Sunday, November 30, 2008


During the Depression, Jud Hammond (Walter Huston) is elected President and immediately begins breaking his campaign promises. He tells reporters that problems such as unemployment and crime are purely of local concern and not worth his attention. He's a figurehead for his do-nothing party, politics as usual, until he suffers a serious concussion in a car accident (caused by his own reckless driving). His doctors don't hold out much hope for him, but he suddenly recovers (after a heavenly breeze rustles the curtain in his room) and is a changed man. When a protesting "army" of the unemployed arrives in Washington, he greets them with open arms and announces the creation of a "Construction Army" to put them back to work and to stimulate the economy. He asks Congress to dissolve itself and give him full power to rebuild the government; when they balk at this, he threatens to invoke martial law. As a dictator, he ends Prohibition (to put racketeers out of business), bans mortgage foreclosures, and, to go directly after criminals, he cuts the "red tape of legal procedures" to get "back to first principles" by creating a Federal Army which is able to go after notorious gangster Nick Diamond (C. Henry Gordon) without due process, putting him and his men before a firing squad. Soon he goes after Europe, threatening war unless they begin paying back their debts. Somehow, this leads to a global disarmament agreement, and once that's signed, there's another heavenly rustle and Hammond collapses and dies.

This political fantasy (thus fitting in with my Thanksgiving fantasy theme, though it's certainly not an epic adventure) is a wild wish-fulfillment fever dream. It was filmed just as FDR came into office; clearly Hammond is meant to be the kind of president who would save the country from the mess that Herbert Hoover could not; the Construction Army is a forerunner of the WPA, one of Roosevelt's biggest "New Deal" plans for propping up the economy. William Randolph Hearst, an FDR backer, produced the film and according to Jonathan Alter's book The Defining Moment, about FDR's first hundred days in office, Roosevelt himself made some script suggestions. Of course, the problem is that even if the trains are back to running on time, so to speak, Hammond has become a fascist. If, as a fantasy from the Depression years, this seems almost quaint, think of George W. Bush having President Hammond as a role model. The movie, however, is not quaint and does still pack some power (in Hammond's scary speeches, the gunning-down of the gangsters, and the bizarre show of military power near the end), albeit not the inspiring kind that Hearst assumed it would have. Franchot Tone plays Hammond's secretary who grows to admire the president, and Karen Morley (pictured above with Huston) is Hammond's mistress, whom he installs as his "confidential secretary," though later he gives her up, and almost literally gives her away to Tone, who is in love with her. Though occasionally a bit creaky as filmmaking, this is a fascinating document of its time and is well worth seeing, especially if you know something about 1933. The title comes from some speculation between Tone and Morley that the Angel Gabriel, whom Tone calls "the angel of Revelations," has guided the President. [TCM]

Saturday, November 29, 2008


In the year 1227, our hero Hercules helps an Asian woman and her kids, and she repays the favor by presenting us with a lot of narrative exposition that she sees in a handful of water from a stream. It seems that Genghis Kahn has just died and his three nasty sons are out to subvert the peace that their old man had established; they pillage the land of Juleda (or Tuleda or Tudeda, the sound was murky at best) and hold the princess Bianca as a slave, hoping she'll lead them to her dead father's hidden treasure. Hercules soon meets up with the rightful heir to the Juleda throne (a little blond boy named Alexander), protects him from the bad guys, and enters a tournament to whip the Kahn boys' asses so he can free Bianca. He wins, Bianca is freed, but Hercules has to take her place in the slave quarters, which he does willingly until the Kahns, with some help from a treacherous Juledean named Adolphus, re-imprison Bianca. Then Herc goes all medieval and saves the day, with a little help from a small rebel band.

Most of the popular sword-and-sandal movies of the early 60's were made in Italy and featured a muscle-man hero named Maciste, who made his debut in Italian cinema during the days of silent movies. However, when these films were released in the United States, the hero's name was usually changed to something more familiar to Hollywood audiences, like Samson or Goliath, but most often, Hercules (supposedly the name Maciste was derived from a Greek city which had a temple to Hercules). The "historical" background never really mattered, since Hercules had clearly become timeless. These movies are still sort of fun to watch, sometimes in a campy, MST3K bad-movie way, though this one is short on camp value. It compensates with an interesting Mongolian background and plenty of sweaty beefcake. The hero is Mark Forest (pictured), a little more handsome and less hyper-muscular than most Herculeses; only 31 when he made this movie, he retired from the screen a year later and became an opera teacher. The hunkiest sons are played by hairy-chested, Ohio-born Ken Clark and shaved-headed Italian Renato Rossini, who later took the name Howard Ross, despite staying in Italian films for the rest of his career. Jose Greci, a red-haired Ann-Margaret-wannabe is fine as Bianca, and the even more attractive Maria Gracia Spina has a largely silent supporting role as a Mongolian bad girl who becomes a self-sacrificing good girl in the end.

There are a few problems with critiquing these movies: 1) the English dubbing is always terrible, and in this case, even the English-speaking actors are apparently speaking Italian and are then dubbed into English; 2) the prints are poor (probably public-domain films of which no one has taken proper care over the years): washed out, chopped up, and worst of all, not presented in their appropriate widescreen ratio. This one, on DVD from low-rent Alpha Video, is especially bad on that last count; instead of pan-and-scan, the widescreen image in crammed into a TV square by a process that could be called chop-and-scan, in which, instead of the image being panned along to catch the action, it is chopped and moved, leading to lots of startling cuts within shots. It's a shame because this one seems to have had a little more attention to detail (both narrative and scenic) than most of its ilk. Makes a fun Saturday afternoon flick for fans of the genre. [DVD]

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The Ray Harryhausen fantasy extravaganza is a genre unto itself with its predictable conventions: exotic settings in the time and lands of myth, handsome heroes, lovely damsels in distress, lots of travel by ship, big stop-motion monsters, colorful sets and costumes, and wooden acting. For its time, the stop-motion animation in the films is well done, though kids raised on Lucas and CGI probably won't respond very well to it. I liked JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS when I was young, but even then the effects seemed a little off. This film, which I'm reviewing as my annual Thanksgiving weekend fantasy memorial, is one of Harryhausen's last films. Though it's way too long, it's also one of his better productions in terms of looks and effects. I have to say that the main reason I watched this is that it stars Patrick Wayne, son of John, and I had just recently found out that Wayne played Marathon John, an incredibly handsome cowboy (pictured below), in a series of TV ads for the Marathon candy bar back in the mid-70's which I have never forgotten--Wayne, dressed in dazzling white, was always being challenged by bad guy Quick Carl, all in black. Wayne does look every inch the manly hero here, but his acting is just a notch above amateurish. On the other hand, most of the rest of the cast, including future star Jane Seymour, is just as bad as Wayne. But it just wouldn't be a Harryhausen film if it had good acting!

Sinbad (Wayne) arrives in a port city to visit his friend Princess Farah (Jane Seymour), only to find the town shut down under quarantine. When he investigates, he discovers that Farah's brother Kassim, who was about to be crowned Caliph, was magically turned into a baboon by the wicked witch Zenobia (Margaret Whiting). If he's not turned back by the seventh moon, he will lose his shot at Caliphood and Zenobia will be able to install her wicked son Rafi (Kurt Christian). Sinbad and Farah and the baboon (who still has some human traits, like the ability to play chess) get some help from the magician Melanthius (Patrick Troughton) and his daughter (Taryn Power) and all set off to the Arctic land of Hyperborea where a magical shrine may be able to transform Kassim back. There are a number of Harryhausen stop-motion creations, including a trio of demon skeletons (who fight Wayne and his men in a scene stolen straight from ARGONAUTS), a giant wasp, a horned troglodyte, a walrus beast, and a saber-toothed tiger which has been taken over by the spirit of Zenobia--her evil gleaming eye giving the movie its meaningless title. The human-acting baboon is perhaps the best effect, partly because it's fairly subtle and doesn't call attention to itself. Each adventure has some appeal, but the linking sequences are snooze-inducing. Whiting overacts (my partner said that her role model must have been Witchiepoo from "H.R. Pfunstuf"), maybe to counter everyone else's underacting. Taryn Power, daughter of 40's matinee idol Tyrone, looks remarkably like a Los Angeles hippie girl plunked down in Ancient Greece, but she is stunning looking and acts as well as Wayne or Seymour. Actor Sam Wanamaker directed with a choppy awkward style. I'm not sorry I saw this, but I wish Wayne had made a Marathon John movie instead. [TCM]

Monday, November 24, 2008

THE GUV'NOR (1935)

Here's another classic-era film for our current economic times. Set in England during the Depression, the film begins with Barsec the banker (Frank Cellier) assuring a woman that her money is safe in his bank; moments later, we see him tell his friend Dubois that the bank will fail in a matter of weeks. However, based on a secret report, he knows that an old ironworks belonging to the Granville family, thought to be tapped out, still has rich, hidden veins of ore for mining. The Granvilles owe the bank a great deal of money, and his plan is to get them to sell the property on the cheap to Dubois (and Barsec as a secret investor). The family can keep their house, Barsec can let the bank fail, and he and Dubois will make boatloads of money. But Barsec needs a patsy, someone he can install as a figurehead president so he can get his plan going and leave his "sinking ship." Enter a pair of hobos who just happen to bum a meal at the Granville residence, where the young lady of the house is very nice to them. Later that day, they are arrested for vagrancy. One of the bums (George Arliss) says his name is Rothschild, which is the family name of one of the richest banking families in the world. The police are very amused and, though he's not actually related to the family, he is given 2,000 pounds from a family charity and sent on his way. You can see where this is going: Barsec crosses paths with Rothschild, thinks he's the real thing (if a bit eccentric), and gets him to take over the bank presidency. But Rothschild is no fool and when he figures out Barsec's plot, he tries to spoil it.

This is a charming little film, though frankly, I'll watch anything with George Arliss. His movies tend to fall into two camps: the big "important" biographical pictures and the light comedies in which he's a meddling grandfather figure who helps facilitate a romance between two young people. In this comedy, there is a romance, between Miss Granville (Viola Keats) and the banker's son (Patric Knowles, looking young and strikingly handsome in one of his earliest roles), but it's backburner stuff and Arliss never really gets involved. Gene Gerrard (at right with Arliss) does a nice job as a hobo buddy of Arliss' who helps him out with the shenanigans. The film is well-paced until the last 15 minutes or so when the plot slows down and becomes unnecessarily convoluted as it heads for the inevitable happy ending. A viewer at IMDb notes a similarity between this and TRADING PLACES, though to me, it feels more like a Capraesque take on BEING THERE, with everyone reacting to Arliss as though he's practically royalty, despite his appearance, which remains rather scruffy throughout (though Gerrard takes to his new life and cleans up nicely). There may a bit of in-jokiness about Arliss' character being named Rothschild, as just the year before, he played a real Rothschild in THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD. There's a very funny moment involving Arliss being offered a drink called a "white lady," which he assumes is something other than a drink. Despite a somewhat weak ending, a satisfying film. [TCM]

Sunday, November 23, 2008


In this Frank Capra Depression-era film, which is a kind of forerunner to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, there are four main plotlines to follow: 1) bank president Walter Huston, a folksy, likeable fellow who gives loans rather freely based on what he perceives as people's "character," is being pressured by his board of directors to approve a merger with another bank, despite the fact the Huston's bank is still in good shape; 2) Huston's wife (Kay Johnson) is faithful but upset at how much time he is spending taking care of bank business; 3) Pat O'Brien, a reformed burglar (this is a rather vague plot point), is the chief teller and has the full confidence of Huston, and is also dating Huston's secretary (Constance Cummings); 4) head cashier Gavin Gordon has run up some rather big gambling debts and is approached by a gangster to help arrange an after-hours robbery. How all the storylines converge: in order to establish an alibi, Gordon sweet-talks Johnson, left alone on her wedding anniversary, into a night on the town, ending up in his apartment. O'Brien thinks they're having an affair and goes to Gordon's that night to try and break it up. The gangsters pull off the robbery, with a watchman shot dead, and O'Brien falls under suspicion but won't tell the cops where he was for fear of upsetting Huston. Wild rumors about the robbery and the potential failure of the bank cause hundreds of depositors to stream in that afternoon to take their money out, which would, of course, lead to a real bank failure. Can Huston save the bank, his marriage, and O'Brien's reputation?

If you've seen It's a Wonderful Life (and who hasn't?), you'll know Huston's (and Capra's) faith in the essential goodness of people saves him in the end. There is no angelic intervention here, though there is a brief moment when it looks like Huston is considering suicide. There are two strikingly-shot sequences involving the telephone rumor-mongering and the hordes of customers swarming inside the bank, desperate for their money. There is maybe one plot line too many; though I like O'Brien and Cummings quite a bit here, their romance feels tacked-on, perhaps at the expense of developing the character of Huston's wife. The film is well-paced and has a couple of nice throwaway scenes at the beginning and end involving the staff of tellers and their relationship with O'Brien. Edwin Maxwell does a nice job as Huston's nemesis, the kind of role which Edward Arnold and Lionel Barrymore would hone to perfection in later Capra films, and Sterling Holloway, the voice of Disney's Winnie the Pooh, makes his sound film debut here as a teller. The DVD print is excellent. In honor of our country's current economic crisis, which I don't think can be solved by the "little" investors out there (though I'd like to see angels give it a shot), I'll review another bank crisis movie tomorrow. [DVD]

Friday, November 21, 2008


Arnold Gray is a popular radio crooner who sends corsages to his female fans and sets up one-night stands with them all, on different nights of the week, of course. His manager and pianist (Ralph Forbes), a hunchback, stays behind the scenes and is considered a nice guy by everyone who knows him, though Gray treats him like dirt. A mobster wants Forbes to sign over Gray's contract to him, and Forbes refuses, leading to a little dust-up. Meanwhile, Gail Patrick, a singer looking for a break, comes to Forbes' attention; he tells her she has promise, but she must give up her boyfriend to concentrate on her career. Suddenly, halfway through the picture, we learn a surprising fact: Gray's singing is actually done by Forbes, hidden away at the piano, while Gray moves his lips to Forbes' voice. Forbes, who has a bit of a crush on Patrick, suspects that she has been done dirt by the singer, so he heads off to Gray's apartment with a gun, but finds the crooner already shot dead. Assuming that Patrick did it, Forbes covers up for her and tells the police he did it, but she didn't do it after all, and a tragic ending is in store for the sweet-natured hunchback singer.

This very low-budget thriller from Monogram Pictures has several things going for it: an unusual set-up, three solid performances from Forbes, Patrick, and Gray, and a shocking pre-Code ending which lets Murdock's killer get off scot-free. The lip-sync plot element is interesting and allows for a good climax, but otherwise it doesn't feel crucial to the story. Though Patrick is definitely the leading lady, Vivienne Osborne, who starred in silent films, gets top female billing; her role is important but she has less screen time than Patrick. Gabby Hayes, best known as a crusty old sidekick in countless Westerns, is credited as a police officer, but I didn't recognize him. The Alpha DVD print has heavy damage to both picture and sound, but is watchable. [DVD]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Don Murray is a Korean War vet who has become a heroin addict, apparently as a result of a drug dependency which followed a hospital stay after the war. He has a decent job and lives in a housing project in Brooklyn with his pregnant wife, Eva Marie Saint. She doesn't know about his addiction, but suspects that his odd behavior, such as spending occasional nights away from home, is due to his having an affair. Murray's brother, Anthony Franciosa, a bar bouncer, lives with them and has recently confessed to Saint that he's in love with her--and she's clearly on the edge of feeling the same way about him. As if things around the apartment weren't tense enough, the boys' father (Lloyd Nolan) arrives from Florida to collect some money that Franciosa had saved up for him to use to buy his own nightclub. Franciosa doesn't have the money; he lets Nolan think he squandered it away, as he's already considered the black sheep of the family by his dad, but he actually gave it to Murray to pay off some drug debts. Now Murray is in debt again, and the pushers aren't in a waiting mood.

This is based on a play and it shows, in good ways (clear narrative arc, well defined characters) and bad (overwrought dialogue, some stagy performances). At the time, it was considered a fairly honest look at an unpleasant topic, but now it comes off as hopelessly dated, like an after-school special for adults. Still, taken as a stagy period piece, much of it remains compelling. For one thing, it stars two of the most attractive male actors of the late 50's. Murray is too clean-cut and mild to be effective as a Jekyll/Hyde-type addict; overall he's not bad but his withdrawal scenes seem rather artificial nowadays. Franciosa, who was nominated for an Oscar, is much better in a more complex role: he's the brother who was never good enough for his father, but who now has become complicit with Murray in hiding Murray's problems from not just the father but from Murray's wife. Nolan is good at playing an abrasive character; Saint usually gets the best notices from critics of the film, but I find her to be, like Murray, too mild; perhaps she was underacting as a way of compensating for the stagy atmosphere. Viewers who aren't aware that there was a time when "rehab" wasn't an everyday catchphrase may find the ending to be a bit baffling, with Murray carted out of state to recover. Henry Silva makes for a so-so villain, but William Hickey is more interesting as a pusher sidekick. [FMC]

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Reporter Lucile Bremer goes to novice private eye Richard Carlson and asks him to help her break the case of a corrupt judge who has gone missing. She thinks he's hiding out in a private sanitarium so they pose as a married couple and she convinces a doctor to commit him. Once at the asylum, Carlson discovers that patients are being abused by sadistic guard Douglas Fowley. He makes friends with an orderly (Ralf Harolde) and a firebug patient, and soon finds out that Bremer's suspicions are correct, but by then, the head doc and the judge have found out Carlson is on to them, and they plan to have him meet a brutal fate at the hands of a violently insane ex-boxer (Tor Johnson) who is kept in solitary confinement. Bremer catches on to their plan, but can she stop it before the damage is done? This is part of a film noir box set from Kino, and though it is a well-made B-thriller, it doesn't have a noir feel to me, except that many key scenes take place at night. Bremer, who I found wanting as Judy Garland's older sister in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, is actually quite good here; ironically, this was her last film role before she retired from acting at the age of 31. Carlson makes a fine B-movie hero, and Fowley is appropriately slimy. Johnson has a wordless role here as he did in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Overall, a solid and well paced film, disappointing only if you're really expecting a film noir. [DVD]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

THE OSCAR (1966)

A notoriously bad junk movie, directly in the Harold Robbins/Jacqueline Susann line of trash, but not a bit of fun to sit through. Actor Stephen Boyd is sitting in the audience at the Academy Awards, certain he's going to win the Oscar. We learn how Boyd came to this moment through a flashback narrated by his former best friend and manager, Tony Bennett. Years earlier, the two toured the country in a sleazy nightclub act with stripper Jill St. John. An ornery Southern sheriff frames them on trumped-up prostitution charges. They wind up in New York City where Boyd meets the fashion designer Elke Sommer at a Greenwich Village party. He splits with St. John, not realizing she's pregnant, and gets a job working with Sommer. When he criticizes an actor at a play rehearsal, talent scout Eleanor Parker gets him hooked up with an agent, Milton Berle, and soon Boyd is going places as an actor. He marries Sommer in a quickie Tijuana wedding, but cheats on her with women procured by Bennett. Boyd's career is going well, though he's also making enemies right and left, including studio boss Joseph Cotton, and is shocked when he runs into a former star (Peter Lawford) who is now working as a maitre d'. Soon Boyd's career starts sputtering, and just as he's about to accept the lowly offer of a TV series, he gets word that he's up for an Oscar. In hopes of ensuring a victory, he gets private eye Ernest Borgnine to dig up his past morals charges and splash them in the headlines, the plan being that voters will assume that another nominee dug up the dirt, thus giving Boyd the sympathy vote. By Oscar night, Boyd has alienated everyone around him, including Bennett and Berle; will his scheme to win the gold statue work?

The plot is smack in the middle of Valley of the Dolls territory and could have been trashy fun, but there are three major problems: 1) it takes itself far too seriously, ruining any possibility of camp entertainment; 2) the script (co-authored by Harlan Ellison) is filled with bad dialogue; 3) the acting is dreadful, beginning with Boyd who is alternately wooden and over-the-top, and who uses a bizarre accent, and Bennett, a damn fine singer who comes off as a amateurish actor. Surprisingly, Berle is quite good underplaying the agent, as is Edie Adams as Borgnine's blowzy wife. The only fun is watching for the cameos which include Broderick Crawford, Ed Begley Sr., Walter Brennan, and, appearing as themselves, Hedda Hopper, Bob Hope, and Frank Sinatra. This may sound like fun, but it was a chore to sit through. Connoisseurs of bad acting may relish Boyd and Bennett's cringe-worthy performances, but all others should stay away. [TCM]

Sunday, November 09, 2008


A Fox musical with the bland Alice Faye, the young Don Ameche (before he became charming) and the Ritz Brothers, who were never young or charming: should be a recipe for tedium or horror, but surprisingly, it all works pretty well in this mild but entertaining backstage story. Faye is a starving playwright (and great-granddaughter of Edgar Allan Poe) who meets a drunken playboy (Ameche) in a restaurant. She tells him about the play she's trying to sell, "North Winds," set in the Arctic, about "the vital problems that confront women in the Frozen North." Ameche is actually a successful playwright himself, but he doesn't tell her that; instead, he gets his producer (Charles Winninger) to option the (bad) play and send her a check so she won't give up and go back to her hometown. He begins squiring her about town, and when he finds out she's actually a much better singer than a writer, he has Winninger try to convince her to star in his new musical. Soon the charade is up, but Faye has fallen in love with Ameche so she agrees to do the show. Until, that is, a old pal of Ameche's (Louise Hovick, aka Gypsy Rose Lee) shows up claiming that she and Ameche were married that drunken night at the beginning of the movie. Faye, disgusted, gores back home; Ameche and Winninger rework her play into a big musical, using it bait to get her back. Of course, she hears about the play and, mad as hell, goes to Broadway to stop the show, but when she sees the ecstatic audience reaction, and when Winninger has her take to the stage for an author's bow, she gives in to success. And, of course, it turns out that Ameche was actually too drunk to sign the wedding license that night, so he's not really married to Hovick. Ah, a happy ending! Who'da thunk it?

Faye has more personality here than in some her other efforts, and the Ritz Brothers, playing themselves as featured performers in Ameche's play, are actually bearable, even pretty funny, much less irritating than usual (as in ONE IN A MILLION or STRAIGHT PLACE AND SHOW). They do a number in long johns called "Underwear, How We Love You!" and they want to send a love-letter telegram to Hovick signed the New York Giants. A dance trio called Tip, Tap, and Toe do an impressive tap number, Tony Martin is in good voice as the leading man in the musical, and the title number isn't bad. I was fully prepared to give this one ten minutes than shut it off, but I wound up enjoying it. [FMC]

Monday, November 03, 2008


Jeeter Lester (Charley Grapewin) and his impoverished family live on a plot of land in rural Georgia which, long ago when they were active tenant farmers, was promised in perpetuity to them. But Dana Andrews, the son of the late landowner, arrives with the news that he has lost the land to the bank and in order to stay on the land for another year, Grapewin has a week to come up with $100 rent money. Whether because the land is barren or because the family is slothful and decadent, they are barely able to eke out a meal, let alone a living. The film follows the family's misadventures during the week. The teenage son (William Tracy) marries a 40-something revivalist (Marjorie Rambeau) who is constantly singing hymns and exhorting others to join in--and they usually do; the main action of the last half of the film occurs when she buys a car with insurance money left her by her late husband, and Grapewin tries to get hold of the car himself to sell it for his rent. Son-in-law Ward Bond comes by once in a while, complaining that his 13-year-old wife Pearl objects to being tied up, and soon Grapewin is offering his sexy 23-year-old daughter (Gene Tierney) to Bond as a replacement--though Bond thinks she's too old for a wife. Grapewin's wife (Elizabeth Patterson) is sad that none of her other "seventeen or eighteen" children ever write or visit. There's also a grandmother lurking around somewhere whom we rarely see. In the end, just as Grapewin and Patterson head off for the poor farm, Andrews ponies up 50 bucks for a half-year's rent so they can stay, but it's made clear that nothing's really changed and that six months later, the family will be in the same straits, and, oh yeah, Grandma just might be lying dead in the woods.

This is based on a notorious novel and long-running play, both of which were considered controversial in their time for the portrayal of such an unsavory lifestyle. The movie was altered considerably to conform to the Production Code and it winds up played as a comedy; it could even be seen as a forerunner to the rural "Beverly Hillbillies"-type shows that were popular in the 60's. The young Tierney, almost unrecognizable under a thick layer of dirt, is sexy as all get-out, but she has almost nothing to do except to pull a mock seduction on Bond in order to get his bag of turnips (and that's not a metaphor). Though the characters are almost uniformly unlikeable, the acting is really quite good. Grapewin (OZ's Uncle Henry) and Patterson (Mrs. Trumball on "I Love Lucy") do particularly well in rare lead performances. There is an almost palpably unpleasant atmosphere set up at times, but whenever it threatens to become too dark, it's undercut by humor. Bond's child bride is mentioned but never seen, and Tracy looks and acts older than a teenager, so his relationship with Rambeau is just odd rather then potentially repellent. The movie looks great, especially the first few minutes which take place at a ramshackle old mansion belonging to Rambeau and her brother (Slim Summerville). This film has been difficult to run across until recently when Fox issued it on DVD as part of a set of John Ford films. Recommended. [DVD]