUEEN, which only works if we’re talking in person, so I can show that I know how to pronounce Alf Kjellin (chell-EEN) (and thanx and a hat tip to Quinn Martin), but …

    My favorite bad movie that I looked at recently was THE HYPNOTIC EYE, which featured cameos by Fred Demara (The REAL Great Impostor) and Lawrence Lipton (King of the Beat Poets, and father of the Actors Studio guy).
    If you’re gonna watch BAD, at least have a reason.

    Take it easy, Max – and I hope you’re up for a Chicago road trip at least before the year is out.

  5. Tim P says:

    Talking of bad movies, several years, I suggested that some beer club friends that we watch Rutger Haur’s Hobo with a Shotgun. They’ve never let me forget that movie! Conversely, I really enjoyed Tarantino’s Grindhouse movies Deathproof, Planet Terror and Machete…B, or D, movie genius.

  6. Bill Crider says:

    I’ve never seen any of those movies, and never will, I suppose. However, Harry Whittington did the novelization of MAN IN THE SHADOW, and I’ve had it on my shelves for 40 years or more without reading it. Now I feel a powerful urge to get it down and give it a go. It has to be better than the movie, right?

  7. Max Allan Collins says:

    HYPNOTIC EYE is much better than most (maybe all) of what I watched, but I’m glad I didn’t see it in the hospital.

    I remember liking HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, which announces itself so well. I liked GRINDHOUSE and MACHETE, too.

    Bill, if you want to give MAN IN THE SHADOW a go, I recommend it as bathroom reading (going for the joke, even though it’s probably at least readable if Whittington wrote it).

  8. Mike Dennis says:

    Sounds like your cinematic experience was far more of a torture than your heart surgery, Max. I will admit to seeing a few of those gems, and I hated them all, especially ASSAULT ON A QUEEN and THE CROOKED WAY. I did like THE HYPNOTIC EYE, though.