November 20th, 2009

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) ** ½

A team of psychics go to the titular haunted house to prove to some wealthy millionaire that there is life after death.  Luckily for us, there is.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a movie.  The ghost goes around making the chicks horny while the one sciency guy tries to “cleanse” the house by starting up a big doodad that looks like a computerized washer-dryer combo.  It does not go well. 

 

The Legend of Hell House is kinda like The Haunting with a libido.  One chick gets possessed and tries to sex up Roddy McDowall and says, “If you don’t touch me I’ll find somebody who will!”  The other mousy broad offers herself up to the spirit “freely” and the ghost goes all kinds of Marv Albert on her.  These scenes are cool for the most part but far too much of the flick is taken up by a bunch of stiff lipped Brits wandering aimlessly around the house.

 

Director John (Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry) Hough films everything with a capable hand.  He gives us all the stuff we’d expect from a haunted house picture (flying bed sheets, slamming doors, shattering China, dropping chandeliers, etc.) but also tosses in one or two expected surprises.  The highlight is a pretty great possessed cat attack scene; complete with Pussy POV. 

 

The Legend of Hell House is slightly better than most of it’s ilk.  The heightened sex drive adds a little something-something to the proceedings (heck, even the shadows hump each other) and helps to set it apart from the rest of the pack.  Despite being a tad kinkier than most haunted house spook shows, it still falls into the same pitfalls inherent in the genre; namely the fact that  flying bed sheets, slamming doors, shattering China, dropping chandeliers, etc. just aren’t very scary.

THE GAY FALCON (1941) ***

After portraying the sleuthing Saint, George Sanders moved to RKO to take on the similar role of The Falcon.  This one is the first in the series.  And FYI, the title refers to his first name, “Gay” and not his sexual preference because he’s definitely a ladies man. 

 

The Falcon is engaged to be married and promises his bride-to-be to give up his crime-solving ways.  He takes a job as a Wall Street broker but is lured out of retirement to investigate a rash of jewelry thefts centering around a wealthy socialite.  When the jewel thieves frame The Falcon’s bumbling sidekick for multiple murders, Gay tries to clear his name and bring the villains to justice.

 

I’ve always been a fan of these 40’s B Movie Detective Programmers.  While The Falcon series lacks the panache of The Saint films, they nevertheless get the job done.  What really makes this one work is the charisma of Sanders as the smooth-talking, suave-ass, spinach juice-drinking Falcon.  He’s pretty much a pimp in this movie.  He has a flair for romantic comedy and is actually very funny when juggling his fiancé and a giddy groupie.

 

The plot leaves something to be desired.  There are no clever plot twists or anything, just The Falcon trying to get the goods on the bad guys.  That’s okay because you’ll be too busy relishing Sanders’ performance to notice the lack of surprises.

 

Sanders returned the next year in A Date with the Falcon.

A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942) ** ½

George Sanders returns as the cool as a cucumber crime solver The Falcon in the second film of the series.  This time around, The Falcon must rescue a kidnapped scientist who has perfected a formula to create a flawless imitation diamond.  This naturally pisses off his perpetually put-upon fiancé who wants him to give up sleuthing and settle down with her.

 

A Date with the Falcon suffers from a weak plotline but it has it’s share of moments.  There’s a funny scene where The Falcon gets captured by the bad guys and foils the kidnapping by making goofy faces at a passing cop.  Also amusing is the part where The Falcon hides on the ledge of a tall building from a killer and his annoying fiancé gives him away by yelling and screaming at him.

 

What kinda knocks this installment down a notch is the fact that The Falcon gets a little sloppy.  I mean the bad guys get the drop on him no less than THREE times in this one.  (Once was intentional, but still.)  The ending was also wrapped up a little too conveniently for my tastes too.

 

The story maybe second rate, but Sanders’ great performance will keep you entertained.  Allen Jenkins yet again delivers a funny turn as The Falcon’s dim-witted right hand man Goldy.  Hans Conreid also has a memorable bit part as a slimy hotel desk clerk.

THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) ** ½

The third Falcon adventure was based on Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely with The Falcon filling in for Phillip Marlowe.  While in the midst of investigating the murder of a nightclub owner, The Falcon (George Sanders) agrees to help track down a stolen jade necklace.  The Falcon eventually uncovers an elaborate blackmail scheme and is nearly killed by an alluring femme fatale (Helen Gilbert).  Luckily for him, her jealous musclebound psycho boyfriend Moose Malloy (Ward Bond) gets to her first.

 

The Falcon Takes Over is considerably darker in tone than the other films in the series.  The mashing up of the gritty Raymond Chandler and the lightweight Falcon is an odd one to say the least.  Unfortunately, the flick shifts unevenly from comedy and film noir and never really gathers the steam necessary to become wholly involving.

 

Again, Sanders is a complete badass and nearly succeeds in saving the film.  Ward Bond also does a good job as the hulking killer Moose Malloy.  His constant run-ins with The Falcon’s sidekick Goldy are the highlights of the film.  I also liked Gilbert’s sultry turn as the deadly blonde.  It’s Inspector O’Hara who gets the best line of the film when he says, “It’s either sing or Sing Sing!”

THE FALCON IN MEXICO (1944) **

The Falcon (Tom Conway) returns for his ninth murder mystery.  In this one, he tries to help a pretty senorita in distress and winds up being blamed for the murder of an art dealer.  In order to clear his name, the super sleuth heads down to Mexico where he teams up with the daughter of a missing artist to solve the mystery.

 

The Falcon in Mexico is a pretty tepid entry in the franchise.  Although it features an interesting location (scenes of the local color were taken from Orson Welles’ unfinished film, It’s All True) and some supernatural elements (the chick sees the “ghost” of her dead father), The Falcon’s south of the border adventure is about as appealing as a three day old burrito.  Much of the action is slow moving and the dapper detective basically just chases his own tail for the better half of the film’s running time.  The lame musical numbers are particularly gratuitious.

 

While this installment is a bit of a letdown, the performances certainly help.  Conway does some fine work as the silver-tongued sleuth.  His air of regality helps to elevate the ho-hum material.  Nestor (The Creature from the Black Lagoon) Paiva also gets some pretty funny lines as The Falcon’s loyal comic relief Mexican chauffeur. 

 

Screenwriter George Worthing Yates also wrote The Amazing Colossal Man.

CANDYMAN 3: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999) **

I meant to check this out as part of my extended Horror Franchise Marathon but shit got a little hectic when my daughter got born and it kinda slipped through the cracks.  Now I make no bones about my contempt for the Candyman series.  I never “got” them I guess.  Everyone talks about how atmospheric they are.  To me though, they’ve always been pretty weak.  This is the best one of the trilogy.  Candyman fans may think I’m being sacrilegious but that’s just how I feel.  It probably had something to do with my lowered expectations more than anything.

 

Donna D’Errico plays the great granddaughter of Candyman (Tony Todd).  As a promotion for an art exhibit featuring the Candyman’s paintings, she says his name five times in front of a mirror and resurrects the hook-handed madman.  Predictably, he goes around murdering a bunch of people while offering his descendant a chance to become a card-carrying Candywoman.

 

While the first two Candyman flicks where all about being pompous and slow-moving, this Direct to Video sequel is a bit more down and dirty.  It actually tries to give the audience what they want; namely titties and blood.  The other films tried too hard to be “legitimate” movies and consequently got bogged down in a hurry.  Part 3 is refreshingly content with just being a lowbrow Direct to Video horror sequel.  For that and little else, I admired it.

 

Although Day of the Dead is an improvement over the previous installments, it still isn’t very good.  The “plot” just basically calls for Candyman to harass D’Errico while forcing her to watch as he guts her friends.  This is OK for the first 45 minutes or so but it gets a bit tiresome after awhile.  You also have to deal with some annoying Candyman worshipping punks/art critics, a bunch of stupid dream sequences, and an ending that pretty much sucks too.

 

Todd once again gives a menacing performance as Candyman.  You know, it’s a shame that time and again, he gives 100% in these movies and each time the filmmakers let him down.  I mean they have a great looking psycho and all they do with him is make him say inane shit like, “Join me in death!” over and over again in a voice that sounds like a cross between Barry White and Darth Vader.  

 

Nick (A Nightmare on Elm Street) Corri also does a good job in the hero role who tries to protect D’Errico from Candyman.  Speaking of D’Errico, she looks amazingly hot in the flick and what she lacks in the acting department, she more than makes up for in yummy-ness.  Maybe if her Baywatch co-star David Hasselhoff showed up, the movie might’ve rocked.

 

Suggested Drinking Game:  Take a shot every time Candyman says, “Be my victim!”