Mystery of the 13th Guest

Mystery of the 13th Guest. Monogram Pictures 1943.

Before watching the movie:

What intrigues me most about this story is that it’s about returning to the case 13 years after the presumed crime happened. The girl’s father invited 13 people to a party and died suddenly shortly thereafter, and now his will has requested that she return to the house and find the truth.

I don’t expect a great masterpiece, but uncovering clues that long after the crime was committed will probably be interesting.

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Movies of My Yesterdays: Blank Check

In what would have been 1995, I was a little confused at how Macauley Culkin had made two movies about having a lot of money that came out so close together. Maybe I thought Culkin was in this because of the similarity with Richie Rich, or maybe Bonsall just looks enough like Culkin that I didn’t really notice he wasn’t. In actuality, Brian Bonsall played both Andy Keaton on “Family Ties”, a show I discovered in reruns in the early 2000s, and he was the best version of Worf’s son Alexander on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

I think I wanted to see Blank Check sooner, but as I recall, I didn’t get to see it until a summer movie screening at the public library. I remember the inciting incident scene, and I remember “Mister Macintosh”, and not a lot else. Which is more than I can say about Richie Rich.

Preston’s older brothers are using his bedroom for their new business. His father will only tell him about the value of working hard for his money. His birthday is next week, but nobody seems to care. Carl Quigley just escaped from prison, and has a million dollars in easily-traceable bills he brings to bank manager Biderman, an old accomplice, to launder. Biderman gives him a book of temporary checks he can have his associate cash for a clean million. On the way out, Quigley runs over Preston’s bike and, in a hurry to leave the scene, signs a blank check to pay for the bike. Preston writes the check for “one million dollars” and takes it to the bank, where Biderman mistakes him for Quigley’s associate and fills his backpack with the money. In order to spend the cash he’s suddenly acquired without adults getting too suspicious, Preston creates “Mr. Macintosh”, a newly wealthy older man who just moved to town and hired Preston to help decorate his palatial home and generally have fun so that “Macintosh” can enjoy childhood vicariously through him. Obviously, Quigley wants his money, and the FBI is very interested in this Macintosh person.

I was expecting there to be an extreme suspension of disbelief required for the central conceit of “kid is spending a bunch of money”, but that was satisfactorily explained between “there’s this man you can’t meet who pays me to spend his money” and “you gave me a wad of cash so I’m going to stop questioning things”. But what actually bothered me more was that nobody seemed terribly interested in what this secretive man wanted with a random neighbor boy. When Preston’s parents realize that neither of them have ever met Macintosh, they still just shrug it off as kinda odd.

I’m also not fully comfortable with the subplot of Preston’s crush on bank teller Shay, a grown adult person who he is trying to give heart-pendant necklaces to. Shay comes to care about him as a sweet kid who’s fun to hang out with, but the closest Preston comes to getting over his crush is when he thinks she was only interested in him to get to Macintosh’s money.

This is not the big event movie I had built it up as when I was a kid. I wondered several times if it’s the kind of money that would go to theaters now, or if it might be direct to Disney Channel or a streaming platform. There’s a touch of the Home Alone style using the environment of the kid’s house against the bad guys at the climax, but it’s a very limited sequence, and I don’t think it contributed to my confusion about the casting, unless it was heavily featured in the trailers.

I don’t know if this is even a “summer movie”. It’s just a light bit of fun for kids any time. Children’s wish fulfilment stories are probably always more exciting when watching as a kid than when watching as an adult.

Juwanna Mann

Juwanna Mann. Morgan Creek Productions 2002.

Before watching the movie:

Were there more movies about men posing as women/women posing as men in the early 2000s, or does it just seem that way because that era was a cultural experiment in irreverence and boundary breaking that did not combine well?

What I would expect from a man posing as a woman to play women’s pro basketball is finding that the grandstanding style of men’s pro basketball doesn’t work in the much more technique-focused women’s league, but since he’s the protagonist of an early 2000s comedy, I’m sure his loose cannon showboating will instead be played as suddenly making women’s basketball relevant.

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Gorgo

Gorgo. King Brothers Productions 1961.

Before watching the movie:

I’m sure nobody wanted audiences to think this was Godzilla with a bit of a King Kong plot. It’s a giant monster movie, but this time in London because it’s a UK production. That’s about all that one can expect, I guess. Specifically, the monster is taken back to London from the place it was found to be shown off, but its mother comes and stomps everything.

Western kaiju movie. I don’t know what more to say. Some of the names are slightly familiar but I couldn’t place them to anything specific.

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That time again.

It keeps happening. Does anything change, in the long run?

While going through old posts for the suggested viewing, I found even more movies about police officers acting outside the law to get the bad guys than I expected. Dirty Harry is the archetypal fairy tale of why law enforcement needs to be lawless, but we’re so accustomed to the narrative that “hero” cops bending or breaking the laws that are meant to keep us safe from the misuse of their authority are rarely visible. I recall how badly I hoped that Bad Boys might at least end with the bad guy actually imprisoned instead of executed. Because the unspoken superpower that fictional police have but real police rarely do, is that they are magically always right by being the heroes of the story being told. That doesn’t even begin to discuss the problem that modern law enforcement has with the kind of people who are attracted to the authoritarian, “I Am The Law”, consequence-free state of modern policing.

Additional viewing:

Pulgasari

First Blood

Judgment at Nuremberg

And I don’t have my own words about Do The Right Thing, but that is highly recommended as well.

https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/

Soul Plane

Soul Plane. Boz Productions 2004.

Before watching the movie:

While I’ve seen occasional mentions of the title here and there, I don’t remember this movie being a new release. I’m sure that’s because I wasn’t the target demographic and they didn’t advertise anywhere I was paying attention.

As an adult-oriented “urban comedy” from the early 2000s, this will probably not have aged well, and apparently it wasn’t well-received at the time.

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Earth vs. The Spider

Earth vs. The Spider.
American International Pictures 1958.

Before watching the movie:

I feel like I’ve seen clips of this movie used as a generic sci-fi B movie in a lot of places. I was definitely thinking it’s the source of the giant spider footage in Lilo And Stitch, but I think I’ve seen giant spider movie clips in other places not noted on Wikipedia, but I might be thinking of giant ants and THEM.

As far as what I know to expect, apparently there is a giant spider in this movie. My supply of midcentury schlock sci-fi seems to be more exhaustible than it seemed like it was a few months ago.

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The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger.
Troma Entertainment 1984.

Before watching the movie:

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on a streaming platform, but apparently it has a cult following. It’s from about 20 years later than I initially thought, but I also thought it was played straighter. This is going for satire, not camp.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the grotesque deformity the accident that gave him his super powers came from is a specific take-that to all of the superheroes and villains that got their start from chemical or nuclear accidents and end up looking amazing, or at most with a cool scar on the face, completely unlike most things that suddenly and dramatically change a human body in reality.

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Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla (1998).
Centropolis Entertainment/Fried Films 1998.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t quite understand why Godzilla captured people’s imaginations. I would’ve said that a large part of the charm of the original Japanese kaiju movies was camp and cheap effects, but everything that sells eventually gets three high-budget reboots here, and I think this did pretty well in theaters.

I certainly remember it being heavily promoted and cross-promoted. It probably made its money back just on toy sales, or at least the studio thought they had a shot at doing so.

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Earth Girls are Easy

Earth Girls are Easy.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group 1988.

Before watching the movie

How did I never know, or at least never have it sink in, that Jeff Goldblum is in this? Jim Carrey playing a weird alien, okay. Jeff Goldblum playing a weird alien, the potential to really let him run wild with it has massively piqued my interest.

I stayed away from this movie for a long time because I was expecting a raunchy comedy that hasn’t aged well. But now I find that it was inspired by a song by and co-written by Julie Brown, of songs like “Cause I’m A Blonde” and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”, so it has the potential to at least not be tasteless in the way I was expecting. It’s still over 30 years old.

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