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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Dangerous Money (1946)

note: I always start off these reviews with a link to my thoughts on the issue of a white actor playing an Asian role. If you are interested in what I think about that please check this link out. 

I’m back with another old Charlie Chan flick. This time around the famous detective is traveling aboard a ship in the Pacific. He is approached by a treasury officer named Pearson. He is on the trail of some counterfeit money but has had his life threatened so asks Chan for some help. Before much can be done Pearson is murdered by a thrown knife. But who threw it and does it have anything to do with the investigation or is it a coincidence? 

From here we are introduced to the other nefarious characters traveling on the ship. The suspect pool is further muddied when they stop off at an island which leads to talk of stolen art, crooked dice games, and other such shenanigans. We even get a bit of blackmail mixed in for some added fun! In the end Chan figures out who done it and why. But not before more bodies are found and attempts are made on the detective’s life. 

This might be one of my least favorite of the later Chan movies. While the movie gets right to the point with an early murder and the counterfeit ring we get way too many suspects. This isn’t my first watch of this one (I’ve seen all these movies many times over the years) and even I got a bit overwhelmed with the sheer volume of suspects. Plus there are subplots piled upon subplots to further confuse the proceedings. The mystery gets lost in the mix and honestly that is one of the main reasons you sit down to watch a Charlie Chan flick. The other, at least by the time we get to this stage of the franchise, is the comedy. I have an issue with that as well. 

The always reliable Mantan Mooreland is replaced this time around with another Hollywood staple Willie Best playing Chattanooga Brown. I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of Mooreland and never liked Best all that much, though he was excellent in Ghostbreakers. I really do need to get around to covering that one for the site. His performance here isn’t terrible, but it lacks the chemistry that the former had with Victor Sen Yung has as Jimmy Chan. The pair end up with a lot of screentime as again Sidney Toler in the role of Chan was very ill and frail. While Mooreland and Yung can carry parts of the movie, I don’t think that the pairing of Best and Yung can. 

Now I don’t think that Dangerous Money is a terrible movie. I’ve seen much worse attempts at these murder mystery with a dash of comedy movies. Really check out some of my other reviews. But when it comes to this franchise, I’ve got some higher standards and judged against the other movies come before and after this one just doesn’t measure up. As much as it pains me to say unless you are a completist I’d recommend skipping this one. 


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Monster of Blackwood Castle (1968)

If you haven’t figured it out yet I’m a huge fan of mystery movies. I mean you are here for my third annual review marathon so it should be obvious by now. That said I’ve never understood the appeal of these West German productions of Edgar Wallace novels. Something about them just doesn’t connect. That said I’ve been told that The Monster of Blackwood Castle is the best of the series, so I figured it was worth a shot.

The movie opens with a guy walking in the fog thru what looks like a marsh or perhaps a forest. There is some howling and then the groovy sixties chase music kicks in. He is cornered by a “beast” (actually just a Doberman) who attacks him. Later we see a man with an eye patch dumping the body in the water, which turns out to be the moat of Blackwood Castle. This is all witnessed by another man who doesn’t intervene but seems interested in what is happening. That is all before the main story even kicks in!

Jane arrives at Blackwood Castle to make her inheritance official. Her father had just passed so the whole place is hers know. Though the solicitor tries to get her to sell the place right away for a tidy sum. Then another man shows up and offers twice that tidy sum to buy the castle immediately. Sensing something might be up Jane refuses to sell and is immediately set upon by all sorts of shenanigans. Plastic skeletons, impromptu power outages, snakes slithering between the sheets. Someone really wants her to sell the place! More people come to town and many more die to the “monster”, which is again just a Doberman, before the big mystery is revealed.

This next bit is a spoiler so be warned. Her dead father was the leader of a gang that stole a pile of gems and jewelry. He is dead, the other members of the gang is looking for it, and someone is killing them off. Toss in a couple more twists that I’m not going to share here and you have yourself a movie.

So, what did I think? Well first off someone has read A. Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles as this movie clearly took some inspiration from that novel. The setting of the spooky estate, the nearby moors aka. marsh, and of course the canine killer all are lifted directly from that. The pacing isn’t great. It kicks off with a murder but then bogs down as characters are introduced and then killed off without a great deal of explanation as to what is going on. There is zero chance of following along or figuring out what the hell is going on. That was annoying and I found myself bored with what I was watching.

There are also a couple gags that didn’t work. Did I forget to mention that there are attempts at comedy? This is one of those flicks that tries to mix genres and fails to successfully pull it off. The lead investigator, Sir John of Scotland Yard, eventually shows up and bumbles around before accidentally stumbling onto what is happening due to the efforts of his helpful assistant Miss Finley. Before Sir John the movie isn’t serious but also doesn’t try to be slapstick. We also get the comic relief from the local Innkeeper who was formerly lady of the castle before selling it. Again, none of these attempts at humor worked for me and didn’t feel like they fit with the rest of the flick.

If this is the best of the Edgar Wallace adaptations, then I’m thinking that these movies just aren’t for me. I know that they have a rabid fanbase and if you are one of those folks then more power to you. I like a lot of stuff that other people hate on, so I get it. Sadly, I can’t recommend anyone waste their time on The Monster of Blackwood Castle.

 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Trap (1946)

note: If you want to hear my thoughts on casting a white actor in an Asian role you can follow this link.

I’m back with another Charlie Chan movie review. This time it is set in his hometown of Honolulu but was shot in California so don’t expect any exotic locations. Here we see a car full of showgirls being driven to the beach by their producer and crew. They are taking a small vacation to relax and get ready for the next season. Right away we see that Marcia, one of the girls, is a real pain. By that I mean she manipulates the others to get whatever she wants by threatening to expose their secrets.

A bit of blackmail never ends well in murder mystery movies. Though it is one of the other girls, Lois, who is found strangled while Marcia just goes missing. This leads to Charlie being called and getting involved in the case. Soon after Marcia is also found murdered which leads to some wandering around in the dark, accusations, clues, and other sorts of shenanigans. Eventually the killer and their motives are revealed.

This movie is based on one of what I think are only four actual Chan novels. When I read them I was shocked at how minor of a character he is in those stories. He is basically the inscrutable plot device that shows up to solve everything while the victims and suspects are the main characters. Obviously, this isn’t what happened when they became movies and since there are almost fifty of these damn things most of the scripts are original ideas. The only reason that I mention this is that in The Trap the character of Charlie Chan comes and goes but the movie spends most of the time on other characters. This was done for practical reasons as Sidney Toler, who played Chan, was terminally ill with cancer. This was his last outing as the character. He passed away the following year.

That said the movie still has a solid mystery with plenty of clues being given to the audience. The suspects are interviewed, folks creep around up to no good, and if you pay attention, you can figure it out. Though unlike many of the other entries into the franchise this mystery has a neat twist that most folks, including myself on first watch, never guessed. I figure that is because it was based on the novel by Earl Der Biggs, which is quite good. The Trap is a very cleaver murder mystery in both book and film.

There is also a healthy dose of son Jimmy and chauffer Birmingham Brown as the comic relief. Mantan Mooreland, who plays Birmingham, gets to do several gags including his classic knocking knees as well as a fun bit with a phone ringing. I understand that much like the casting of a white actor in the Chan role that Mooreland’s performance is frowned upon today, but he was an excellent comedian who deserves to be remembered and appreciated. The rest of the cast does a fine job for being assembled by a poverty row studio like Monogram. While not stars these were working actors with some decent skills.

This is another entertaining flick in the Charlie Chan filmography. I get that these old mystery movies are not for everyone, but I love them, and this is one of the best. Give it a chance. You might just find yourself a fan as well.

 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Monday, January 22, 2024

The Ghost that Walks Alone (1944)

This movie opens with some folks recording a radio show. So many of these mystery/comedy flicks revolve around radio shows. I guess it was a common trope that kept getting used. Anyway there is a rather handsy actor who keeps grabbing the leading lady much to the dismay of her fiancé Eddie, who is the sound effects guy. There is a fight and Eddie gets fired but then rehired by the producer. Why? The producer’s wife makes him!

With this established we then move on to Eddie and his lady leaving for their wedding and honeymoon. The producer is threatened with having the show cancelled so he tries to get Eddie and his leading lady back for more rehearsals, but they blow him off. So, the entire crew shows up at the lodge where they are honeymooning to get some practice in. When the producer ends up dead Eddie is convinced by some of his wacky co-workers that he will be blamed so they had better solve the murder before reporting it to the police. Shenanigans ensue… sort of.

I was sort of looking forward to checking this one out. The actor that plays Eddie, Arthur Lake, is best known for portraying Dagwood from the Blondie series. I’ve always liked those movies and thought he was a funny guy so the idea of a movie starring him was going to be a blast. Here is where I noticed why Lake never was able to build on his success from that series though. In the Blondie movies he was a second banana, an important one, but again not the focus. That worked because he has a very limited schtick that now that I see is solo in The Ghost that Walks Alone gets rather annoying very quickly. His sad sack persona and his whiney line delivery gets tedious and since he is the star we never get a break from it.

The movie also doesn’t help with a supporting cast that comes off flat and forgettable. I’m not even sure that they tried to develop anything beyond one wacky old lady character who exists to be the red herring (she knows who the killer is) as well as be the punchline for the final joke seen on screen. His lady friend and wacky co-workers are barely given screentime and when they are on camera, I can sort of see why. Lake needed some help here as again he can’t carry the movie on his own, but he got no help here. The story is also paper thin with no mystery and very little beyond them stumbling around in the dark. Had the story been more engaging it would have made the movie at least watchable, but it isn’t.

There are reasons why some of these old movies have been forgotten. Sometimes they were just cranked out to fill screens and cash in on what was popular at the time. The Ghost that Walks Alone is one of those and isn’t worth spending the hour or so of you time on. In the unlikely event you are an Arthur Lake fan (how many of us are there?) I’d recommend hitting up a Blondie movie and skipping this one. If you are looking for a mystery/comedy from the thirties or forties there are much better choices. Oh, and just to be clear. There is no ghost that either walks in a crowd or alone!

 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Friday, January 19, 2024

Whispering Ghosts (1942)

Hollywood studios copying or revisiting what was making their competitors money isn’t a new phenomenon. Since I just covered the Cat and the Canary remake I went back and watched the original, which I love. That got me to thinking I should go see what knockoffs that I could find. With Bob Hope doing that movie and then following it up the following year with the equally awesome The Ghost Breakers I figured someone would have taken notice. While there are a lot of poverty row flicks the one that stood out to me was Whispering Ghosts. This was a decent production and starred Milton Berle. If you couldn’t get Hope in your flick, then the next best thing… as far as former vaudevillian performers go… was Berle.

The movie opens with a woman, Elizabeth, checking out her uncle Eli’s unusual home. He was a sailor and had his ship hauled up on land for him to live in. He was murdered and while it took time, she has finally officially inherited the place. There is also the rumor of a cache of diamonds, so we get a fun buried treasure twist as well.

Then we meet up with famous radio detective H.H. Van Buren (Berle’s character) who claims to have solved Eli’s murder. Though it turns out that he is wrong but still has a week to figure it out as he has promised his audience the big reveal on a live broadcast. That means he and his manservant/sidekick Euclid Brown have to head off to the house looking for clues. There is also a subplot of him playing a mean trick on a fellow performer who sends some actors to the house to mess with him as revenge. This serves to add a couple extra character for shenanigans. Van Buren meets Elizabeth and the actors. Some others show up as well as a storm blows in and wrecks the road. Then shenanigans ensue. In the end though the mystery is solved, and the treasure is found.

This is a decent movie. The pacing is solid as it gets right to the story and the action/comedy. I can’t think of a slow spot in the proceedings as things are spaced out evenly from start to finish. Though it does follow the formula closely with the goofy characters and wisecracking hero that didn’t bother me at all. Like I’ve already mentioned this was made to cash in on the success of the Hope flicks, so I knew what to expect. Berle, while not as great as Hope, is still great in the lead cracking wise and dropping one-liners like the practiced professional he was. The guy was really funny, and I’ve noticed has been forgotten by a lot of younger people. That is a damn shame.

Look kids it's John Carradine!
The rest of the cast is good. Willie Best, who was also in The Ghost Breakers, does his thing. Though much like Mantan Mooreland this doesn’t play well to a modern audience. Plus, there are a couple cringeworthy jokes cracked by Berle at Best’s expense that haven’t aged well at all. Though as someone who has watched movies like this as well as every vaudevillian recording I could find it is obvious that Berle is giving Best some of the best gags so there was some respect there. Though it still is uncomfortable at times. We also get John Carradine as one of the actors hired to mess with them. This allows him to ham it up and chew some scenery in a couple funny gags. Plus, it also leads to a Dracula line from Berle that I found funny. There is some good stuff here.

While not anywhere as fun as the previously mentioned Hope flicks Whispering Ghosts isn’t too bad. Milton Berle is funny and is surrounded by a supporting cast that can help carry the load. The movie gets in cracks some jokes and gets out before getting repetitive and boring. This is totally worth a look. You can find it online for free if you dig a bit.

 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Cat and the Canary (1978)

I’m a big fan of the Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard version (review here) of this story shot almost forty years earlier in nineteen thirty nine, so I was interested in this remake. After poking around and finding out that Olivia Hussey, Carol Lynley and an honest to God Bond girl, Honor Blackman starred I was even more excited to check it out. How does it compare and is it worth checking out? Might as well jump in and find out.

After some unpleasantness involving a Cat and a Canary… I guess they took the title a bit literally here… relatives start to arrive for the reading of a will. In total there are six relatives all vying for the fortune of their deceased and odd potential benefactor Cyrus West. There is some frustration as they have been waiting for twenty years as his will stipulated. Why the wait? There seems to be some shenanigans involving him wanting to see who made it that far. Old Cyrus basically feels like his family is undeserving leeches and is playing some games with them from beyond the grave.

After some bickering it is announced that his niece or great niece… they aren’t quite specific about relationships… Annabelle is the sole beneficiary. Though she needs to make it thru the night alive and insane to collect. Yep the old guy set them up with a motive for murder. Though the catch is no one knows who is next in line if she should be unavailable. Though the executor of the will disappears so someone might have found a way to find out. Lots of creeping around the house in the dark while a storm rages outside ensues. There is also some romance between Annabelle and her cousin Michael who I suppose are kissing cousins! Oh, and another murder. Eventually the identity of the killer and their motives are revealed.

This version of the movie made me appreciate the magical delivery and chemistry of Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. This isn’t quite a shot for shot remake, but it basically is the same story. The main characters of Annabelle (Carol Lynley) and Michael (Paul Jones) don’t have nearly the chemistry which means we have time to notice how linear and at times inexplicably boring the basic plot here is. People come to the house, a will gets read, and then folks start to yell and argue. Even when the first body is found it isn’t all that interesting. There are also attempts at comedy with Michael stumbling around a bit in the dark, but it is quickly abandoned as he simply lacks the chops to pull it off. The dude isn’t funny but that doesn’t stop them from trying.

This version of the story is also much longer clocking in at almost an hour and forty minutes. There simply isn’t enough meat on the bone for that sort of runtime. We spend far too much time on characters that simply don’t matter much to the plot while others like Hussey’s character are totally wasted. Honestly you had her and Honor Blackman on the cast and give them nothing to do? That seems like a bad decision. Much of this I blame on director and co-writer Radley Metzger. That name might sound familiar to you. He was best known for making adult films and I believe that this was his one attempt at a “legitimate” movie. I use quotes because I don’t automatically discount the quality of work in classic adult movies as many are quite good. Here Metzger misses every opportunity to make a decent movie and that is a bummer.

I could go on but honestly, I think that I’ve made my point. There is nothing charming or engaging about this version of The Cat and the Canary. Do yourself a favor and just check out the Hope version. You can pretty much find it streaming all over the place. That movie is very much worth your time this one not so much.

 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Murder by Aristocrat (1936)

Here we have another Sally Keating mystery movie. Okay actually I suppose I need to explain that the character’s name was switched around from Sarah Keate to Sally Keating. Why? I don’t have a clue, but it is based on the same character that appeared in While the Patient Slept which I’ve already covered here. This one has our favorite crime solving nurse being called to take care of a patient who may or may not have accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun. Spoilers… it wasn’t an accident.

The movie opens with the members of the Thatcher family sitting in the great room of their mansion. One of them, Bayard, is demanding that the others give him twenty five thousand dollars. If they don’t, he will reveal the family secrets including a very illegal bit of banking. The rest of the family doesn’t seem all that pleased with him, but he isn’t bothered by that. Though later in the night when someone takes a shot at him that might be a different matter.

The shot only winged him so the family calls a doctor who also brings along his nurse, Sally, to take care of their patient. She stays that night to keep an eye on him and watches as he continues to antagonize the family. He even lets her know that he wasn’t cleaning his gun, which is the story the family gave everyone, but was shot by someone else. The next morning Sally is sent to sit out in the yard and watches as folks come and go. This is important as she is able to collect some clues to help solve the mystery as to who shot Bayard (they didn’t miss this time) when is body is found. The rest of the movie is a belligerent District Attorney who is also a family friend not listening to her before finally realizing she has it all sorted out.

This is a very simple and entertaining movie. Clocking in right at an hour the story establishes the absolute heel that our victim Bayard is and sets the plot into action right away. The actor, William B. Davidson, chews up some scenery making no doubt to the fact that he will eventually die and how those responsible are sort of justified by that. This works well when we do finally see who the killer is as they should be sympathetic. No worries though since I’ll not be spoiling the good stuff here in this review.

Once he is shot and Sally shows up there is an appropriate amount of skulking around the old house at night with a thunderstorm blowing outside. I was enjoying the heck out of that, but then the next day when the killer succeeds it is a beautiful and sunny day. The atmosphere is a bit lacking, but I suppose it was clever to do it that way. Certainly not what I expected. The movie also does a wonderful job of giving us enough clues so that in hindsight I realized I could have guessed correctly at who the murderer was. Just in case you were wondering I was completely wrong. Though for me that is part of the fun of watching an old flick like this, getting fooled.

There isn’t much more I can say about this movie other than it is worth checking out. Being in the public domain it is easy to find online. I think I may have enjoyed this one even more than the previously mentioned While the Patient Slept. I recommend it if you are in the mood for a good murder.

 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Friday, January 12, 2024

The Scarlet Clue (1945)

Another Charlie Chan movie for the marathon. As I do with all of these reviews I wanted to get my thoughts about a white actor in what really should have been an Asian role out of the way right off. You can click here for an article I wrote about it. Now onto the review.

The movie kicks off as all great old mystery flicks should with some shady characters skulking around a fog covered dock. A man is being trailed by a couple others and we find out that those following are police and the man who is being followed is in possession of some secret military technology. Remember that this was still during World War II and the poverty row studios like Monogram were still putting spies in everything! Charlie Chan arrives and when they go to arrest the man, they find him dead.

The rest of the movie is Chan, his son Tommy, chauffer Birmingham Brown, and a host of suspects at a radio station (there was a car at the murder scene that led them there) getting grilled. Sure enough some espionage is afoot, and Charlie needs to sort that out before the enemy makes off with some vital radar plans. Toss in some spooky masks, a thinly veiled reference to the legendary Boris Karloff, and a deadly elevator for some fun.

This is another of the Chan movies that I’ll admit doesn’t give the audience much chance to follow along with and try to figure out as it plays more like an adventure flick with some “who done it” teases along the way. You get an interesting murder weapon in both the cigarette twist as well as the trick elevator. But neither are hard to see coming. There are some clues so I don’t want to imply that we are kept in the dark but unlike any other Chan movie I can think of when the killer is revealed not only do we not get an explanation of how he sorted it out but there is also not a good connection as to why the killer/spy did what they did. That was a bit annoying.

Mooreland and Carter are excellent!
There is a bit of gunplay involved and we do get a healthy dose of comedy from Mantan Mooreland as Birmingham Brown who is joined here by his sidekick from the nightclub scene Ben Carter. They do their famous gag finishing each other’s sentences with the final punchline being given to Tommy by Mooreland. The wordplay from these guys is pure genius and makes me sad that so little of their act was saved from the thirties and forties. I would have loved to check it out.

Sidney Toler is good again in the role of Charlie Chan. His delivery is solid, and he has a lot of energy. This is one of the last movies where he was still on his game as the cancer which eventually killed him sapped him of his strength in the later entries. He did another six of these movies before passing away in nineteen forty-seven. While not the best mystery of the bunch this is one of his better performances and that makes The Scarlet Clue worth checking out.

 

Ó Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Black Magic aka. Meeting at Midnight (1944)

Time for some more Charlie Chan review goodness. I suppose I should, as I always do with these movies, direct you towards my thoughts on casting a white actor in an Asian role. You can find that link here. With that out of the way lets actually take a look at this entry into the long running franchise. 

This movie kicks off with a bang as we see some folks sitting around a table at a séance where the medium, William Bonner, is contacting the spirits of lost loved ones for those in attendance. While this is happening Birmingham Brown, the always entertaining Mantan Moreland, shows up to take over the butler’s job. To say he is a bit put off by the spooky nature of his new boss’s business is an understatement. This is made worse when a shot rings out and Bonner is found murdered when the lights come back up. We also see that the whole thing is a scam that Bonner and his wife have been pulling with a couple of assistants in the basement. 

The police are called and as they sort things out they discover that one of the attendees is Charlie’s daughter Frances. Initially he doesn’t want anything to do with the crime but when the police threaten to hold his daughter for questioning, he dives into the case. Soon he is interviewing witnesses and potential killers. The date of October 5th, 1935 keeps coming up during this time. Another murder is attempted, a woman walks off a high rise building, Charlie is shot at, and Birmingham reacts to the craziness going on around him before all is revealed and the killer brought to justice. 

This is another solid movie from the Chan series. Sidney Toler does a decent job playing the character with a bit more of an edge behind the façade. There are brief spots where you can see his annoyance and anger at what is happening around him. This is especially so when he sees that the police are going to use his daughter’s predicament against him. The pacing is solid as the formula is down by this point. The murder happens quickly, Chan is drawn into it, and moves right to interviewing the suspects. We also get the typical shots being taken at him by the killer when he gets too close. Is it familiar? Sure, but when done right that doesn’t matter much. Here I had a good time and felt like all sixty seven minutes of the movie were headed towards the conclusion. Though I was bummed that the vital clue is kept from the audience until the very end, so we don’t have a chance to figure it out ourselves. 

It was also interesting that this is the first time we get a daughter solo and no son as his assistant. I don’t believe that happened again. While I thought the actress did a good job there is a lack of chemistry between her and Moreland. The comic shenanigans that Birmingham and whichever one of Charlie’s sons was along for that mystery adds a lot to these later entries and it is missing here. That might also play into why I didn’t feel like we got enough of Moreland in the movie as he disappears for long stretches. While I dig the mystery I also look forward to a bit of silliness with these movies. 

That said we do get enough here for it to be a decent way to kill an hour. I like Toler and am always down for Mantan Moreland. And while the story is a bit of a cheat not giving the audience all the clues the pacing is brisk enough to keep the story entertaining. In the end I suppose Black Magic is not the best but still worth a watch. 


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Some of them are old and some of them are new. How long with the marathon run? Probably until I run out of flicks to watch or get bored of them. I'm thinking I should at least get thru the end of January.

In the past I've also gotten some feedback that many of you don't like when  I cover these old mystery movies. This is my website and I like what I like and that includes talking covering this stuff. So if you don't dig it I'm sorry but it is what it is. So without anymore delay it is time to dive in. 

Movie 1 - Black Magic aka. Meeting at Midnight (1944) - Charlie Chan goodness! Toss in Mantan Moreland for some comedic fun. The full review is here

Movie 2 - The Scarlet Clue (1945)  - Might as well hit you with another Charlie Chan movie. This one features a radio station setting and has one of the coolest murder methods of the series. We also get more Mantan Mooreland comedy. The review is here

Movie 3 - Murder by Aristocrat (1936) - This is a series that I only found last year. It is based around a nurse whose name changes due to different studios getting ahold of the property (it is based on a series of books popular in the thirties). Basically murders, weird families, and spooky houses. Check out the review here

Movie 4 - The Cat and the Canary (1978) - I finally got around to checking out this remake of an old favorite of mine. Sadly it lacks the chemistry of the classic Bob Hope flick and generally fails to entertain despite having a solid cast. Full review here

Movie 5 - Whispering Ghosts (1942) - Bob Hope was doing a lot of murder mystery/comedy mashups so it makes sense that some studio would do the same with another Vaudeville superstar, this time around Milton Berle, to cash in on what was a successful formula. Check out review here

Movie 6 - The Ghost that Walks Alone (1944) - Another Murder Mystery/Comedy mashup this time starring Arthur Lake from the Blondie movies! I really wanted to like this one but it is a by the numbers uninspired outing. If you must read the full review it can be found here

Movie 7 - The Trap (1946) - Another Charlie Chan movie for you guys. This is one of my favorites and has Chan trying to figure out who murdered a showgirl. This one features son Jimmy as well as the always hilarious Mantan Mooreland as Birmingham Brown. Check out my review at this link

Movie 8 - The Monster of Blackwood Castle (1968) - I've tried for many years to get into the German productions of what I guess are hugely popular Edgar Wallace novels. While I've never tried the books the few movies from the series that I've watched have been bad. I've been told this is the best of them so I thought I'd give it another shot. My review is here

Movie 9 - Dangerous Alibi (1946) - Decided to hit you all with another Charlie Chan flick. This time Willie Best replaces Mantan Mooreland as the comic sidekick. While not as good he still does a solid job. You can read the full review here

Movie 10 - A Haunting in Venice (2023) - This is another of the Kenneth Branagh adaptations of Agatha Christie's famous Belgian Detective Poirot novels. This one is very loosely adapted from Hallowe'en Party and takes some liberties with both the setting and story. But it is well worth checking out. My full review is here

Movie 11 - The Shanghai Cobra (1945) - Well you know I had to work another Charlie Chan movie into this marathon. Spoilers I have another one before we are all done. This time Charlie is working with son Tommy and chauffeur Birmingham Brown to sort out some shenanigans at a bank. My full review is here

Movie 12 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) - Had to squeeze an old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movie into the marathon. This is another WWII set story with Nazis spies and criminals running around. Check out my full review here

Movie 13 - Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938) - Lucky number thirteen is also the last entry in this year's Mystery marathon. I figured finishing things off with another Chan flick wouldn't be such a bad thing. You can check out the full review here


© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Best of 2023

This is another tradition that I have for each year. I like to look back and talk about the best new movies I've watched the last year. These aren't all brand new movies as it has taken me some time to get around to watching some them. Though this year I managed to keep it to stuff that was no older than 2022 so that is a thing. 

I also realize that some of my choices and comments below might piss some folks off but thems the breaks. We are each entitled to our opinions and while mine might not be popular they are honest. But before I get to top ten list I figured I'd give you some honorable mentions. Some of the movies have full reviews that are available if you click on the title. 

X (2023) – I didn’t hate this movie. It is a solid horror flick but I honestly don’t see what all the excitement is about. Plus I get that folks dig Mia Goth but she isnt’ that great. Personally I don’t think anything she has worked on has topped Samra Weaving’s run on The Babysitter, Mayhem, and Ready or Not

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) – I can’t believe they finally made a good D and D movie! Not the greatest flick I’ve seen this year but a solid effort that I enjoyed and will watch again.  

Project Wolf Hunting (2022) – South Korea knocked another one out of the park. Tons of gore, a prison break, and an unstoppable monster that tears thru survivors like they are tissue paper. The only negative is the lack of story and the fact that it doesn’t end but instead just sets up the sequel.  

With these honorable mentions out of the way it is now time to get to my list. The way they are listed below are in order from ten to one. So the first is the lowest while the last is my favorite new to me movie. I hope that makes sense. 

Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham (2023) – These animated DC movies are cool. This one is set in an alternate universe where Mythos beasts have invaded a Victorian Gotham City. Yeah Batman vs. Cthulhu. 

We Have a Ghost (2023) – This was a surprise that showed up on Netflix. I loved this family friendly movie with ghosts, murder, and mystery. The cast is great and this is a fun adventure flick. David Harbor is awesome without saying a single line of dialogue. 

Unwelcome (2022) – I found this one on Shudder. It is a cool take on Irish folklore with the redcap fae folk in the woods doing some serious murdering. 

A Haunting in Venice (2023) – This is a cool mystery that is also a mashup with horror. I’ve been digging these new Poirot flicks and this one, while a bit different, is still a good time. I managed to check this out at a small theater while on vacation. 

The Lair (2022) – This Neil Marshall monster movie checked all the right boxes for me. A fun creature, snappy dialogue from likeable characters, and some sweet gore/kills. He didn’t overthink it and gave us one of the best monster movies of the last couple of years. 

Mad Heidi (2022)
 – This was an excellent flick. Totally over the top and not afraid to offend this modern take of exploitation flicks from the seventies was a good time. Though to truly enjoy this one you need to turn off your brain and kick back with an adult beverage. 

Evil Dead Rise (2023) – This is another new horror flick that I had little hope for. Turns out this was a clever take on the franchise. I think it benefitted from the setting change and by God they let you know right away no one is safe. 

The Pope’s Exorcist (2023) – This movie ended up being way better than I expected. I thought we were going to get Russell Crowe hamming it up, but he takes the material seriously. Not only that but there are actually some creepy spots. 

Slotherhouse (2023) – This flick was a revelation. I was shocked that this creature feature turned out to be a parody of slasher flicks with a murderous sloth standing in for the killer. 

Cocaine Bear (2023) – This is one of the funniest and stupidest movies that I’ve watched in a long time and was a blast. The bear gets high and destroys everyone that it meets looking for the next bump of coke. 


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The Movies that I watched in 2023

It has become a tradition with me to keep a running list of how many and what movies that I watch each year and to share that as my first post of the year. I've noticed that my totals have been dropping but I'm determined to get more in this year. We shall see how well I do.

- John 




Movie 1 - The Red, White, and Black (1970)
Movie 2 - 4 Dollars of Revenge (1966)
Movie 3 - Challenge of the McKennas (1970)
Movie 4 - Doctor of Doom (1963)
Movie 5 - A Pistol for Ringo (1965)
Movie 6 - Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968)
Movie 7 - Lust of the Vampire (1957)
Movie 8 - Project Wolf Hunting (2022)
Movie 9 - The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977)
Movie 10 - Blood Stalkers (1976)
Movie 11 - Help Me… I’m Possessed (1974)
Movie 12 - Let Us In! (2022)
Movie 13 - Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961)
Movie 14 - Warning Signs (1985)
Movie 15 - Haunted (1995)
Movie 16 -Island of the Burning Damned (1967)
Movie 17 - Swearnet: The Movie (2014)
Movie 18 - Ghosts That Still Walk (1977)
Movie 19 - Craze (1974)
Movie 20 - The Lair (2022)
Movie 21 - Alien Escape (1997)
Movie 22 - Madame Death (1969)
Movie 23 - The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari (2022)
Movie 24 - Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtain (2012)
Movie 25 - Frogs (1972)
Movie 26 - Swearnet Live (2014)
Movie 27 - Even the Wind is Afraid (1968)
Movie 28 - C.B. Hustlers (1976)
Movie 29 - Hooch (1977)
Movie 30 - Steel Arena (1973)
Movie 31 - Burial (2022)
Movie 32 - Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm (2022)
Movie 33 - Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989)
Movie 34 - Miracle (2004)
Movie 35 - My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Movie 36 - Pray for the Wildcats (1974)
Movie 37 - Inn of the Damned (1975)
Movie 38 - Bloodshot (2020)
Movie 39 - The Dead Don’t Die (1975)
Movie 40 - Satan’s Slave (1976)
Movie 41 - Street People (1976)
Movie 42 - Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama (2022)
Movie 43 - Robo Vampire 2: Devil’s Dynamite (1987)
Movie 44 - The Creeping Flesh (1974)
Movie 45 - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)
Movie 46 - Terminal Island (1974)
Movie 47 - Cave of the Sharks (1978)
Movie 48 - The Fatal Hour (1940)
Movie 49 - Doomed to Die (1940)
Movie 50 - Night Monster (1942)
Movie 51 - Mortuary Academy (1988)
Movie 52 - Phantom of Chinatown (940)
Movie 53 - Land Shark (2020)
Movie 54 - Mansion of the Doomed (1976)
Movie 55 - Sweet, Sweet Rachel (1971)
Movie 56 - Unhuman (2022)
Movie 57 - A Haunting on Dice Road: The Hell House (2016)
Movie 58 - Night Life (1989)
Movie 59 - Mysterious Island (1961)
Movie 60 - Terror on Alcatraz (1987)
Movie 61 - Catch the Heat (1987)
Movie 62 - Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)
Movie 63 - The Brain Machine (1972)
Movie 64 - Death Mask (1998)
Movie 65 - The House of Secrets (1936)
Movie 66 - Komodo (1999)
Movie 67 - Fear No Evil (1981)
Movie 68 - How It Ends (2018)
Movie 69 - Cocaine Bear (2023)
Movie 70 - We Have a Ghost (2023)
Movie 71 - Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)
Movie 72 - Message from Space (1978)
Movie 73 - Grimoire (2023)
Movie 74 - Charlie Chan in the Chinese Cat (1944)
Movie 75 - The House on Tombstone Hill (1989)
Movie 76 - Day of the Nightmare (1965)
Movie 77 - Mad Heidi (2022)
Movie 78 - Warriors of Future (2022)
Movie 79 - REC (2007)
Movie 80 - A Taste of Evil (1971)
Movie 81 - Murder Mystery 2 (2023)
Movie 82 - Beset by Demons: The Lou Perryman Story
Movie 83 - Bigfoot: Man or Beast (1972)
Movie 84 - Terror Eyes (1989)
Movie 85 - X (2022)
Movie 86 - The Great Charlie Chan (1968)
Movie 87 - The Black Camel (1931)
Movie 88 - A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Movie 89 - Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)
Movie 90 - The Blackburn Asylum (2015)
Movie 91 - The House of Mystery (1934)
Movie 92 - Emperor of the North (1973)
Movie 93 - You’ll Never See Me Again (1973)
Movie 94 - Kids vs. Aliens (2023)
Movie 95 - Slayers (2022)
Movie 96 - Infinity Pool (2023)
Movie 97 - Hollywood Harry (1986)
Movie 98 - Mutant Vampires from the Planet Neptune (2021)
Movie 99 - Witchboard (1986)
Movie 100 - The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
Movie 101 - Primal Rage (1988)
Movie 102 - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
Movie 103 - Bridge of the Doomed (2022)
Movie 104 - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
Movie 105 - The Horror of it All (1964)
Movie 106 - Don’t Panic (1987)
Movie 107 - While the Patient Slept (1935)
Movie 108 - The Muthers (1976)
Movie 109 - The Mutilator (1984)
Movie 110 - Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)
Movie 111 - Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
Movie 112 - Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Movie 113 - Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
Movie 114 - She Waits (1972)
Movie 115 - Flight to Mars (1951)
Movie 116 - The Unknown Terror (1957)
Movie 117 - Fast X (2023)
Movie 118 - Renfield (2023)
Movie 119 - Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Movie 120 - La Loba (1965)
Movie 121 - Journey to the Center of the Earth (1988)
Movie 122 - The Disembodied (1957)
Movie 123 - Tales of the Third Dimension (1984)
Movie 124 - Boo (2005)
Movie 125 - Murder by Phone (1982)
Movie 126 - Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023)
Movie 127 - Scorpius Gigantus (2006)
Movie 128 - Amityville Christmas Vacation (2022)
Movie 129 - Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)
Movie 130 - Cosmic Sin (2021)
Movie 131 - The Evil (1978)
Movie 132 - Curfew (1989)
Movie 133 - The Beast Below (2022)
Movie 134 - Shivers (1975)
Movie 135 - Devotion (2022)
Movie 136 - Evil Dead Rise (2023)
Movie 137 - John Wick 4 (2023)
Movie 138 - Brooklyn 45 (2023)
Movie 139 - Darker Than Night (1976)
Movie 140 - The Devil and Miss Sarah (1971)
Movie 141 - Curse of the Reefer Beast (2023)
Movie 142 - Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)
Movie 143 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
Movie 144 - Hickey and Boggs (1972)
Movie 145 - The Pope’s Exorcist (2023)
Movie 146 - The UFO Incident (1975)
Movie 147 - The Car (1977)
Movie 148 - The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966)
Movie 149 - Extraction 2 (2023)
Movie 150 - The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Movie 151 - The Mysterious Monsters (1975)
Movie 152 - Gettysburg (1993)
Movie 153 - Charlie Chan Black Magic (1944)
Movie 154 - The Immortal (1969)
Movie 155 - Mad God (2021)
Movie 156 - Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Movie 157 - The Scarlet Clue (1945)
Movie 158 - The Class of ‘63 (1973)
Movie 159 - Batman: The Doom that Came to Gotham (2023)
Movie 160 - Alligator (1980)
Movie 161 - Grizzly (1976)
Movie 162 - Invitation to a Murder (2023)
Movie 163 - Murder by Aristocrat (1936)
Movie 164 - The Cat and the Canary (1978)
Movie 165 - Unknown: Cave of Bones (2023)
Movie 166 - The Out-Laws (2023)
Movie 167 - Sharksploitation (2023)
Movie 168 - Day of the Dead (1985)
Movie 169 - They Cloned Tyrone (2023)
Movie 170 - Love, Gilda (2018)
Movie 171 - Whispering Ghosts (1942)
Movie 172 - D.O.A. (1949)
Movie 173 - The Cat and the Canary (1939)
Movie 174 - Scary Stories to tell in the Dark (2019)
Movie 175 - The Ghost that Walks Alone (1944)
Movie 176 - Mark of the Dead Man (1961)
Movie 177 - The House on Sorority Row (1982)
Movie 178 - The Trap (1946)
Movie 179 - The Fast and the Fierce (2017)
Movie 180 - Barbie (2023)
Movie 181 - Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (2023)
Movie 182 - A Werewolf in England (2020)
Movie 183 - The Alien Within (1995)
Movie 184 - Six She’s and a He (1963)
Movie 185 - The Monster of Blackwood Castle (1968)
Movie 186 - Deadly Manor (1990)
Movie 187 - Heart of Stone (2023)
Movie 188 - Night of Terror (1933)
Movie 189 - Red (2010)
Movie 190 - Confess, Fletch (2022)
Movie 191 - Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
Movie 192 - Kansas City Confidential (1952)
Movie 193 - Dark Places (1974)
Movie 194 - The Curse of the Screaming Dead (1982)
Movie 195 - The Reckoning (2020)
Movie 196 - Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Movie 197 - Target Earth (1954)
Movie 198 - The Thing from Another World (1951)
Movie 199 - Invasion of the Saucermen (1957)
Movie 200 - Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 (2023)
Movie 201 - Dead Girls (1990)
Movie 202 - War of the Worlds: The Attack (2023)
Movie 203 - Supercell (2023)
Movie 204 - The Flash (2023)
Movie 205 - Half Human (1958)
Movie 206 - Ghost Ship (1952)
Movie 207 - Sisu (2022)
Movie 208 - Dangerous Money (1946)
Movie 209 - Let the Wrong One In (2021)
Movie 210 - King of the Zombies (1941)
Movie 211 - Unwelcome (2022)
Movie 212 - Pooka! (2018)
Movie 213 - Blind Fury (1989)
Movie 214 - Zombies of the Living Dead (2015)
Movie 215 - Blood Sisters (1987)
Movie 216 - Huge Shark aka. Red Water (2021)
Movie 217 - A Haunting in Venice (2023)
Movie 218 - Frostbitten (2006)
Movie 219 - Blood Bath (1966)
Movie 220 - Return of the Killer Shrews (2012)
Movie 221 - Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Movie 222 - The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Movie 223 - The Last Matinee (2020)
Movie 224 - Blood Fest (2018)
Movie 225 - Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Movie 226 - The Mad (2007)
Movie 227 - Girls with Balls (2018)
Movie 228 - House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Movie 229 - The Evil Dead (1981)
Movie 230 - The Fog (1980)
Movie 231 - Slotherhouse (2023)
Movie 232 - Cooties (2014)
Movie 233 - The Five Days (1973)
Movie 234 - I Drink Your Blood (1971)
Movie 235 - Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)
Movie 236 - Killer Book Club (2023)
Movie 237 - Haunted Mansion (2023)
Movie 238 - Hubie Halloween (2020)
Movie 239 - Terror Train (1980)
Movie 240 - The Thing (1982)
Movie 241 - Tremors (1990)
Movie 242 - The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Movie 243 - Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
Movie 244 - Totally Killer (2023)
Movie 245 - 13 Eerie (2013)
Movie 246 - Prince of Darkness (1987)
Movie 247 - Night of the Creeps (1986)
Movie 248 - My Name is Bruce (2007)
Movie 249 - Friday the 13th (1980)
Movie 250 - Jason X (2001)
Movie 251 - Intruder (1989)
Movie 252 - The Midnight Hour (1985)
Movie 253 - Mutant (1984)
Movie 254 - Plaga Zombie: American Invasion (2021)
Movie 255 - The Prowler (1981)
Movie 256 - Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948)
Movie 257 - Ready or Not (2018)
Movie 258 - Little Monsters (2019)
Movie 259 - My Best Friend is a Vampire (1987)
Movie 260 - The Monster Squad (1987)
Movie 261 - IT! The Terror from Outer Space (1958)
Movie 262 - Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)
Movie 263 - The Burning (1981)
Movie 264 - Demons 2 (1986)
Movie 265 - All Hallows’ Eve (2013)
Movie 266 - Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Movie 267 - Zombie Town (2023)
Movie 268 - Evil Dead II (1987)
Movie 269 - Blood Beast from Outer Space (1965)
Movie 270 - The Crazies (1973)
Movie 271 - Super 8 (2011)
Movie 272 - Night of the Hunted (2023)
Movie 273 - Dead Meat (2004)
Movie 274 - The Thing from Another World (1951)
Movie 275 - Mammoth (2006)
Movie 276 - Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
Movie 277 - Eight Legged Freaks (2002)
Movie 278 - The Night Stalker (1972)
Movie 279 - The Beast Must Die (1974)
Movie 280 - Gangnam Zombie (2023)
Movie 281 - Meg 2 the Trench (2023)
Movie 282 - Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Movie 283 - Feast (2005)
Movie 284 - 13 Ghosts (1960)
Movie 285 - Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Movie 286 - Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Movie 287 - Army of Darkness (1992)
Movie 288 - Slither (2006)
Movie 289 - Halloween (1978)
Movie 290 - Halloween II (1981)
Movie 291 - Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Movie 292 - Going the Distance (2010)
Movie 293 - The Devil on Trial (2023)
Movie 294 - Haunting in Venice (2023)
Movie 295 - Outlaw Johnny Black (2023)
Movie 296 - The Shanghai Cobra (1945)
Movie 297 - Black Friday (2021)
Movie 298 - Evil Under the Sun (1982)
Movie 299 - Blue Beetle (2023)
Movie 300 - Justice League: Warworld (2023)
Movie 301 - The Trailer Park Boys Christmas Special (2004)
Movie 302 - Letters to Satan Claus (2020)
Movie 303 - Christmas Blood (2017)
Movie 304 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)
Movie 305 - Trailer Park Boys: Live at the North Pole (2014)
Movie 306 - It’s a Wonderful Knife (2023)
Movie 307 - Buried : The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche (2021)
Movie 308 - Silent Night, Deadly Night (1987)
Movie 309 - Polar (2019)
Movie 310 - Christmas Presence (2017)
Movie 311 - What Waits Below (1984)
Movie 312 - When the Trash Man Knocks (2023)
Movie 313 - Susie Searches (2022)
Movie 314 - Die Hard (1988)
Movie 315 - Vandits (2022)
Movie 316 - Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare (2023)
Movie 317 - Four Rooms (1995)
Movie 318 - The Family Plan (2023)