THE NAKED SPUR (USA, 1953) ****
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Release Date: 30 January 1953 (USA), 16 April 1953 (UK); Filming Dates: May 1952 – 30 June 1952; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: Anthony Mann; Writer: Sam Rolfe, Harold Jack Bloom; Producer: William H. Wright; Director of Photography: William C. Mellor; Music Composer: Bronislau Kaper; Film Editor: George White; Art Director: Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons; Set Decorator: Edwin B. Willis; Make-up: William Tuttle.
Cast: James Stewart (Howard Kemp), Janet Leigh (Lina Patch), Robert Ryan (Ben Vandergroat), Ralph Meeker (Roy Anderson), Millard Mitchell (Jesse Tate).
Synopsis: A bounty hunter trying to bring a murderer to justice is forced to accept the help of two less-than-trustworthy strangers.
Comment: This excellent and tense Western is more a psychological drama. Stewart is a haunted bounty hunter who looks to bring in outlaw Ryan with the unwanted help of prospector Mitchell and dishonourably discharged cavalryman Meeker. Leigh is Ryan’s companion – the misfit daughter of a dead outlaw. Along the long journey through beautiful Colorado locations, Ryan begins to play his captors off against each other, whilst Stewart slowly falls for Leigh. Mann handles the material expertly and the performances are excellent – notably Stewart as the self-tortured hero and Ryan as the manipulative villain. Great score by Kaper heightens the tension and sumptuous photography from Mellor.
THE FOG (USA, 1980) ****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: AVCO Embassy Pictures; Production Company: AVCO Embassy Pictures / EDI / Debra Hill Productions; Release Date: 1 February 1980 (USA), 6 November 1980 (UK); Filming Dates: May 1979; Running Time: 90m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong horror.
CREW: Director: John Carpenter; Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill; Executive Producer: Charles B. Bloch; Producer: Debra Hill; Associate Producer: Barry Bernardi, Pegi Brotman; Director of Photography: Dean Cundey; Music Composer: John Carpenter; Film Editor: Charles Bornstein, Tommy Lee Wallace; Production Designer: Tommy Lee Wallace; Art Director: Craig Stearns; Set Decorator: ; Costumes: Stephen Loomis, Bill Whitten; Make-up: Rob Bottin; Sound: Ron Horwitz; Special Effects: Richard Albain Jr.; Visual Effects: James F. Liles.
CAST: Adrienne Barbeau (Stevie Wayne), Jamie Lee Curtis (Elizabeth Solley), Janet Leigh (Kathy Williams), John Houseman (Mr. Machen), Tom Atkins (Nick Castle), James Canning (Dick Baxter), Charles Cyphers (Dan O’Bannon), Nancy Kyes (Sandy Fadel), Ty Mitchell (Andy Wayne), Hal Holbrook (Father Malone), John F. Goff (Al Williams), George ‘Buck’ Flower (Tommy Wallace), Regina Waldon (Mrs. Kobritz), Jim Haynie (Dockmaster), Darrow Igus (Mel), John Vick (Sheriff Simms), Jim Jacobus (Mayor), Fred Franklyn (Ashcroft), Ric Moreno (Ghost), Lee Socks (Ghost), Tommy Lee Wallace (Ghost), Bill Taylor (Bartender), Rob Bottin (Blake), Charles Nicklin (Blake), Darwin Joston (Dr. Phibes), Laurie Arent (Child), Lindsey Arent (Child), Shari Jacoby (Child), Christopher Cundey (Child), John Strobel (Grocery Clerk).
SYNOPSIS: A Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, is the target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths.
COMMENT: A fine example of economic filmmaking, this is a creepy and atmospheric ghost story with more than its fair share of thrills. Carpenter nicely ratchets up the tension and a game cast keep the viewer engaged. Holbrook gives the standout performance as the guilt-laden priest who is a descendant of a clergyman instrumental in creating the events that come back toi haunt the community. Curtis and Atkins make strong everyday characters and Leigh enjoys herself as a community leader. The unsettling mood is enhanced Carpenter’s eerie electronic score, which heklps to ratchet up the fear factor.
NOTES: Remade in 2005.
HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998; USA; Colour; 86m) *** d. Steve Miner; w. Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg; ph. Daryn Okada; m. John Ottman, Jeremy Sweet. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, LL Cool J, Adam Hann-Byrd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Janet Leigh, Chris Durand. Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time and now the life of her own son hangs in the balance. Horror sequel is a largely effective thriller with its fair share of tension and shocks. Curtis returns to the franchise and delivers a performance of depth, which stands out against more familiar genre material. Let down by its insistence on going for one climax too many. Early role for Hartnett as Curtis’ faithful son. Followed by HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002). 
Jet Pilot (1957; USA; Technicolor; 112m) ** d. Josef Von Sternberg; w. Jules Furthman; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Bronislau Kaper. Cast: John Wayne, Janet Leigh, Jay C. Flippen, Paul Fix, Richard Rober, Hans Conried, Denver Pyle, Roland Winters, Kenneth Tobey. An Air Force colonel is assigned to escort defecting Soviet pilot and falls in love with her, but she is scheming to lure him back to the USSR. Poorly directed story fails to engage on any level and only the superb aerial photography and flight sequences make this film interesting. Tone veers uneasily from drama to comedy as Wayne and Leigh, who is at least appealing in her Russian spy role, skirt around each other. Filmed in 1949-50, this long held-back movie was finally released seven years later. [U]