Sunday, November 27, 2022

November Quick Picks and Pans


Don't Bother to Knock Poster

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) This gripping thriller from director Roy Ward Baker takes place over the course of one tense night. After being dumped by his lounge singer girlfriend Lyn (Anne Bancroft, in her first feature film), airline pilot Jed Towers (Richard Widmark) looks for some rebound action with an attractive woman (Marilyn Monroe) across the hotel courtyard, and finds much more than he anticipated. On the recommendation of her watchful uncle Eddie (Elisha Cook, Jr.), Nell is entrusted with babysitting the daughter of a couple of well-to-do tenants (Jim Backus and Lurene Tuttle). All eyes are on Monroe’s nuanced performance as the deeply disturbed Nell, with her character running the gamut, from sultry, to childlike, to clingy. Widmark is also good as the cocky, emotionally stunted Towers, who’s suddenly confronted with a situation beyond his control. 

Rating: ****. Available on Blu-ray (Out of print) and DVD


The Big Clock_Poster1a

The Big Clock (1948) Ray Milland stars as George Stroud, a publishing executive working under demanding CEO Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), a man obsessed with time and punctuality. Suddenly, Stroud is forced to prove his innocence, after Janoth murders his mistress in a fit of rage. The Big Clock is filled with colorful characters (including Elsa Lanchester as an eccentric artist) and moments of humor that momentarily relax the tension. Maureen O’Sullivan co-stars as Stroud’s long-suffering wife, Georgette, and Harry (Henry) Morgan provides chills as an unblinking henchman. 

Rating: ****. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

The Young Poisoner's Handbook
The Young Poisoner’s Handbook (1995) Based on true events (with some artistic embellishment), this darkly comic movie focuses on Graham Young (Hugh O’Conor), as a brilliant but warped teenager. He delves into the mysteries of molecular compounds (with the aid of his chemistry set and some forbidden library books), on a quest to create a fast-acting but undetectable poison. He methodically chronicles his experiments in his handbook as his unwilling subjects (including his best friend and stepmother) succumb to his experiments. O’Conor is terrific in the main role as a quiet, strangely sympathetic psychopath. While we never exactly want him to succeed with his plans, we can’t look away as he carefully carries out his antisocial activities.   

Rating: ****. Available on DVD



Get Crazy Poster

Get Crazy (1983) Director Alan Arkush (Rock ‘n Roll High School) aptly described his frenetic musical comedy as “1,500 punchlines and 1,000 jokes.” It’s an ‘80s update of the classic “let’s put on a show” movies of the ‘30s and ‘40s (but with hallucinogens). The cast includes Malcolm McDowell as Reggie Wanker, a self-infatuated, over-the-hill cross between Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart, and Ed Begley, Jr. as a soulless music promoter. The eclectic soundtrack features some fun performances by McDowell (singing “Hot Shot”), Lou Reed (parodying himself), and Lee Ving (as an Iggy Pop-like figure). It’s 90 minutes of barely controlled chaos (according to Arkush, the original title was Hell’s-a-Rockin’) that must be experienced to appreciate. How this movie wasn’t a big hit is beyond my comprehension. 

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Island of Terror Poster 

Island of Terror (1966) Terence Fisher’s sci-fi/horror set on a remote island village provides ample thrills and atmosphere on a meager budget. A reclusive scientist working on a cure for cancer accidentally unleashes deadly organisms that consume the bones of everything they touch. The so-called Silicates (due to their silicon composition), multiply at an exponential rate, and are virtually indestructible. Drs. Brian Stanley and David West (Peter Cushing and Edward Judd) fly to the island to investigate. Can they find a solution in time, or is this the beginning of the end for humanity? Watch it and find out.

Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD




  1. Great reviews, barry!
    The young poisoners handbook and get crazy stand out as films I'm curious to see! Maybe experience is a better word than see.

    1. Thanks, John! I can't recommend them enough! I hope you get a chance to see them. Of the two, "Get Crazy" is probably easier to find. I liked it so much, I bought the soundrack LP!