Action Classics, Vol. 1 [2 Discs] [DVD]
- SKU: 14411549
- Release Date: 06/07/2005
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At the start of his film career and just a year before his appearance in Murder, Inc. would get him Academy Award notice, Peter Falk played Nico, the strung-out, emotionally dead psychopath who leads a group of societal misfits in this sick and slick, low-budget crime drama. Cliff (Jack Betts) is an ordinary young man determined to find out who murdered his kid brother by giving him a hamburger mixed with ground glass. Detective McLeod (Robert Christie), who is supposed to be investigating the case, is woefully inept, but Cliff has Ellie (Barbara Lord), a woman with problems of her own, willing to help him out. Eventually, the murder is traced to Nico and his henchmen as Cliff begins to sort out how the crime was committed. Although the dialogue is surface deep, just like the characters, the direction (Julian Roffman), the acting, and the repulsive nature of the content of this crime drama make up for any deficiencies. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi
Swamp Diamonds is the family-trade title for the sweaty Roger Corman crime melodrama Swamp Women. Policewoman Carole Mathews dons her torpedo bra and tight jeans to infiltrate a dangerous all-female criminal gang, currently serving time in a Louisiana Prison. The ladies escape and head to the swamp, where they've hidden a fortune in diamonds. Along the way, they kidnap geologist Touch Connors (later known as Mike Connors). For a while, it looks as though the girls will get away with their perfidy and Connors will end up as alligator bait, but Mathews saves the day. The supporting cast of Swamp Diamonds is a roll-call of 1950s "tough broads": Marie Windsor, Beverly Garland, Susan Cummings, Jil Jarmyn. Watch for Jonathan Haze, future star of Little Shop of Horrors, and Ed Nelson, future talk-show host and politician, in minor roles. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Johnny Mack Brown stars in Flames as a cocksure young firefighter named Charlie. After rescuing a cat from a burning building, Charlie and his pal Fishy (George Cooper) try to make time with the cat's pretty owners, Pat (Noel Francis) and Gertie (Marjorie Beebe). After a plenitude of comic byplay, our hero gets down to business again by battling a blaze in the firetrap apartment building next door to Pat's place. Since the film was directed by cinematographer Karl Brown, it should be no surprise that Flames is far more interesting visually than verbally. TV prints of Flames bear the reissue title The Fire Alarm. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Mutiny in the Big House
A frequent visitor to contemporary TV cable services, Monogram's Mutiny in the Big House affords stalwart supporting player Charles Bickford top billing as a prison chaplain, with jailhouse-flick veteran Barton MacLane billed second as a hardened con. The nominal hero, however, is fourth-billed Dennis Moore, sent "up the river" for forging a check. Bickford tries to save Moore's soul, while MacLane attempts to toughen up the "new fish" and involve him in a breakout scheme. Though this is the prison picture that is parodied in the like-titled Lenny Bruce comedy routine, Mr. Bruce took considerable liberties with the source material (including recasting the leads!) The film was produced by actor Grant Withers, who at one time was married to Loretta Young, and based on a story by Martin Mooney, a journalist who'd spent a few months "in stir" himself; credited for the script was Robert D. Andrews, best known for dreaming up the premise for the 1932 all-star anthology If I Had a Million. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Hurricane Express [Serial]
The second of two projected John Wayne serials produced by genre expert Mascot Pictures, this film used the budget-saving device of having its master criminal wearing variously fiendish rubber masks, offering him the opportunity to resemble every red herring in the large cast. Known only as "The Wrecker" ("That's him, The Wrecker!" people continuously scream throughout the serial), the villain is attempting to sabotage the L. & R. Railroad in order to bolster a competing airline service. Wayne plays a commercial pilot whose father, the railroad's chief engineer (J. Farrell MacDonald), is murdered early on. Shirley Grey, as the daughter of a railroad man falsely accused of sabotage, is the damsel-in-distress (although, despite some poster art, she is never actually tied to the tracks), and Tully Marshall plays the president of the railroad. As Wayne had no drawing power whatsoever in 1932, Marshall, a veteran from the early silent era, was actually given star billing along with Conway Tearle, who portrayed the little seen company lawyer. The Hurricane Express survives in a truncated 70-minute feature version, a screening of which actually feels like watching an entire serial in one sitting. The serial was co-directed by J.P. McGowan, a veteran actor-director who had begun his long love affair with railroad themes directing his then-wife Helen Holmes in The Hazards of Helen (1915). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi
Boys' Reformatory was the third of Frankie Darro's tough-guy vehicles for Monogram Pictures. Darro is cast as orphaned teenager Tommy, who to avoid breaking his foster-mother's heart takes the rap for a crime committed by his foster-brother Eddie (Frank Coghlan Jr.). Sent to a dismal reform school, Tommy finds a friend in the form of school doctor Owens (Grant Withers), a tireless crusader for improved reformatory conditions. With Owens' help, Tommy is able to take a "vacation" from the institution and round up the crooks responsible for leading Eddie astray. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
This Pine-Thomas actioner stars Robert Lowery as two-fisted forest ranger Don Bradley. Promoted to supervisor, Bradley finds his success hollow when his childhood sweetheart Kay (Ellen Drew) marries big-time gangster Steve Downey (Regis Toomey). In soon develops that Kay has wedded Downey against her will, and is being held prisoner in a remote mountain cabin. Bradley then dashes to the rescue, which culminates in a perilous car chase through dangerous mountain passages. Eddie Quillan provides comic relief as Bradley's pal Willie. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Fast and the Furious
Frank Webster (John Ireland) is a man on the run. Newly broken out of prison, the former truck driver and convicted murderer takes Connie Adair (Dorothy Malone) hostage at a lonely roadside diner and commandeers her car, a racing job than she intended to drive in a rally. At first Connie is as frightened as any woman should be in such a situation, but she soon sees that Frank is more than a wanted criminal -- he's an innocent man trying to redeem his life, and forced by circumstance to commit acts of violence. Soon the two are on the run together, lovers and fugitives using the cover of the road rally as a dodge so he can get to the border and freedom. Connie tries to convince Frank to take a stand, get the evidence out that framed him, and redeem his honor, as the authorities close in on the fast-driving pair. The second movie ever produced by Roger Corman, The Fast and the Furious marked the first release of Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson and the beginning of their American Releasing Corporation, soon to be renamed American International Pictures. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi