Sunday, December 1, 2019

November Quick Picks and Pans

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) The wealthy and powerful Martha Ivers (now O’Neil) (Barbara Stanwyck) is married to meek district attorney hopeful Walter O’Neil (Kirk Douglas in his film debut). Both individuals harbor a dark secret about her past, which is brought to light when her childhood friend rolls into town. Van Heflin plays Sam Masterson, a man from the wrong side of the tracks with a shady agenda. Stanwyck presents a complex, morally ambiguous performance as Martha, who still holds a flame for Sam. Lizabeth Scott is also good as Toni Marachek, a young woman with a checkered past, who vies for Sam’s affections. Filled with intriguing characters and more twists than a mountain road, you’re never sure where it’s going until the final scene.

Rating: ****. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime

Criss Cross (1949) Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo star as Steve and Anna, formerly married, now locked in a risky affair. Despite warnings from his friends and family that she’s nothing but trouble, he keeps returning to Anna like a moth to a bug zapper. She’s now married to a dangerous crime boss Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), who begins to suspect something isn’t right. In order to nullify Slim’s concerns, Steve agrees to participate in an armored car heist. Meanwhile, Steve and Anna plot to double-cross Slim so they can be together again. Criss Cross illustrates how the heart may want what it wants, but it’s liable to drive you to ruin.

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

Bone Tomahawk (2015) The debut feature from writer/director S. Craig Zahler plays like a mix of The Searchers with The Hills Have Eyes. Kurt Russell stars as Sheriff Hunt, who leads a small posse to rescue his deputy (Evan Jonigkeit) and a young doctor, Samantha (Lili Simmons), from a band of cannibals. Zahler’s horror western is grim and gory, with moments of unexpected humor. Many of the lighter scenes can be attributed to Richard Jenkins as Chicory, Hunt’s eccentric second deputy with a postmodern sensibility and an unfortunate tendency to run off at the mouth. Bone Tomahawk is a disturbing, well-acted film that might not suit everyone’s taste, but it’s a refreshing departure from the expected.

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

Hangar 18 (1980) A decent cast and a wacky premise can’t save this dull conspiracy movie from seeming like a TV movie of the week with a slightly bigger budget. Space shuttle astronauts Steve Bancroft and Lew Price (Gary Collins and James Hampton) witness a fatal encounter with a UFO while they’re in orbit. Once they’re back on Earth, they’re pursued by feds (led by Robert Vaughn) that want to keep them quiet. While the chase is on, NASA official Harry Forbes (Darren McGavin, in an underwritten role) leads an elite team of scientists, who attempt to unlock the secrets of the captured alien spacecraft. Bad special effects, cheap looking sets and an uninspired UFO design elicit yawns rather than awe. It’s a shame the results are so lackluster. With the right filmmakers, this could have been fun.

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


  1. Great quick reviews, Barry!
    I'm disappointed to hear Hangar 18 is disappointing. If sounds like it should've been crazy fun.
    Maybe a remake is needed.

    1. Thanks, John. I heartily endorse three of these movies. Hangar 18 should've been good. Too bad it's so SLOW.