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Featured Post - Slasher Movie Marathon 2022

Every summer I cover a bunch of slasher movies for the site. Check in here to see what I've covered so far this summer. You can also che...

Monday, February 28, 2022

Camp Cold Brook (2018)

Every few months I like to scroll thru the offerings of the various streaming services I have access to looking for a horror movie that I’ve not seen or heard about before. Sometimes I strike gold and sometimes I’m miserable. Camp Cold Brook is neither of those.

Jack runs a paranormal “reality” show called Haunt Squad. The fun starts off with the show getting cancelled by a network executive, played by Courtney Gains in a very brief appearance. Jack promises something big and manages to get one more ninety-minute special out of the network. Later we see him with his production crew trying to figure out where they should go. Yeah, he didn’t have anything planned. After an assistant brings up the massacre at Camp Cold Brook, they decide that is the ticket and head off. But not before we get some family time with Jack and his girls before the travel montage and generic nineties style rock music.

The locals in the small town try to warn them off, but a few bucks tossed at the sheriff has them being dropped off at the remote campground. They wander around a bit, have a campfire, some spooky stuff goes on, and they keep splitting up. Late in the movie we get another character, Jack’s mom, who calls and finds out where he is. Seems that Jack was one of a pair of survivors from the original massacre and there is some weird connection going on. Also we get a witch and some kid ghosts that are trapped because of a magic circle which they try to use tape to cover up. It all wraps up with an ending that I saw coming a mile away.

This is one of those movies where the scriptwriter has seen a bunch of movies and jams all the "cool stuff" into his story. We get ghosts, a witch, a team of ghost hunters, some found footage scenes, and a bit mystery/twist. Now as a fan of slasher movies, which are very formulaic, I don’t expect everything that I watch to be unique and different. As long as it is executed well, I’m good with turning off my brain and having some fun. The problem with Camp Cold Creek is that the movie is very slow and tedious. The pacing suffers from the first half hour being taken up with a staff meeting and meeting Jack’s family. I suppose the fact that he has two daughters and loves them was supposed to be the big payoff at the end. But in reality, the movie spends way too long here. It feels less like plot setup and more like padding.

We also get a travel montage, a setup montage, and what feels a bit like an improvised scene of them sitting around a campfire shooting the breeze before anything spooky happens. When we do get to the ghosts it is underwhelming. The shadows in the background and occasional face behind the glass just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve seen this done before and much better. The music doesn’t help as it tends to just run in the background without being used to set the scene or build tension. Overall Camp Cold Creek was tedious and a chore to get thru. Once we get to the end the big twist is that Jack was at the camp as a kid and didn’t remember he escaped. Nor does he remember that the girl he hired who suggested the location was his camp girlfriend. Why doesn’t he remember? Never explained. Why does his mom never tell her son with a ghost hunting show never to go to Camp Cold Creek? Again nothing? Why does his daughter’s imaginary dream ghost show up who is also the witch show up to babysit his kids and nobody says anything?

Are you beginning to get it yet? This is a very poorly written movie with lots of plot holes. It gets annoying after a while and since I wasn’t terribly interested in the story I then began to notice things like daylight shining thru windows when it is supposed to be night. Or how the camp that has been abandoned for almost thirty years has nicely mowed grass. Don’t even get me started on the generator that is supposed to run after sitting idle and that they expect to use the almost thirty-year-old gas. My damn mower won’t start after sitting over the winter, and while it is admittedly a pretty shitty mower that is asking for a lot of leeway from the audience.

I will say that the cast is solid. Chad Michael Murray and Danielle Harris do the best they can with the material. Sadly, there isn’t much they can do, but I appreciate that they don’t phone it in, despite how bad the script is. The movie is at it’s best when they are on screen. That is the only positive that I can say about Camp Cold Brook. I could give you more negatives but that seems to be overkill. This is a bad movie, and I can’t recommend that you spend any of your time on it.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, February 25, 2022

Murder on Flight 502 (1975)

Our movie starts with first class passengers waiting in the lounge for their trans-Atlantic flight to board. We are introduced to several passengers and get a bit of character establishing if not development. They all get on the plane and take off, but after the flight has left a letter is found talking about the murders that they now know have occurred on the plane. Only it wasn’t supposed to be read until much later so the killings haven’t happened yet. The captain is informed and with the help of a detective who happens to be traveling to England he tries to figure out who the soon to be murderer is so they can prevent the crimes from happening. 

Spoilers… the murders happen. We get an explanation involving revenge, smuggling, murder, and a robbery gone wrong. The killer is exposed, and we even get a neat twist at the very end that while it doesn’t change the story is a nice added touch. 

This movie checks a lot of boxes for me. It is a made for television murder mystery starring a lot of familiar faces in a straightforward who done it. Is it a great movie? Honestly not really. The story takes too long to get rolling with the threatened murders not occurring until after an hour of the ninety-minute runtime has passed. It is kind of interesting that we aren’t sure for most of the movie who the murder victims are much less who the killer is. They do a decent job giving us several possible motives/victims/suspects. 

One by one the “red herrings” are eliminated until we finally find out the truth. But after that it does get interesting and while I saw the twist coming it was executed in a satisfying way. The final scene after they arrive at Heathrow Airport is sort of sad as the killer is delusional about what has just occurred. But as much as I dug the last half hour of Murder on Flight 502 the first hour’s glacial pace just kills any momentum that the movie could have created. I can’t imagine myself needing or wanting to watch this again. Though if I did it would be because of the cast.

We get Ralph Bellamy, Hugh O’Brien, Brooke Adams, and Danny Bonaduce in supporting roles. They aren’t asked to do much but at least the cast is good enough that when we are forced to sit thru some endless dialogue it is delivered with some skill, and they are fun to watch. Sonny Bono also appears as a sort of washed-up singer with a past that might have him targeted as the intended murder victim. A pre-Charlies Angels Farrah Fawcett also has a small role and is decent. Though my personal favorite is Robert Stack as the captain who plays this character exactly as he did another pilot a couple of years later in Airplane. It is odd how it works in both roles. 

This is a flawed but interesting artifact of the mid-seventies. I loved the cast but wasn’t thrilled with the story. The connection of the Robert Stack performance with the parody he would pull off a couple of years later in Airplane also give it a fun connection to that classic bit of hilarity. While I can’t recommend it to everyone if you are a child of the seventies like me you will probably get some fun nostalgia from Murder on Flight 502. You can find this one floating around online for free so that seems like the right price. Just manage your expectations.  


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Castle in the Desert (1942)

I’m back with another Charlie Chan movie review. As I have done with all the past reviews, I’m going to direct you to this page for my thoughts on a white actor being cast in an Asian role and how that is problematic. This review is just for the value this movie has as entertainment and not anything deeper. Now onto the good stuff.

Chan gets a letter from a woman named Lucy Manderley asking that he travel to her remote home, castle really, in the desert. Ah I see where they got the name of the movie. When he arrives the locals want nothing to do with him. He finds out what we already know, a man died at the castle after being poisoned. That is doubly troubling since Lucy is a descendent of the Borgia family who are famous for their history of doing away with enemies using that very same method. When Chan does finally arrive at the house he is surprised to find out that she never wrote to him, and no one is sure who sent for him. Deciding to leave he finds that the car has been sabotaged and that he as well as the others is stranded.

When an investigator hired by the family of the first victim he also dies from a poisoned drink. Someone takes a shot at Chan, his son Jimmy shows up with the local palm reader in tow, and a pigeon is also poisoned. It is up to the famous detective to unravel the plot or perhaps plots behind the shenanigans going on at the castle. In the end we get a satisfying ending that has a slight twist and is a lot of fun.

This maybe my favorite movie in the Charlie Chan movie series. The story is good and tosses a lot of suspects at the audience. Some are red herrings and others are up to something, but not murder. When you do think you are onto the identity of the guilty everything gets shaken up. The motive, getting control of the Manderley’s money, makes sense and is the cause for more than one conspiracy to be set in motion. The setting is one of the best in the series and you get a sense of isolation from a trick as simple as disabling the only car available. It reminds me of And Then There were None, only instead of the ocean it is a desert that cuts them off from help. The pacing is fantastic with not a single lull in the action. You must pay attention to every scene as there are clues being doled out.

The dialogue is snappy and the cast is on top of their game. As always Sidney Toler brings a charm to the role of Chan that is honestly lacking in the other two actors who played the role. Henry Daniell is great as the sculptor who may have ulterior motives. You might recognize him from several of the Sherlock Holmes movies, which I really ought to cover for this marathon, as well as the amazing Karloff movie The Body Snatcher. Victor Sen Yung is solid again as Jimmy Chan and Richard Derr who did a ton of television work including a memorable turn on the original Star Trek series is great in a supporting role. It is my understanding that this was the last Chan movie shot before the budgets started to get cut due to the war. It shows.

If you are only going to watch one Charlie Chan movie this is the one to check out. Great cast, lead actor at his best, wonderful mystery, and a great setting combine for a movie that I think everyone can enjoy. I highly recommend Castle in the Desert.

 

Ó Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, February 21, 2022

Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939)

As I have with all the other reviews of movies like this, I’m going to direct you to my thoughts on casting white actors in Asian roles. I don’t want to keep rehashing the same discussion so this review will mostly focus on the merits or perhaps lack of them as a piece of entertainment. With that out of the way lets jump into reviewing Mr. Wong in Chinatown.

The action kicks off with a mysterious woman coming to ask for Mr. Wong’s help. But before he can speak to her she is murdered in his living room. It turns out she was the victim of a poison dart from a sleeve gun. Wong calls the police and not long after they arrive a lady reporter shows up. She recognizes the woman as a Chinese princess that just arrived in San Francisco. This leads Wong to a twisted web of theft, lies, double crosses, and murder. You see she was in America looking to buy airplanes to smuggle out of the country to her brother’s army. This sketchy business attracted the attention of criminals who took advantage of her.

Does this sound familiar? Well damn it the Mr. Wong franchise got me again… sort of. If you remember my earlier review for The Mystery of Mr. Wong they had lifted that plot from an earlier movie, Murder at Midnight. A movie that I had just reviewed for the site! Here it is the other way around and this movie was remade as a Charlie Chan flick, The Chinese Ring, which I’ve also justcovered for the site! I hope this doesn’t keep happening, but with these quickie low budget movies it is a possibility.

I liked the story in the Chinese Ring and that was apparently almost a shot for shot remake of this one. There are a few differences that I appreciated about Mr. Wong in Chinatown. First is that instead of the villainous ships captain being Chinese here he is an American. It makes me wonder why the later Chan movie changed it. The idea of the Chinese trying to purchase war materials secretly makes a lot more sense in the world of thirty-nine then it does in forty-seven. For those that aren’t history nerds they were fighting the Japanese and by the time this was remade the war was over. Yeah, I notice things like that.

Karloff is a much better lead. His performance is subdued but interesting. He doesn’t need the comic relief and can carry the movie all on his own. It is also even more obvious with this being remade eight years later as a Chan flick that Karloff doesn’t attempt to use a stilted accent, nor does he spout off proverbs. Instead, you have a respectful portrayal with his normal voice and delivery. Not an excuse but I do want to acknowledge the attempt at not being as offensive. We also get a fun appearance from a familiar little person in the role as a mute witness who ends up on the wrong side of the criminals.

The killer’s identity, the double crosses, and Karloff’s performance makes this a movie worth tracking down. Like the other Mr. Wong flicks this is in the public domain and can be found easily both on DVD as well as the internet. I think it is worth checking out.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Chinese Ring (1947)

Time to check out the first of the classic Charlie Chan movies that I’m going to cover here at the website. As I’ve already mentioned I’m aware of the baggage that these movies have. I’ve discussed my thoughts on the subject of a white actor being cast as a Chinese character here. The review that follows will just look at the movie as entertainment and will be judged accordingly. 

When a mysterious woman comes to see Charlie Chan at his home but is murdered before he can speak to her it sets him off on a search for who she was and why she had come to see him. Quickly he realizes from her ring that she was from a powerful family and after some digging, he discovers that she was in San Francisco to purchase some airplanes for her brother’s army. Being neutral this had to be done on the down low and there is a ship waiting to secret the airplanes out of the country. The only issue with this is that there aren’t nor were there ever any planes. Someone was stealing her money, but they didn’t all of it yet. So then who killed the woman and where is the rest of the cash? That is what Chan has to sort out before it is too late to catch the killers. 

This is actor Roland Winters first outing as the character and I have to say he isn’t my favorite. He would get more comfortable in the role but here it seems very stiff, and he lacks the warmth of Sidney Toler. I was also disappointed in the fact that Tommy and Birmingham Brown felt like they were shoehorned in. They aren’t given a lot to do which is disappointing given how much the previous entries relied on their antics to keep things moving and entertaining. They feel sidelined and with Winters’ lackluster performance they were needed greatly. 

The mystery itself is solid with plenty of suspects and a good twist as to the identity of the killer. But overall, this wasn’t as much fun as I was used to seeing from these movies. Things drag a bit, which is odd for a movie that barely cracks an hour long. That is doubly so since the director, William Beaudine, is one of my favorites and normally gives you all you could want from a low budget flick like The Chinese Ring. There is also a dark turn with a child being murdered that changes the mood of what is normally a fun little murder mystery. I mean I get that all of these movies have a death that is to be solved, but a kid? And that isn’t even necessary to the plot. That just seems mean and again wasn’t something that I expected. 

I know that I like some of the later Winters’ Charlie Chan entries much better than The Chinese Ring, but I’m finding it very hard to recommend this one. Honestly this is probably only for those completists that need to see them all. I promise I’ll cover some much better flicks later in the mystery review marathon. 


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer


Monday, February 14, 2022

Murder on the Blackpool Express (2017)

I found this one while digging thru some streaming services. It is the first of a trilogy of movies that gently and lovingly poke fun at the mystery genre. Even the title is a take on the famous Agatha Christie book Murder on the Orient Express. I thought it might be fun to check out something different for the marathon, so I hit play.

The story is deceptively simple. A struggling tour company schedules a trip with an author where he will show his fans some of the locations that inspired the murders from his books. We get an odd group of characters including an unpleasant wheelchair bound woman and her caregiver. Some elderly ladies who have snuck out of their home. A woman and her browbeaten husband as well as the sort of sketchy author who seems more inclined to sell them merchandise than talk about his books. At the very first stop there is an “accident” where one of the elderly ladies chokes on a roll. That is followed by more deaths and the tour guides figure that someone is killing off their passengers. But why is this happening? And why the heck do they keep rolling to the next stop?

I very much appreciate the fact that the writers of the script made an effort to explain these two previous questions. The tour company is on it’s last legs and needs the cash. The author is also desperate for the money so basically, they insist that the show must go on. That said we do see some people bail on the trip and those that don’t end up having good reasons not to. Again Murder on the Blackpool Express is being played for laughs and is a parody so they could have just ignored it, but they don’t. This also explains the effort and attention to detail involving the mystery. This is a legitimate who done it. We have a mystery that is both plausible and satisfying. When we find out who the killer is and why they are so homicidal it not only makes sense but give what we have seen of the characters to that point it works. I can’t say much more without spoiling the fun and I don’t want to do that.

The cast is made up of folks that I don’t recognize but from a quick IMDB search they seem to all have rather extensive careers in British television. The one actress who I did recognize was Una Stubbs. She was Mrs. Hudson in Sherlock and was excellent in this movie as one of the older women. She has some of the funniest lines and has excellent comedic timing. Overall everyone in the movie is excellent and perfectly deliver some of the best and at times snarkiest dialogue I’ve heard in a very long time. I can’t think of a time where I’ve been so entertained by the mystery while also laughing as hard as I did here.

Obviously, I’m going to recommend Murder on the Blackpool Express. This was a blast and can be found streaming on I believe Acorn as of the writing of this review. I can’t wait to check out the sequels. If they are half as fun as this one I might have a new favorite series.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Friday, February 11, 2022

The Death Train (1978)

Most of us probably know Hugh Keays-Byrne from his roles in a couple of the Mad Max movies. But while doing some digging for mystery movies to cover I found out that he appeared in The Death Train as an insurance investigator trying to verify a cause of death before the company pays out a policy. To top it off this is a made for television movie, which I love, and an Australian flick! I’m excited to check it out.

Keays-Byrne plays Ted, the insurance investigator. He comes to a small quirky town as a formality before the company will pay out the policy. Previously we saw that the man who died was driving home when his car had some electrical issues that forced him to walk the rest of the way. It seems he was hit by a train and killed. But the odd thing is that the tracks were pulled up decades before. How can this be? Well, the locals are convinced that it was the legendary ghost train that got him. The man who died is the descendent of a murderer who killed an engineer in order to marry the man’s wife. The ghost has been driving his spectral train back to get revenge on all of the descendants of his killer ever since.

Now there seems to be a supernatural element to the story but as things play out it becomes more obvious that something far less spooky and far more sinister has happened. I won’t spoil the reveal, but Ted keeps chipping away at things until he unveils a plot involving a real estate deal with lots of cash on the line. Sorry but the ghost didn’t kill anyone! Still the resolution and how Ted gets there is a lot of fun and worth the trip so don’t be too disappointed.

The first thing that I have to say is that while I’ve always enjoyed Keays-Byrne in the Mad Max movies I never really thought of him as a great actor. Mostly because he isn’t given much to do in those action flicks. But here his performance is amazing. He brings a quirky energy to the Ted character that carries the movie. His line delivery is quick and snappy, his reactions to the odd folks that live in the small town is spot on and his interactions with the crazy hippie girl who keeps trying to bed him is fun as well.

He is helped by an excellent script. The story moves quickly and throws enough curve balls at the audience to keep us on our toes. As an outsider Ted is dismissed by the locals but keeps at it to slowly piece together clues, which we get to watch him do. The movie shares all of them with us so when the solution is finally presented it feels as if we could have drawn the same conclusion. This seem simple but far too many bad mystery stories hold facts from us and that is annoying. Here we get the chance to sort it out on our own which is great.

There are some fun bits that I’ve not mentioned. The canned music that was also used on the People’s Court years later made me laugh. The rude lady that responds to Ted’s polite “Excuse me” with a “NO!” was also great. The doctor going into gleeful detail about the condition of the body had me laughing. Hell, even the weird bit with Ted always having a cigarette in his mouth but refusing to light it because he was trying to quit was cool. This movie has so much going for it that you have to give it a watch.

Obviously, I’m recommending The Death Train. It appears to be in the public domain, but I’ve only been able to find it on Archive.org. As of the writing of this article it is still there and free to watch. There is no excuse for you to not check it out.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Calendar Girl Murders (1984)

Well, this is a strange one. In my effort to track down movies for my mystery review marathon I have stumbled on some odd flicks, but none quite like Calendar Girl Murders. This made for television flick stars some familiar faces and is a weird combination of police procedural and detective story.

Our story starts off with the police, including our main character Stoner, being assigned to augment security at a big party being live on television celebrating the ladies who I guess posed for a nudie magazine. Here though they keep calling them Calendar Girls… but it is a magazine. Regardless while the show is on Miss January gets tossed off a balcony. So the police are on the case trying to figure out who killed her and why. When Miss February is stabbed to death and Miss March almost dies in a pool they know that there is a crazy on the loose. Though this gets confusing when their primary suspect, a stalker in a panel van, gets killed in the hospital things take a turn. A sinister turn where we find out that there is an unexpected twist to the story. Though fear not Stoner and his amazing dad sweater will solve the mystery.

Imagine someone deciding to make a slasher movie about a killer knocking off a bunch of centerfold models knowing that they were making it for network television so they couldn’t have any nudity or gore. That seems like a difficult task, one that I can honestly report they weren’t up to. The story has a twist that is a bit gross if you think about it and one that I didn’t see coming. Though the killer is fairly obvious early on and the twist just has to do with her motive. Oh yeah I suppose spoilers are coming so be warned. A very young Sharon Stone plays a traumatized who was victimized by the stalker and who when the other girls start to die steps up and fills in.

The thing is that the supposed stalker was a blackmailer who found out she was the daughter of the publisher, who had no idea, and threatened to expose her. That made her snap and start taking out the girls that replaced her when her father found out who she was. Which makes the fact that he was going to then let her pose anyway just a bit creepy. Again, this is only kind of a spoiler because five minutes after she appears onscreen you know she is the killer. The story is so obvious and while it tries to give us red herrings they don’t fly. There is just not any mystery here and that makes for a tedious experience.

All the best movies have Rip Torn
There is a decent eighties vibe to Calendar Girl Murders that I was having fun with. Some of the music, clothes, and hair had me laughing. I swear to God as a child of that decade I still do not understand the point of leg warmers. There is also a dance sequence that must be seen to be believed. The cast is filled with some fun actors including the previously mentioned Sharon Stone we also get Tom Skerritt as Stoner, Robert Culp as the publisher, Claudia Christian as one of the models, and Robert Beltran as a cop. Though my favorite is Alan Thicke as the creepy photographer who keeps telling the girls to work the camera. Hell, Rip Torn shows up for a hot minute to tell a couple bad jokes.

I can’t say this is a good movie. The pacing is slow and isn’t helped by the painfully obvious identity of the killer. There is zero suspense here. At best I can say this is an oddity which may appeal to some viewers but not most. I can’t recommend it.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)

Before we begin, I wanted to direct you to my thoughts on the controversy of white actors being cast in the role of Asian characters and the issues that arise from it. I realized that I’m going to be covering a lot of movies like this one and the Charlie Chan franchise so instead of having each of those reviews dominated by that discussion it was better to hash it out once here instead. The below is just judging the movie as a movie and not delving too deeply into other obvious issues.

Karloff is back as Chinese detective Mr. Wong. This time he gets involved in the murder of an antiquities collector who has recently come into possession of The Eye of the Daughter of the Moon, a rare gem from China that is supposedly cursed. Wong is called in because the collector has had death threats, which come true when he is killed by a gun that was supposed to be loaded with blanks. They were playing charades, which I guess is different from what we know as charades today. Instead, they were acting out a play of sorts with a husband finding his wife cheating on him… hey wait a minute! Yeah, this is a loose remake of Murderat Midnight that I recently watched and covered for the site.

Wong must sort out who killed the collector, and later his maid. There are some twists and turns with a missing letter in which the man speculated at who was trying to kill him and why. There are also those trying to return the stolen gem back to China where it belongs, and finally a wife who was made rather miserable by the man. So many suspects and so little time. Though in the end Wong assembles them and reveals the killer.

This is another solid movie. Though I was a bit disappointed when I realized it was a remake and not an original story. That sort of spoiled the fun because while they made changes to adapt it to the Wong character, they didn’t change the mystery much itself. This includes the identity of the murderer, though his motives have changed. That took a lot of the fun out of the proceedings for me. That said the story is interesting, the action fast paced, and the motives/methods of the killer plausible. So, if you haven’t seen Murder at Midnight yet I think that this will be a fun flick that you will get a kick out of.

As before Karloff is very good in the role of Mr. Wong. Again, the idea of casting him as an Asian character is problematic but he does his best to avoid the pitfalls of speaking in the heavily accented and stereotypical Asian accent. That lessens the blow a bit. He commands every scene he is in and is surrounded by a decent supporting cast. This movie was from a “B” studio, so the budget was low again, but this sort of formulaic movie doesn’t require much in the way of sets and locations beyond the basics.

I’m going to recommend The Mystery of Mr. Wong. It is a straightforward and fun little murder mystery on a budget that knows what the audience wants and delivers the goods. Karloff is great and fun to see on the screen and if you pay close attention to what is transpiring on screen you have a decent chance to figure it out before the big reveal. I hoe the other four are originals or at least based on something that I’ve not already seen.

 

© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Mr. Wong Detective (1938)

With the success of the Charlie Chan movies, which I will be covering in this marathon, other studios went looking for their own Chinese detectives. Mr. Wong was one of those and is most notable for the actor cast in the main role, genre legend Boris Karloff! Before I continue if you haven’t already checked out my thoughts on this as well as the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan movies unfortunate use of “yellow face” then click this link. These reviews are only going to address the movie’s merits and whether it is worth checking out and not the political stuff. 

The action starts off at a dock where a ship is being loaded for a journey. We see some sketchy looking characters are watching this and we get some talk about if the shipment goes their cause is doomed. Later we find out that the ship is full of chemicals to make deadly nerve gas and is being sent to a government that will use it against their citizens. The man who co-owns the company with three partners, Mr. Dayton, comes to see our detective. He believes his life is in danger and asks for his help. Mr. Wong comes to see him the next day in the office to look at the threatening letter he received but Dayton is dead before he arrives. 

The rest of the movie is Wong trying to figure out who killed and is continuing to kill the men involved in the chemical company. In addition to the people trying to stop the shipment, we get the other partners, and a chemist whose formula was stolen by the company as suspects. Who did it and how was it managed? I’m not going to spoil the fun because I think you should check out Mr. Wong Detective yourself. 

This is an excellent movie with a mystery that is easy to follow but keeps you guessing until the end. The bit with the glass balls and poison gas is nifty and satisfying without being overly complicated. The way that the killings are executed feel realistic and clever. The movie gives you plenty of red herrings before dropping a twist that works well. I must keep this vague as to not spoil it but trust me if you like murder mysteries you will dig it. The movie is paced well and keeps the action moving until the final reveal. The dialogue is snappy and deliberate, which is a must if you are to follow the story and try to discover the clues. The filmmakers knew how to make a good mystery movie. 

The characters are likeable for the most part with Karloff being the highlight. Clearly there are issues with a white actor playing an Asian character, but he still is very good in the role. Though I found it interesting that instead of the accented and stereotypical speech present in the Charlie Chan movies he decides to use his normal British accent. There are a couple of points where the movies low budget is obvious, but that didn’t spoil the fun for me. A good example is that we only get a couple of sets that they keep returning to, but had I not pointed that out you probably wouldn’t have noticed. 

There are six movies in the Mr. Wong franchise, and I’ve only ever seen this one before. I plan on covering them all eventually and I hope that they all are as much fun as Mr. Wong Detective. I highly recommend checking this one out. 


© Copyright 2022 John Shatzer

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Ten Little Indians (1989)

This is the third different version of the movie that I’ve watched and the second that I’ve covered here at the site. I suppose that this is a spoiler, but I still like the version from nineteen forty-five better than this one. But this is better than the one from sixty-five. So, there you have my review… just kidding.

A group of ten strangers are lured to an African Safari by a Mr. Owen. U.K. Owen… yeah unknown. Their first night in camp a record is played as per his instructions and each of them is accused of getting away with murder. Though escaping the hangman’s noose is going to be corrected as one by one they are killed. After each death a centerpiece from the dining table has one less Indian on it as they are busted off. The murders also sort of match the various lines from the corresponding nursery rhyme. Though some are a stretch. Eventually there are just two of them left so they know that one of them is the killer pretending to be another victim lured here to pay for their crimes. Or are they? Spoiler there is a neat twist that is intact from the original play/novel that is always fun.

First thing I wanted to mention is that I had no idea until I popped this one on that it was a Cannon production. Though that explains some of the casting as they tended to pull from the same pool of “B” actors again and again. With that out of the way I guess the next question is “Did this need another version?”. Short answer is probably not. Other than changing some dialogue around the movie follows the same basic premise of both previous versions that I’ve seen. With nothing new to see here if you have already watched them the mystery is a hard sell. This is further complicated by a plot that meanders a bit in the middle slowing the proceedings down when it should have been picking up steam.

I didn’t think I was going to like the change in setting of the isolated house on an island, but the African Safari complete with a gorge on one side and hungry lions on the other works pretty good to create that sense of isolation that makes the story work. It also helps that I liked the cast and watching them interact with each other while bringing their characters to the screen. Brenda Vaccaro, Herbert Lom, and Paul L. Smith are fun to watch. This is especially so of Smith who has that “crazy eye” thing going on that makes him a perfect suspect! Though the best and most fun to watch performance comes from Donald Pleasence as Judge Wargrave. My only complaint with the casting is Frank Stallone as Lombard. He is supposed to be one of our main leads but isn’t that good of an actor. This is especially obvious when paired with one of the pros I’ve mentioned above. I needed more from the actor in this part.

I do like this story so any version of it already has a leg up with me. I also enjoyed the performances and I’ll pretty much watch anything with Donald Pleasence in it, so there is that. I suppose I can recommend this movie if this cast is to your liking or if Safaris are your thing. That said the original film is still the best. Though that might change since I just found out that there was another version of the movie shot in the seventies. Oh yeah I’m tracking that down!

 

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