TV Review – CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976)

CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976, USA) ***
Crime, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions / Universal Television; d. Don Medford; w. Stephen J. Cannell (based on a story by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell); exec pr. Jo Swerling Jr.; pr. Roy Huggins; assoc pr. Dorothy J. Bailey; ph. Ric Waite (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Nelson Riddle; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Edwin F. England, Ronald LaVine, Larry Lester; ad. John W. Corso; set d. Jerry Adams; cos. Charles Waldo; sd. John K. Kean (Mono); rel. 3 February 1976 (USA – TV), April 1977 (UK); cert: -/PG; r/t. 3 x 47mm.

cast: Wayne Rogers (Jake Axminster), Elaine Joyce (Marsha), Philip Sterling (Michael Brimm), Clifton James (Lt. Murray Quint), Diane Ladd (Laura Taylor), Meredith Baxter (Mary Kingston (as Meredith Baxter Birney)), Laurence Luckinbill (Noel Crossman Jr.), Stephen Elliott (Harold Delaney), Jack Kruschen (Harry Kahn), Dorothy Malone (Dawn Archer), Lloyd Nolan (Gen. Smedley Butler), Robert Sampson (Wayne Fisher), G.D. Spradlin (Gen. Winfield), Laurence Hugo (Alex Sebastian), Steve Kanaly (Parker), Martin Kove (Stan), Pepper Martin (Reggie), Rod McCary (George Donaldson), Paul Jenkins (Terry), Ross Bickell (Murdock).

Jake Axminster (Rogers) is a hard-boiled, wise-cracking private eye in 1934 Los Angeles. Mary Kingston (Baxter) hires him to prove her innocence because she is being framed for murdering her boyfriend, and the police are seeking her whereabouts. Jake hides her in a beach house and begins his investigation. He discovers that Mary and her boyfriend witnessed a Alex Sebastian’s (Hugo) murder at a party on the previous night, and she fled but her boyfriend was captured and killed. Sebastien was a reporter who was about to publish a story of some importance, concerning the date of November thirteenth. Following in the wake of CHINATOWN (1974) this was a valiant attempt by Universal to capture the same blend of period atmosphere, themes of corruption and a Chandler-esque mystery. The result is a mixed bag with the positives being the period detail in the production design and some smart dialogue. On the minus side are the unimaginative and sometimes flat direction and a disappointing denouement. Rogers essays James Garner in his interpretation of the down-at-heel private eye but he lacks Garner’s charm. Nevertheless, his enthusiastic performance occasionally hits home. A strong support cast is on hand, notably the excellent Joyce as Rogers’ secretary who combines her work with running the phone lines for the city’s hookers. Joyce has a natural comic flair which elevates the material when she is on screen. James is the corrupt cop who beats on his prisoners and Baxter has fun as the fugitive starlet. The script, by veterans Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, could have been sharpened further, but the production was a hasty one with the series being a mid-season replacement. The promise on show here would occasionally surface over the series’ next ten episodes before it was cancelled due to low ratings just as it was building a head of steam. Whilst this three-part story served to introduce the series to its US audience, it was edited to 103 minutes and released in cinemas in the UK, Europe, Australia, Central and South America. The film was based on a notorious 1933 American conspiracy known as the Business Plot, which involved wealthy businessmen trying to bring down United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a coup.

Film Review – THE GIRL HUNTERS (1963)

The Girl Hunters (1963) - The Stalking MoonTHE GIRL HUNTERS (UK, 1963) **½
      Distributor: Colorama Features (USA) / Twentieth Century Fox Film Company (UK); Production Company: Fellane; Release Date: 12 June 1963 (USA), 16 July 1964 (UK); Running Time: 98m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Roy Rowland; Writer: Mickey Spillane, Robert Fellows, Roy Rowland (based on the novel by Mickey Spillane); Producer: Robert Fellows; Associate Producer: Charles Reynolds; Director of Photography: Kenneth Talbot; Music Composer: Philip Green; Film Editor: Sidney Stone; Art Director: Tony Inglis; Costumes: Rene Coke, Dan Millstein (Miss Eaton’s wardrobe); Make-up: Sidney Turner, Alice Holmes; Sound: Jim Roddan, Hugh Strain, Gerry Turner.
      Cast: Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer), Lloyd Nolan (Federal Agent Arthur Rickerby), Shirley Eaton (Laura Knapp), Scott Peters (Police Captain Pat Chambers), Guy Kingsley Poynter (Dr. Larry Snyder), James Dyrenforth (Bayliss Henry), Charles Farrell (Joe Grissi), Kim Tracy (Nurse), Hy Gardner (Hy Gardner – the Columnist), Benny Lee (Nat Drutman), Murray Kash (Richie Cole), Bill Nagy (Georgie), Clive Endersby (Duck-Duck), Ricardo Montez (Skinny Guy), Larry Cross (Red Markham), Tony Arpino (Cab driver), Hal Galili (Bouncer), Nellie Hanham (Landlady), Robert Gallico (Dr. Leo Daniels), Michael Brennan (Policeman), Howard Greene (Policeman), Grant Holden (Policeman), Francis Napier (Detective), Larry Taylor (The Dragon).
      Synopsis: Legendary detective Mike Hammer has spent seven years in an alcoholic funk after the supposed death of his secretary, Velda. He is brought back to the land of the living by his old friendly enemy, police lieutenant Pat Chambers.
     Comment: Mickey Spillane plays his own literary creation, New York PI Mike Hammer, in this straight adaptation of his seventh Hammer novel. Here Hammer has been 7-years a drunken bum following the assumed death of his secretary Velda. When he is given hope Velda is still alive by a dying man, Hammer seeks to find the truth behind her disappearance and becomes embroiled in an espionage plot which puts him at the centre of the target for a professional killer. Eaton plays the widow of a US senator who was also involved in the plot and Nolan a government agent who has Hammer working to unravel the mystery. Made in the UK, art director Inglis does well to create authentic street scenes and sets. Spillane is stiff as Hammer and struggles to deliver his own dialogue with the tough intensity one imagines on the written page. Nolan is the movie’s bright spot along with Green’s mournful score. Like its source, the movie fails to close out the story and a sequel (an adaptation of Spillane’s follow-up novel The Snake) was intended but never shot. The tough-guy antics,  moody atmosphere and black-and-white photography suggest the movie belongs in another time – unfortunately its execution falls short of its ambition.

Film Review – CIRCUS WORLD (1964)

Image result for circus world 1964Circus World (1964; USA; Technicolor; 135m) ***  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Ben Hecht, Julian Halevy, James Edward Grant, Philip Yordan, Nicholas Ray; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale, John Smith, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Wanda Rotha, Kay Walsh. A circus owner is beset by disasters as he attempts a European tour of his circus. At the same time, he is caught in an emotional bind between his adopted daughter and her mother. Spectacular circus action makes up for lack of plot and two-dimensional characters. High production values and an exciting finale built around a devastating fire are also pluses. Wayne and Nolan give strong performances, but the rest of the cast are swamped by a script that gives them little to get their teeth into. Aka: THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWMAN. [U]

Film Review – ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953)

John Wayne, Wally Cassell, and Jimmy Lydon in Island in the Sky (1953)Island in the Sky (1953; USA; B&W; 109m) ****  d. William A. Wellman; w. Ernest K. Gann; ph. Archie Stout; m. Emil Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness, Andy Devine, Harry Carey Jr., Regis Toomey, Darryl Hickman, Paul Fix, Bob Steele. A C-47 transport plane makes a forced landing in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane’s pilot must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue. Well-acted drama with Wayne at his best as the pilot taking responsibility for the welfare of his men. The unforgiving landscape is authentically captured by Wellman and his cinematographer Stout. Abel, Nolan, Devine and Arness lead the rescue search. Gann adapted his own novel based on a real-life event during WWII. Reworked as FATE IS THE HUNTER (1964). [U]