• The Devil Commands

    The Devil Commands

    ★★★½

    One of the best variations on the "can we communicate with the dead?" theme. Karloff's grief-induced derangement is moving, but the shudders largely come from Anne Revere, whose domineering, sociopathic medium is a B-movie Lady Macbeth. Austerely Gothic art direction, the Iron Maiden-like metal hoods, and an evocative voice-over by the scientist's daughter contribute to a memorable, if uneven 65-ish minutes of entertainment.

  • Girl Rush

    Girl Rush

    ★½

    Longest 64-minute movie I've ever seen. The only reason to watch GIRL RUSH is lanky hipster cowboy Robert Mitchum, fifth billed in the cast. (No offense to the adorable Frances Langford, who got better showcases than the grating old-timey songs she sings in this.)

  • Pulp

    Pulp

    ★★★½

    A little bit MR. ARKADIN, a little bit AUSTIN POWERS. Hilarious shaggy dog pastiche of lurid, no-holds-barred crime fiction. Surreal delights include Mickey Rooney as a washed-up tough guy actor, Lionel Stander bursting out of a pool with a gun, Dennis Price reciting Lewis Carroll rhymes, and Lizabeth Scott smoldering for the cameras in her final film appearance.

    Michael Caine carries the movie with mod sangfroid in the eye of a cartoonish storm. Nobody could deliver the line "a coffin…

  • Remember My Name

    Remember My Name

    ★★★½

    Grimy and uneasy as only a 1970s movie can be. Geraldine Chaplin gives one of the best "unhinged ex" performances on film—just off enough that she makes everyone uncomfortable, yet so disarmingly vulnerable in her erratic behavior that people underestimate the emotional and physical damage she can wreak. Alan Rudolph and DP Tak Fujimoto strike a mesmerizing balance between careful, astute compositions and a sense of naturalistic looseness. Unfortunately, the ending is more anticlimatic than haunting.

  • This Side of the Law

    This Side of the Law

    ★★

    With the opening voice-over narration and images of a man trapped in an old well, I wondered if I had stumbled on some minor gem of WB noir. Alas, no. The film is quickly unmasked as an insipid, yawn-inducing non-thriller that fails to wring much suspense out of its stolen identity premise or Gothic trappings.

    Cinematographer Carl E. Guthrie is the MVP, with dynamic, sometimes eerie compositions that occasionally create the illusion of tension. The other bright spot is Janis Paige as the vampy sister-in-law. She alone delivers a performance that doesn't seem to have been given at gunpoint.

  • Seven Keys to Baldpate

    Seven Keys to Baldpate

    ★★★

    Sorry, but if it's an RKO B movie set in a creepy old house, there is a 99% chance I'll enjoy it. The noirish house style and leftover mansion sets are the real stars in this compact remake of the classic mystery melodrama. The snowbound soundstage ambiance was so effective that it cooled me down on a sweltering night. Most refreshing.

  • Harper

    Harper

    ★★★½

    This engaging neo-noir is less than the sum of its parts, but its parts are groovy: to name just a few, Shelley Winters doing her best Shelley Winters parody, Robert Wagner being pretty and slippery, Julie Harris as a junkie jazz singer, and obviously Paul Newman generating enough weathered charm to power the L.A. energy grid. Still, it lacks the sickly-sweet aroma of depravity that 1940s private eye noirs managed to waft around the brick wall of the Production Code.

    Added a half-star for the astrology-themed bedroom and the line "The bottom is loaded with nice people, Albert. Only cream and bastards rise."

  • The Trouble with Harry

    The Trouble with Harry

    ★★★★

    Technicolor ode to Vermont's autumn foliage, weirdness, and doors that don't close right (I can confirm the accuracy of all three). Shirley MacLaine's deadpan expressions show that, from her film debut, she was star material. Mischievous, tender, wonderful.

  • The Guilty

    The Guilty

    ★★★½

    One of those noirs that turns cheapness into a virtue, evoking the bleak, squalid little lives contained therein. Lots of sick stuff as probably only a B movie could do it, from Regis Toomey's stomach-churning murder description to the broken detritus of human beings we're left with by the fadeout. Adding to the sense of perversity, this is one heck of a dark reunion for Bonita Granville and John Litel, who played Nancy Drew and her lovable dad Carson in the WB series!

  • June Bride

    June Bride

    ★★★

    Your mileage may vary on this one. If the idea of Robert Montgomery getting smashed on hard apple cider and waking up to find a piglet nuzzling him sounds like a scream to you (as it does to me), you will have a good time.

    I found the brittle chemistry between Davis and Montgomery rather enjoyable. Knowing that she called him a "male Miriam Hopkins" makes this a battle-of-the-divas movie, and who can resist one of those? As members of Davis's house makeover squad, Fay Bainter and the divine Mary Wickes round out a fun, if somewhat forgettable and dated, late screwball comedy from Warner Bros.

  • The Unholy Night

    The Unholy Night

    ★½

    Nothing like a flaming punch singalong to cheer you up when you and your mates are being systematically bumped off by a mad killer!

    Unintentionally (I assume) hilarious early talkie proto-slasher.

  • The Bat

    The Bat

    ★★★

    Oh, to be a glamorous bejeweled mystery writer throwing shade at the suspicious but debonair local doctor over tea in a creepy old house that may or may not conceal a fortune in stolen securities!