Ha ha!

You certainly never know what movie he'll review next!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Burl reviews Xtro! (1983)



Hi xenomorphs, ha ha, it’s Burl, here to review a bizarre pulp favourite from Blighty! Ha ha, this one’s called Xtro, and it’s one odd soda cracker! I can only guess that it got the green light after E.T. was so popular and someone hit on the tag line “Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly!”
But it’s a closer cousin to the Alien-inspired goo-movies that were numerous at the time, pictures like Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World and Horror Planet! It also has elements of Shoot the Moon, which is to say that it contains both goo and high dishwater drama!
Ha ha, it all starts with a happy family at the country house! Mum takes off to do some errands, leaving little Tony playing sticks with his dad Sam! Suddenly, pchew! the sky turns black and Sam is sucked up into the blinding light! Then, three years later, Mum has a new fellow, an American fashion photographer, not as bad a guy as Trent from The Way Way Back, sure, but none too charming either! Tony has nightmares of when Dad was whisked away, but everybody else believes he simply took a runner! There’s also a comely French au pere played by Maryam d’Abo from The Living Daylights, with a boyfriend played by David Cardy from The Keep!
A goochy lizard man appears, makes savage l*ve to a lady, and hey presto, Sam is reborn! He sets about reintegrating himself into the family, to the photographer’s dismay, and thence, because he’s now more alien than man, transforming young Tony into a half-alien as well, using the old cosmic hickey technique! Then, quite naturally, Tony gains the power to bring his toys to life, and this leads to midget clowns and six-foot G.I. Joes and terrified neighbours and au peres transformed into egg-laying machines, and other weird mayhem, and eventually Sam sheds his human skin to become a steely-skinned metalman and takes his beloved son up into the stars! There’s a finale which might have been a dream or might have been a hastily-conceived replacement for the original ending!
Ha ha, this is a weird one all right, and if you’re going to watch it, I recommend doing so late at night when your mind is a little weird anyway! (Avoid the sequels, however, ha ha!) I recall really enjoying this when it was originally released on video – I felt, in fact, that I’d made a very special discovery, and was proud to pass it along to my similarly horror-loving friends! I enjoyed it a lot less this time around, however! It’s a bit disreputable and somewhat tawdry, but it’s short (just over 80 minutes!) and frequently bizarre! I think I’ll give it one and a half wiggly hammers, but those of you who enjoy freaky trash ought to check it out anyway! Ha ha!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Burl reviews Maximum Overdrive! (1986)



Vroom vroom, it’s Burl, revving up with a review of that movie Stephen King directed himself, Maximum Overdrive! Yes, that’s the one where the trucks and other random machines become sentient and get up to mischief!
All the hubbub is thanks to a comet, just like in Night of the Living Dead! The phenomenon is meant to be worldwide, but King gives us only a small corner of North Carolina! The automated havoc begins with a nifty scene on a drawbridge, which is almost certainly the high point of the movie as far as King’s untutored staging and camera direction are concerned!
From there, after a dalliance at a children’s baseball game wherein a coach is ker-thumped by flying soda cans and a steamroller makes an impression on one luckless player, we repair to the Dixie Boy Truck Stop, where ex-con grillman Emilio “Repo Man” Estevez is doing psychobattle with the crooked truck stop owner, Pat Hingle (well known for his appearances in Brewster’s Millions and The Quick and the Dead)! The truck stop fills with other characters, mainly truck drivers, some newlyweds, a bible salesman and a s*xy lady, and we soon have a siege situation on our hands, with trucks circling menacingly outside like something out of Wagon Train! And you know, they just keep on wagon training!
There’s a fair bit of mayhem on tap, but little of it makes any impact, since as a director Stephen King makes a very good horror novelist! Ha ha, he’s unable to wring much tension or excitement out of the proceedings, even though he had a pretty big budget and lots of trucks to blow up! Unfortunately, perhaps due to the giant piles of Columbian Marching P*wder that were placed liberally around the set, nobody, not even George Romero, who must have visited during the shoot, was able to help the Beardsman of Bangor figure things out!
Unfortunately, too, King was not in one of his statelier modes when he wrote this script! It’s got a few bon mots, but often seems to go out of its way to be as dumb and scat*logical as it can be, and the actors, particularly the female lead, aren’t really up to it! There are some pleasingly familiar faces (or voices) in the cast, like Yeardley Smith from Heaven Help Us, Frankie Faison from The Money Pit and Giancarlo Esposito from Do The Right Thing, and Estevez and Hingle are perfectly good, but the fact is King’s dialogue mostly ought to have stayed on the page!
I remember seeing this one in a movie theater in a suburb of Seattle, Washington! I was excited to see it, and didn’t even mind that it was in the wrong order – I saw the second half first and the first half second! Ha ha, I don’t suppose it mattered much! Anyway, I do recall feeling that the movie was better than I’d expected it to be, but my more recent viewing laid bare that initial impression as bunkum and honeydew! It’s really not very good at all, though it offers regular bursts of entertainment, and of course a stirring score by AC/DC! Ha ha, I give Maximum Overdrive one and a half Roger Miller-fixated ice cream trucks!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Burl reviews SuperManChu! (1973)



Ah! it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I have another review of a kung-fu spectacular for you! This one is called SuperManChu, and it’s so similar to another picture I watched recently, Blind Fist of Bruce, that I’m already having trouble telling the two apart! I hope that doesn’t seem culturally insensitive, ha ha! Please recall that I’m in no way an expert on the kung-fu pictures, but I’m trying to educate myself by watching those films reputed by all to be the best! Thus, SuperManChu!
It’s got a pretty simple story! A criminal mob led by a pencil-moustache happens by a family-owned restaurant, orders some food and then m*lests and kills everyone! They leave just as the son, SuperManChu, is arriving home! Ha ha, he finds the corpses of his family and swears violence-revenge!
SuperManChu, an expert knifesman, finds the gang just as a su*ve stranger arrives in town! The stranger fights the gang, then joins them, but it’s all a ruse because he’s an undercover cop sent to arrest the pencil-moustache! Ha ha, sorry for the spoiler! Anyway, it’s a situation very like those found in John Woo pictures, where two strangers, maybe not quite on the same side of the law, are forced, despite their oil-and-water personalities, to team up against a common enemy!
Of course there are fights and more fights, and nearly everyone comes to a sticky end, and because the version I watched was not letterboxed it was once again a case of watching limbs flailing in and out of an otherwise empty screen! Ha ha, this version wasn’t even pan-and-scan, because there was no panning and no scanning, and during the fight the characters would frequently move off one side of the screen or the other, creating a sort of Garfield-Minus-Garfield effect that was kind of neat!
Well, SuperManChu and the cop eventually team up, after a fashion, and it all ends up with a double fight at Whirlwind Beach! Ha ha, where else? And the tide was out at Whirlwind Beach that day, really out!

As for the kung-fu, there are a number of terrific little moves and a marvelous variation in the methods! The cop likes to throw coins at people, and he never seems to run out, though his slim-fit suits would hardly seem to have room for much pocket change! And he ends up using a swish-rope in novel fashion too! SuperManChu himself sticks mainly to his knives, though he’s handy with fists and feet too! He’s a pretty humourless guy, understandably enough, and was frequently dressed in black! The cop is a little more easy-going! Ha ha, they make an okay team!
It was a pretty enjoyable picture, not great, but engaging! The presentation was lacking, but that wasn’t the movie’s fault! Anyway, I tend to think of these VHS viewings as the closest we can get nowadays to a real grindhouse experience! It’s a question of reframing: the frustrations of the screening itself are no longer odd smells, lumpy seats and dr*g-crazed maniacs, but poor transfers, stubby frames and muddy sound! Anyway, I’m going to give SuperManChu two stolen swords!

Burl reviews The Way Way Back! (2013)



Hi crooners, it’s Burl, here to review a coming-of-age picture! Ha ha, there are plenty of movies just like this one, and I guess there always will be, because I suppose just about every adult is someone who has come of age in some fashion or another some time in their lives, and it’s a pretty irresistible subject for anyone with a hankering to write or make movies! I even have an idea of my own for such a picture, ha ha! I think I’ll call mine The Clapper-Loader! Sounds good, doesn’t it!
This particular one is called The Way Way Back, and in some ways it might just as well be Meatballs with the names and locations changed! You see, ha ha, there’s a painfully shy young fellow spending time against his will in a summertime location where everybody else seems to be having more fun than him, and an adult wiseacre, who is nominally in charge of an establishment and takes every opportunity to make jokes using its P.A. system, takes it upon himself to befriend and help out the youngster, even while being asked by his own prospective l*dyfriend to just please grow up a little!
Ha ha, that could be a description of Meatballs, but it’s The Way Way Back I’m talking about! Fourteen year-old Duncan is a taciturn lad, and seems possibly somewhere on the more operational end of the autism scale! I don’t think he’s supposed to be, though! His div*rced mom, Toni “Fright Night” Collette, has a pretty nasty new boyfriend, Trent, but Trent, a horrorshow of emotional bullying and passive-aggressive manipulation, has a single positive quality: he owns a New England beach house! And so that’s where Duncan finds himself stuck for the summer, surrounded by snooty girls, overbearing neighbor ladies, weird little kids and perpetually dr*nken or hung*ver adults!
Luckily he finds the local waterpark, where Trent’s polar opposite, Owen, is the manager! Owen, an affable sort, is in his own way as weirdly aggressive as Trent, though! Every word he says is part of some kind of joke routine, and so he’s less a character than a walking gag generator! It’s a good thing Sam Rockwell is playing him and not, say, David Spade, because that would be doubly intolerable! In fact most of the performers are pretty strong; even Steve Carrell as Trent, who has to be a d*ck in absolutely every scene, manages to create a recognizably human persona!
Ha ha, it’s pretty obvious this movie was meant to take place in the 80s sometime, but they just didn’t have the money to recreate the period! The lengths they go to in order to recall that era are almost painful, though – certainly a bit embarrassing! The title refers to the very back seat they used to make in station wagons, and since that particular accessory is long gone, Trent must suddenly become the sort of character who would lovingly maintain a vintage station wagon, and pack all the luggage on top of instead of in the back so the picture can live up to its title! And the waterpark must be described in the dialogue as a place frozen in time since 1983! And Duncan must listen to REO Spe*dwagon for no good reason, ha ha! And so on!
There are a few strong scenes and performances here and there, but the picture is so rote, so predictable, so derivative and so formulaic that all its good points become regrettable ones, as they might have been in the service of a better movie if only these filmmakers hadn’t chained themselves so inflexibly to a concept they hadn’t the means to pull off! It does manage a sort of 80s flavor, which is to its credit, and it's very nicely photographed by John “In The Line of Fire” Bailey, but on the whole it makes you wish you were watching Meatballs instead! I give The Way Way Back one and a half contrivances!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Burl reviews Blind Fist of Bruce! (1979)



Ha-ya ha-ya, it’s Bruce! I mean of course that it’s me, Burl, ha ha! Yes, I’m here to review a kung-fu picture for you! It’s Blind Fist of Bruce, one of the many examples of Bruceploitation, in which guys named Bruce (Bruce Li in this case) do some fights and jumps and battle grunts just like, but not as compellingly or personably as, the original Dragon!
I’m not an expert on the martial arts pictures, that’s for sure, so you’ll have to bear with me a bit here! I know enough to be familiar with this particular plot, though; namely that it begins with a wealthy, callow and, let’s be frank here, kind of dumb young man who runs a bank and fancies himself its great protector due to his stunning martial arts skills!
But his skills are illusory, as all his moves have been taught to him by a pair of obvious conmen who make up kung-fu styles on the spot based on whatever animals happen to be passing by! This young numbskull is silly enough to swallow it, and the conmen bolster his fantasy with the occasional staged robbery attempt, which the banker apparently foils!
Soon enough a genuine gang of toughs descend upon the town and the banker’s self-deception is obliterated! He gets repeatedly beaten, and all his worldly possessions are claimed by the gang! He finally sees the light with respect to the conmen, and they quickly join the gang themselves!
The devastated banker finds refuge with a local busker, an elderly blind man who would cause the Beatles great shame if they ever saw him, for he is the true mop-top! It does genuinely appear that he has taken the handle off a mop and simply placed the bushy part on his head, ha ha!
Eventually this crusty old blind man is revealed as a master kung-fu artist, and he teaches the banker enough that he is able to, ha ha, mop the floor with his enemies! But they call in a ringer: the giant bad-a*s known as Tiger, who used to be a student of the old blind busker, and in fact is responsible for blinding him in the first place! So now it’s time for an epic battle and a sudden ending!
Ha ha, I’m not sure how this stacks up against others of its type, but I found the crude character arc and the balletic athleticism of the fight sequences fairly entertaining! The goofball humour of the early scenes was painless enough, I suppose, and the dubbing added some extra, more genuine laughs! Unfortunately the copy I watched was full-screen, so very often I was watching an area of empty space with fists and feet flying into it from the edges!
It’s not a standout effort, but it had a certain momentum, and of course you want to see the good guy learn his skills and see the bad guys pay for their misdeeds! It’s always nice to see their reactions when they realize this fellow can actually do some damage! Ha ha, I’m going to give The Blind Fist of Bruce two martial arts pushcarts!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Burl reviews The Grand Budapest Hotel! (2014)



Ho ho, it’s Burl here, reviewing a new Wes “Moonrise Kingdom” Anderson picture, The Grand Budapest Hotel! I was really looking forward to this one, because its particular milieu, which is to say Central Europe between the wars, is a time and place which fascinates me and always has! Ha ha, such rich and marbled tales have come out of this twenty-year period: curdled fairy tales arising from a new era of fatalism!
Evidently Anderson feels the same way, because he’s plunged into this storied environment with the enthusiasm of Steve Zissou exploring a sea cavern! Ha ha, like some other stories I know and love, specifically Roald Dahl’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” The Grand Budapest Hotel contains stories within stories, each of them reaching farther back in time! (Ha ha, I suspect this movie to have been influenced as much by Dahl as it was by Stefan Zweig and Bruno Schultz!)
The core story, told by F. Murray “Inside Llewyn Davis” Abraham to Jude “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Law, concerns the legendary, perfumed concierge of the titul*r hotel, M. Gustave H,. played by Ralph “Skyfall” Fiennes! He takes on a protégé, young lobby boy Zero, and is promptly accused of the murder of an old lady, one of the many old ladies with whom he dal*ies! Soon he’s on the run, and a veritable galaxy of characters are either chasing him (the old lady’s savage, greedy son, Adrien “Midnight in Paris” Brody, his murderous factotum Willem “Streets of Fire” Dafoe, and a policeman played by Edward “Fight Club” Norton) or helping him (young Saoirese “How To Catch A Monster” Ronan, a baker’s assistant; Jeff “Into the Night” Goldblum, a lawyer; Mathieu “Cosmopolis” Amalric, a butler; Harvey “Mean Streets” Keitel, a prisoner; and Bill “Meatballs” Murray, another concierge and a member of The Society of the Crossed Keys)!
A curious thing about many of these actors is that almost all of them have worked for David Cronenberg at one time or another! Ha ha, I found that curious and amusing! At any rate, the picture is fast-paced and madcap and as overstuffed as a goochie-cake! It may lack the immediate engagement invited by some other Wes Anderson pictures, but there sure is a lot to look at! Ha ha, I liked the (ostensibly) old-style trick effects, straight out of Guy Maddin’s great picture Careful or even Ernst Lubitsch’s Eternal Love, both mountain movie like this one; the funicular train (which didn’t get enough screen time if you ask me!); the sudden moments of violence or gore; the performances; and the great scene with all the concierges calling one another!
Altogether a fine and entertaining night out at the movies, and I’m certainly going to see this one again, just to catch all the details and gags I must have missed the first time around! I’m going to give The Grand Budapest Hotel three and a half severed fingers!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Burl reviews The Lost Continent! (1968)



Que pasa, es Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review a real samolean of a motion picture, the 1968 Hammer Films quandary The Lost Continent! This is such an oddball movie that I’m not sure how to even begin talking about it, ha ha!
Probably the best place to begin is the theme song, which sounds like a parody version of what a theme song to a movie like this would be! It’s a louche, loungy number, sung in a confessional tone that suggests we all, at one time or another, have found ourselves trapped on a lost continent! Not metaphorically, either, ha ha!
Anyway, it’s a great way to start off this picture! It’s a boat film and also, like Casablanca and Wages of Fear, a motley-gang-of-stateless-fugitives picture, two microgenres I’m fond of! The boat, leaving Africa and bound for Caracas, is captained by grumpy Eric Porter, well-known from Hands of the Ripper, and all of its passengers have voluminous backstories that would take too long to detail here! Suffice it to say they’re all desperate, and many of them are outright criminals!
Well, turns out the boat is carrying a bunch of explosives which blow up on contact with water, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a hole in the side of the boat and a hurricane coming just as they’re about to enter the mysterious Sargasso Sea! Naturally there’s a mutiny – the crew is led by the great Michael “The Reptile” Ripper, who really ought to have played the bartender instead so he could get more screen time, ha ha – and after some fighting and action and a damp night in a lifeboat, our captain, the passengers and a few loyal crew find themselves back on the ship, but trapped in voracious, man-eating seaweed, which is apparently the continent of the title!
And of course that brings us to the true heart of this picture: monster attacks! Ha ha, the seaweed is bad enough, but then up pops a giant octopus creature, which grabs and gobbles up a weird moustacheman; and then we have a giant crab creature with the most grotesque chitter-chatter mouth you could ever imagine! It grabs an unfortunate guy in its claws, then fights a giant scorpion! And of course we have the band of Spanish conquistadors, ruled by a teenager and a guy in a funny hat, who toss their enemies into a pit that contains nothing but a horrible chomping mouth, sort of a mini-Sarlacc! All of these beasties were created by Robert Mattey, who, having made the squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and who would go on to make the shark in Jaws, knows a bit about seamonster creation!
The conquistadors and all the other people stuck on this floating seaweed patch used shoulder-balloons to walk around without getting sucked down, and I must say that’s every bit as absurd-looking as it sounds! But in a picture as absurd as this, it fits in nicely!
I like a good goofnugget from time to time, and this one fit the bill! So what if it’s silly, so what if it has a little more soap opera than I would like, and seems stuck in the weeds as much as the freighter it’s set upon! Ha ha, it’s still a more adult version of those Doug McClure fantasy pictures that came along a decade later, and that counts for a lot in old Burl’s crazy book! I enjoyed this picture, and would like to give The Lost Continent two and a half shoulder balloons!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Burl reviews The Malibu Bikini Shop! (1986)



Ha ha, bikin*s! Yes, it’s Burl here, reviewing up a little b*kini action for you with a carefree funtime picture called The Malibu Bikini Shop! Ha ha, this is a real balletomaniac of a picture, straight-up manna for people who enjoy looking at ladies in *ikinis! It’s not an especial passion of mine, but I also certainly don’t mind it, and so when I put on The Malibu Bikini Shop the other night, I was ready for whatever it had to offer!
But we should start with that title, because it’s pretty obvious the movie takes place in Santa Monica or Venice, and certainly not in Malibu! Ha ha, I guess someone thought The Bikini Shop was a pretty bland title – and it is – but then couldn’t think of anything better than to stick “Malibu” in there! Or maybe Malibu was the hip, happenin’ place to be in 1986, and the very mention of it assured box-office success; or maybe someone was a big fan of that great picture Malibu Beach! Ha ha, who knows!
Whatever the case, this partcular lighthearted laff-fest begins with a fatal drowning accident! Yes, frisky Aunt Ida putters off on a jet ski into riptide territory, and that’s the last anyone sees of her! She wills her house and her beachfront bi*ini shop to her two nephews, Alan and Todd! Alan, played by Michael David Wright from No Small Affair, plays a button-down, uptight business major, who has just collected his degree and is preparing for a life with his shrill, princess fiancée Jane, and a job with his plutocrat father-in-law-to-be! Ha ha, seems pretty horrible! (Wright, by the way, became a real-life executive later on, so maybe his performance was not so fictional!)
Todd on the other hand is played by Bruce Greenwood from Star Trek Into Darkness, and he’s a slap-happy beach bum with no business acumen or respect for traditional values! He’s quite happy to spend the rest of his life running the biki*i shop and creepily watching ladies change through two-way mirrors he’s had installed; while Alan, at the behest of Jane, wants to be rid of it with a quick sale and then move on with the rest of his boring, ordered life! Ha ha, therein lies the central conflict in this picture!
But the plot hardly matters, because the true foundation of this picture is bikin*s! Ha ha, it’s b*kinis all the way down! There are all sorts of scenes of ladies trying on sk*mpy *kinis, or displaying them in ad-hoc shows! And there’s a crazy little music video that pops up toward the end of the picture, and of course, ha ha, it’s bi*ini-centric!
But the plot occasionally reasserts itself, as when Jane suddenly appears in the middle of all the b*kini action and makes a dreadful, whining nuisance of herself! I have to give credit to Debra Blee, who throws herself into the thankless role of Jane and becomes exactly what I imagine she’s supposed to be: intensely annoying, almost unwatchable!
Of course there are some big party scenes and other shenanigans, and the picture positively overflows with *ikini shots! It has a mostly harmless funtime atmosphere, except for some of the less-savory aspects, and nothing about it is surprising or challenging in any way, or very funny either! It’s brightly shot and has a reasonable amount of pep, and with all this studiously taken into consideration, I’m going to give The Malibu Bikini Shop two dashiki-wearing Sonny Bono lookalikes!

Burl reviews The Hunt For Red October! (1990)



Ha ha, be glorious, our age-old motherland, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review a submarine picture, The Hunt For Red October! Now, I like a submarine picture, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t say I like them as much as I thrill to a good dirigible movie! And I have a friend who counts submarine movies as his very favourite genre of them all, and so I have additional sympathy for them on that account!
This picture, based on the only Tom Clancy book I ever bothered to read – ha ha, flag-waving technothrillers are not so much my thing – begins with Soviet silver-fox sub driver Sean Connery guiding his new super-secret extra-fat submarine out into the sea with the intention of never taking it back! Marko Ramius is his name, and he wishes to defect, ha ha! (The whole movie, it should be noted, was a bit out of date geopolitically speaking by the time it came out in 1990!) His officers are of similar mind, so the only thing he’s got to do is evade the entire Soviet navy, ditch the crew and persuade the American he means them no harm!
And all the Americans do believe he means them harm except for one: Alec Baldwin! He plays a boffin called Jack Ryan who apparently has his PhD in Marko Ramius Studies! He also talks to himself a lot, which Baldwin sells as well as he can, but still comes off as a little silly! Anyway, there’s a long series of scenes in which Ryan tries to convince everyone from Admiral James Earl “The Ambulance” Jones right through to sub captain Scott “The Keep” Glenn, and everybody in between!
This was John McTiernan’s next picture after Die Hard, so I remember going to see it in breathless anticipation of a thrilling action picture! It’s certainly not that, because model submarines just aren’t that exciting to watch! There’s a big explosion at the end, and a bit of a shootout too, but the movie is mostly lots of chatting! Still, it’s slickly done in the grand Hollywood style, so I won’t claim it’s not entertaining!
And as you know, I’m much more “ha ha” than “rah-rah,” so I was cheered to realize that, while the picture was certainly a grand celebration of all that was tough and manly about the military and intelligence forces, and of their hardware and their deep, abiding brotherhood, it was much less so, and much less stupidly so, than many other pictures! So it had that going for it! It’s still pretty kooky in parts, though!
The real attraction? Ha ha, that cast! You’ve got Connery and Baldwin, both solid, and Glenn and Jones giving fine support, and then other ringers like Sam “Jurassic Park III” Neill giving a touching performance as the Russian officer who only wants to live in Montana, and Peter “Lifeforce” Firth as a nasty Rooskie, and Joss Ackland and Courtney B. Vance and of course the Legend himself, Tim Curry! It’s a talented bunch, ha ha!
It tries very hard to make the situation as hair-raising and suspenseful as possible, but that means everything stops periodically so Jack Ryan can remind everyone of the dreadful stakes involved! This eventually begins to have the opposite effect of what is intended, and you’re left with a bunch of people standing around in an attractively-lit metal tube! Ha ha, it’s an okay Hollywood bunticulation, but on the whole I’m going to give The Hunt For Red October just one and a half caterpillar drives!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Burl reviews Susanna Pass! (1949)



Yippee-ki-yay, it’s Burl, roundin’ up another movie review for you! Ha ha, this one is, delightfully I feel, called Susanna Pass! It’s a Roy Rogers picture, which means of course that it co-stars both Dale Evans and The Smartest Horse In The Movies, Trigger!
I guess this is a Western – well, no doubt about it, actually! The thing that caused me a moment’s hesitation is that it’s a contemporary Western, with cars and trucks and radios and so forth! That’s always a bit strange! Ha ha, the action takes place in and around the beautifully-named Susanna Pass, where a kindly old man named Russell runs a fish hatchery, a nasty old man named Martin – Russell’s brother, as it happens – runs the local newspaper, and Roy Rogers is the game warden!
Meanwhile two escaped convicts arrive in the area! Bob is out for revenge against Martin, who set him up, and he also wants to get his hands on a vast reserve of oil he suspects is located beneath the fish hatchery lake! Roberts, the other convict, is just along for the ride, but happens to be a shady oil engineer! The two have a fight and Bob catches a poking! Ha ha, and after that there are a lot of plot details, several explosions and plenty of murders! Yes, this is perhaps one of the most murder-happy Roy Rogers movies ever made!
It’s the poor fish who take the most casualties, however! The bad guys keep blowing up the lake with dynamite, and fish are floating everywhere! Meanwhile Roy and a kung-fu ichthyologist named Doc, played by Dale Evans, appear perpetually close to having a romance, but it doesn’t ever happen! There are plenty of songs though, and a passle of fisticuffs, and at one point the whole movie stops to become a Jean Painlevé-style nature documentary so we can learn about how fish hatcheries work! Ha ha, and all of this is packed into about sixty-seven minutes!
I enjoyed the picture quite a lot, I must say! Roy maintains his pleasant, smiling veneer even through all the murders and double crosses! Also, the Trucolor photography is very lovely, and the locations are much prettier than the usual dusty Iverson’s Ranch trails we see in such pictures! I liked the whole fish hatchery thing too, and the fact that Roy was a proto-environmentalist battling nasty oilmen! In many ways it’s the flip side of the coin to Thunder Bay!
It’s a terrific little programmer, and even the comedy-relief Mexican father-daughter team were not as bad as one might expect! To my recollection, neither of them ever says “Ai-yee-yee-yee!” or talks about cucarachas! Dale Evans’ character is pretty progressive too – she’s a smart scientist who can take care of herself, and doesn’t fall simperingly in love with the cowpoke Roy the moment she sees him! Altogether I’d like to give Susanna Pass two and a half Riders of the Purple Sage!