The Woman in the Window Review

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It’s time to look at an old school film that shows how one dangerous decision can put you on the path to ruin. I’ll give the credit for not making the main character be an obvious cheat who you can’t sympathize with as he stays classy for the most part. I would still argue that he knew how his decision was pretty iffy though by how many times he mentions that he really shouldn’t be here. At the very least he doesn’t actually do anything serious. It’s a fun movie overall even if you aren’t rooting for the lead.

The film starts off with Richard making small talk with two of his buddies. Richard is sad that he can’t be reckless anymore since he has gotten to be too old. His friends point out that this is true so Richard better not get any ideas. That’s when Richard notices a lady behind a portrait and she invites him to her place for drinks. It’s nearly midnight but Richard doesn’t care so they head upstairs. That’s when a guy runs in and attacks Richard. Richard quickly murders him and hides the body in a forest, but can he stay out of the papers? After all, his friend is a detective so this can get very messy.

While the film is played straight for the most part, I do think it had a little fun with Richard’s character during the early part. Richard is so oblivious to life that he keeps on tipping off the cops on how guilty he is. When the detective finds out that the culprit has a cut on his palm Richard quickly points out that he has an identical cut. I suppose being over the top like this could throw the cops off the trail…but it’s just such an unnecessary risk. Realistically nobody suspects him at all at this point so why put himself out there. There is literally nothing to trace him to the murder as far as he knows. Then he continually says things that he shouldn’t know and even walks over to the spot where the corpse was before the cops officially show him. He makes a ton of rookie mistakes. The film did say early on that he is usually scatterbrained but this is taking that to a bit of an extreme.

He also leaves his pen at the scene of the crime which the villain naturally gets his hands on. So, there was a bodyguard assigned to the victim and now he has decided to blackmail Richard and Alice. This is definitely the weakest aspect of the film as it wasn’t really needed and I would have preferred the tension to be that the cops are slowly zeroing in on the heroes. Instead this guy works well as the fall guy I guess, but naturally the plot turns into Alice having to use her charms to get him to lower his guard. That’s still one of the most tired film cliches out there and it makes the plot pretty bad. Still, the film doesn’t go too far with it which is good so it doesn’t hurt the movie all that much. At most it takes 1 star off. I’m also glad that Richard realized that paying the guy off wouldn’t solve anything since he would just return for another installment at some point. Calling his bluff would be best, but the guy would probably just end up murdering them.

Initially I figured that Alice intentionally set up the meeting with Richard and the other guy to bump him off, but the film never really goes in that angle. As far as I can tell it was just coincidence and the film doesn’t make Alice appear to be malicious. I do like the fact that she is also fairly smart though as she gets some extra insurance from Richard in case he ends up ditching her. That’s definitely the kind of thing you want to do in these films because you can’t trust anyone. She handled the situation much better than Richard in general as she got all of the hard jobs and didn’t panic the way that he did.

As I mentioned I wasn’t a big fan of Richard. He was a much better character than he could have been, but at the same time you still were never going to root for the guy. He also decided to take the easy way out at the end which is definitely never the right call. The ending can be seen as a bit of a cop out but you can also look at it in a more meta sense. It’s pretty clear that the film was not supposed to end the way that it did and since the movie is an indie you always look for the hidden meanings. You could make the case that the ending is actually the dream as he passes over to the next plain. It’s like the film has its direct ending and then the layered one that you can add on. Either way it doesn’t look good for the lead. I do appreciate that the ending gave the film a quick humor moment that actually worked though. In general I thought the film had a good balance of humor and mystery.

What the film could have improved on to be even better would have been to focus on the detective plot more. The scenes with the detective were some of the best in the film. I liked how Richard kept giving himself away and the detective would act as if he started to suspect something. His boss was also pretty solid in that regard with the constant banter. Seeing more of them would have been a lot of fun and that could have ended up being the main plot instead of the black mail guy. There will always be a lot of “Could have” moments in a film of course, but this would have been a pretty easy alteration with a good result. Maybe even throw in a court scene since those are always awesome.

Overall, The Woman in the Window was a solid film. The writing is on point and the cast is pretty good. The film is never too exaggerated and stays realistic without being dreary. You’re able to root for the cops without necessarily rooting against Richard because you can at least make the case that he was never going to cheat and he certainly didn’t expect things to go sideways the way that they did. I’d also say that he had to defend himself the way that he did because he definitely wouldn’t have lived through the night otherwise. As the film explains in the beginning, self defense is certainly way different from murder. This would definitely be the former. If you haven’t seen a good noir film yet then this is the one to watch. It’s not the best one out there or anything, but it’ll give you a good idea of what the genre is all about and holds up well for itself.

Overall 6/10

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Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Claw Review

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It’s time to look at another Sherlock Holmes film. This one’s definitely a pretty intense mystery with a lot of suspects and various red herrings to keep you guessing. It’ll be rather difficult to sniff out the culprit here and even if you do you may end up mixing some of the suspects around since quite a few of the characters look really similar. Still, it’s the kind of case you would expect for Holmes since only a master detective can put it all together.

He was enjoying a nice vacation over with Watson when a lady is murdered. It’s a tragic thing, but there doesn’t seem to be much of a mystery about it so the heroes prepare to go back to London. That’s when they receive a letter from the dead person before she passed asking for their assistance. Holmes officially puts himself into the case and must now find out who is using this claw to murder everyone. Surely there is some kind of explanation for it, but what can it be? You’ve got the local judge, the husband of the girl who was murdered, a maid, an old man with a shotgun, and a few other characters running around. Holmes will have to tread carefully as even the slightest miscalculation could end up costing him his life.

As always the writing and pacing for the film are on point. It’s entertaining from start to finish and the mystery should have you engaged. Sherlock Holmes always acts in a very professional manner and the cops give him his due credit. He can be a little extra sarcastic to Watson at times though. He’s not saying anything mean so don’t worry about that, but it’s pretty obvious that he is just tricking Watson into feeling like he is helpful most of the time. Other times Holmes will actually insult Watson to his face but in a subtle way so Watson doesn’t even notice. It wasn’t Watson’s best showing so I guess even Holmes got tired of that, but still worth pointing out.

Watson is a lot of fun as always and it’s just easy to see why he has a lot of fans. “Rubbish” has started to become his main catchphrase. He is always muttering about something or other and I suppose he has good reason to grumble. He may be a doctor, but nobody really respects him all that much and they certainly don’t seem to buy into his intelligence. Watson ends up falling into a ditch multiple times which didn’t help his case, but at least he always means well. Watson is a very genuine person who speaks his mind. It just doesn’t often work out very well for him unless he is holding a gun. When in combat he is always ready.

Usually Sherlock Holmes is the master of disguises, but in this film the main villain really took that role. His disguises were so intricate and detailed that he would really appear to be more than one person. Quite a few people had alternate forms here though as even the girl who died was actually another person. That’s why it could be tough to keep track of everyone since you had extra characters who were actually not characters at all and were merely trying to fool everyone else. You can’t trust anyone.

In a sense the guy with the shotgun had the best idea. He knew that everyone kept dying so he decided to sit down on his char and get the gun ready. People don’t seem to die during the day so he’ll shoot anyone who tries to enter the room until the next day. He even pretends to have a bad leg to make the villain underestimate him. Unfortunately his whole plan was rendered moot as he decided not to have his chair actually face the door where the villain would come through. Isn’t that a terrible plan then? The whole point of a plan like this is to be able to see every direction from where the villains might come through. Otherwise there just isn’t much point to the plan at all and you might as well have just waited outside. Of course, this guy wasn’t exactly the smartest tool in the shed as Holmes warned him of his impending doom and the guy refused to listen. You should always hear Sherlock Holmes out.

The ending of the film is also fairly unique as one of the suspects decides to take things into his own hands. Usually it is Sherlock Holmes who either captures the villain or forces him to fall into his doom or into the hands of the police. This time he really did lose the guy in the fog and was just fortunate that one of the other characters was around or the villain could have possibly escaped. I was also glad that the character didn’t go out like a 2 bit character and actually managed to block the Scarlet Claw. After all, that weapon is hardly long range so once you manage to grab the opponent’s hand it will lose most of its lethal potential.

Overall , Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Claw is a really solid film. It’s probably the most thorough mystery of them all. (From the Holmes films that I’ve seen so far) While it’s still not as high ranked as some of the other mysteries thanks to the cast of suspects being a little less interesting, you can’t really ask for much more than what this film gives you. It has all of the classic Sherlock Holmes’ fundamentals in one clean package. Watson and Holmes still have a great dynamic as always even if I would like to see Watson win a verbal battle one of these days. He’s just too polite to properly defend himself though.

Overall 8/10

Laura Review

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It’s time to look at a very retro mystery film. The cast is actually smaller than I thought it was as Wikipedia only lists 6 people in the film. Naturally, some of them may just not have been big enough to have their own section, but it goes to show that if the story is quick enough you won’t even notice this. It’s a solid movie that really does a good job of throwing in a lot of twists and turns without getting redundant. The cast is solid and this film really flies by. This review does have some big spoilers depending on what you count. It’s a big plot point that happens around halfway through the film so it’s pretty debatable.

The basic premise of the film is that a lady by the name of Laura has been murdered. She went up against a shotgun and didn’t exactly win the encounter. A private eye known as Mark shows up to get to the bottom of this. Waldo wants justice because Laura was a close business associate of his and he had been helping her rise up the business ranks until this happened. Mark continues his investigation which leads him to Shelby, a rather suspicious man who has many affairs and always seems to be after people with money. This mystery will be a piece of cake for this baseball master, but unfortunately Mark starts to realize that this case is quite personal. Can he put his feelings aside or has he always been on a path to destruction?

Ironically, the weakest character here may be Mark. Shelby is certainly more unlikable as he’s just a bad guy, but it’s incredibly difficult to sympathize with Mark’s plight. How can you possibly start to fall for a picture? If someone’s dead, they’re not exactly going to make for a very attractive prospect. What the film should have done was just doubled down on his tough demeanor to show that this guy was one detective who wouldn’t get pushed around by anyone. He would solve this case no matter how tough it got. By making him distracted it took away from his whole character. I did like his Baseball gimmick though. Right when he started taking out the game I knew that it would be the best part of his character.

At least the detective doesn’t look downright bad for the most part. His only unfortunate moment was at the very end of the film where he assures Laura that she will be safe and then runs out of the building so fast that you’ll think he’s a blur. This gives the culprit plenty of time to waltz in and finish the job. Laura is just lucky that the villain is such a poor shot or else this could have been the end.

Wait, why is Laura even being mentioned? Well, that’s one of the big plot points of the film. Laura isn’t actually dead and merely went to the forest for a while. Since these were the days before radio and internet nobody actually knew where she was and when they went to the house she had stepped out for a moment. Definitely some interesting logic there, but I can buy it to an extent as there wasn’t much else to do back in the day aside from walking so she may have just been adventuring all day. Laura isn’t a very likable character as she does lead everyone on and doesn’t even mind playing second fiddle after a while. It gets rather complicated, but she knows from the start that Shelby can’t be trusted and also allows Waldo to treat her to many meals. They may be platonic friends, but then she should pay the bill, otherwise things get dicey. She just seems rather easy and Mark should be careful what he’s getting himself into. Her web of deceit will continue to stretch farther and farther.

As for Waldo, he’s certainly the most amusing character in the film. He’s always got a snappy comeback at the ready and certainly doesn’t get intimidated by anyone. To think that he started out as a rather snobbish businessman before he got involved with Laura and changed quite a bit. You can’t deny that the guy does his homework though. He didn’t even need to make up lies about the people Laura hung out with, he just dug up the dirt that they left around the house. They made his job easy, but he always went the extra mile. Naturally a person this obsessive tends to be fairly dangerous in films like these but if the detective is going to make a move he better be careful about it.

Finally there is Shelby. It’s certainly different to see Vincent Price in a young role for a change. The character is fairly quick witted, but can never quite keep up with Waldo. He does make for a good rival though. He’s not exactly a man of principles, but isn’t ashamed to admit as much. Everyone knows what kind of a guy he is, but they don’t care because of his charisma. It’s definitely a credit to his character that he is able to deceive people so easily and he makes for a solid antagonist.

The only weak aspect of this film is naturally the romance. It’s just not handled very well at all. Laura basically plays everyone and they all fall for the game quite easily. It would have been nice if the same had been true for them and at the end they all admitted to just manipulating the others for personal gain. That’s practically what the situation was for most of them anyway. A film like this one should have everyone stay purely platonic as that would certainly add to the suspense and make the characters look a little tougher and more savvy on how things usually play out here.

Still, the writing was certainly great beyond that. The film did a good job of making everyone seem suspicious at times and having all of the characters stay on guard. The banter between all of the characters was on point as you would expect it to be. Dialogue is crucial for a noir film like this one and I’m happy to say that it did indeed deliver. It’s why its so hard to do a film like this one nowadays. The writing just isn’t up to par with the good ole days and it’s very rare that a film proves me wrong. There were just higher standards in the past and that’s why there were so many well written films like this one hiding in the cracks of time.

Overall, Laura is a really fun film. It’s a murder mystery that still has quite a bit of humor and solid pacing to go along with it. The romance is rather weak, but what else is new right? The twist of Laura being alive could have been rather disastrous if handled wrong, but since it rarely tends to happen the twist worked really well. I can definitely recommend this film to anyone who likes a little suspense and danger. There’s never a dull moment in this film so you’ll end up being on guard from start to finish. In a film like this one, you really can’t trust anyone.

Overall 8/10

Deadline – U.S.A. Review

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It’s time for an old school mafia/gangster film. I haven’t seen too many of these yet so it’s nice to add another one to the list. It’s handled pretty well and makes for an interesting movie from start to finish. I think the main character could have been a little better to make it easier to root for him, but I suppose it was trying to show that he was just an ordinary joe who wanted to stick up for the paper. Bogart plays the role extremely well as always and it’s a film that has certainly aged well.

Hutcheson is a proud newspaper man. He’s never gone for sensational clickbait over the actual news. He goes for the facts and just that. Unfortunately this means that his paper is losing sales and a competitor wants to buy him out to crush it for good. There’s not much Hutcheson can do about it since the board of directors are okay with the sale. He has enough time for one last scoop though and decides to attack the vicious gangster Rienzi after one of his reporters is attacked for following the story. Nobody gets to take down one of his staff, not while Hutcheson is still on the case.

With all of the fake stories being spread around and alternative facts used instead of actual ones, this film is a good reminder that you have to be careful what you believe. All of the papers in this film were either paid off by Rienzi or were too scared to attack him. This meant that Hutcheson and his crew had to dig up all of the dirt on their own. Luckily, these guys are some of the best in the biz and were ready for such a challenge. Hutcheson is also a pretty confident and bold person himself so the villain’s threats never get to him. He defies the villains right up til the end and even if he is taken out of the picture, the facts have now been released for everyone.

The film has a very sudden ending, but one that works well. You can reasonably draw your own conclusions from it and they are positive ones. While we may not have gotten an epilogue, you can see how things will go from here. It may have all come together a little too well in some cases though. For example, Hutcheson’s one flaw is that he’s typically drunk and a little crazy. He forgot that he was divorced to his wife for a while because he had one too many beers and once he remembered, he wanted to call it off. It was a little late for that as she already found the rebound guy. It turns out that the guy didn’t have any dirt on him even though Hutcheson tried to find it. By the end, the ex-wife realizes that she doesn’t want a new man and comes back. It’s nice for the lead of course, but that part was maybe a little over the top. It was the one subplot where I couldn’t sympathize with Hutcheson at all. He’s a great newspaper man, but that was part of the problem for his social life. He had very clear priorities and his ex-wife was apparently not one of them.

As you’d expect from a newspaper film, the plot is very intricate and there are twists upon twists. More elements continue dug up by the reporters and then you get the full story at the end. It’s definitely a sad story all around, but one that will keep you guessing. It always seems like a fair mystery with my only issue being that some characters look really similar. For example, the rebound guy looked just like one of the gangsters so I was waiting for that twist. Rienzi is a decent main villain although he doesn’t get to appear all that much. He’s clearly a lot smarter than his minions, but it wasn’t enough as he gets outsmarted by the newspaper the whole time.

The court scenes were pretty fun. There wasn’t much that the heroes could do there since the paper’s owners had already given their consent, but it was still nice to see. The court rooms definitely haven’t changed much at all as it looks like an exact replica to the one I sat in a while back. The Judge made the right call since an appeal to emotion isn’t the right way to win a case. One of the executives did stand up in the end though so the paper got to have a happy ending thanks to that. Hopefully sales pick up so she can gain back her money.

Again, old films like this one are so good because of the dynamic writing and plot. The script is leagues ahead of anything you’ll see in the modern day. The characters all feel very real and professional. While this may not always help Hutcheson, it does work well with the film. The plot was good and handled well as we got to see how a lone newspaper can deal with a gangster threat. They may have fallen for the fake cops gambit, but they controlled the game otherwise. All of the reporters were very good at their jobs and everyone brought something to the table. The only plot that the film should have cut out was the drama with the ex-wife. It didn’t eat up too much screen time though so at least it wasn’t a huge issue, just a minor thing that would have made the whole experience even better.

Overall, Deadline USA is a good film. It’s certainly one that I hadn’t heard of before so it was a nice hidden gem to find. The film’s not very long so the pacing never slows down. As one of Bogart’s final films, I can safely say that it was a good decision to be a part of it. The film certainly would have lost some charm and charisma without his inclusion. It’d still be a film, but some leads were just made for the roll and he did a good job here. For once he didn’t even get knocked out despite getting in a car with the villains. You definitely have to love that confidence. I highly recommend checking this film out.

Overall 7/10

White Heat Review

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I’m afraid we’re in for another stinker folks! White Heat decided that maybe they could pass off a corrupt mobster as the charismatic main character and get away with it. They were wrong, not only can Cody not hold his own film, but this one ends up dragging quite a lot. It’s nearly 2 hours and that’s pretty crazy considering that this one came out in the 40’s. Whatever they were thinking with this film, it was not in the same train of thought that I had. Sorry folks, but there aren’t a whole lot of positives to say about this title.

The cops have been after a guy named Cody for a very long time. This mobster is ruthless and his crimes against humanity must be stopped. The detectives decide to send an inside man into the jail to figure out why Cody has turned himself in and to stop his plans. Hank (The agent) doesn’t agree, but he is forced into the job and proceeds to follow the gang around. Will he have the heart to betray Cody or will he become corrupted. After all, hanging out with the wrong crowd can always be dangerous.

One of the main problems with this is that Hank takes way too long to make a move. He really takes his directions to the letter here and follows Cody around from base to base. Quite a few people die as the gang goes through and Hank finally makes a move at the very end, but it took a while. He was still overpowered as well since he let his guard down. Not the greatest secret agent is he? Hank’s not even likable as he has to pretend to be a villain the whole time. He almost got away with it too, but it turns out that he had locked up one too many villains in his day so someone was bound to recognize him.

Cody is a terrible protagonist. He’s the average villain that you would expect from back in the day, only he’s the main character so you have to see him a lot longer than you’d want too. He’s not very smart and doesn’t realize that someone tried to bump him off until someone spills the beans later on. He is able to fight off about a half dozen cops with a bait/punch combo that was pretty unrealistic. Still, it’s a feat for him I suppose, but physical strength doesn’t make up for the fact that he is not a very imposing villain. He’s prone to headaches and his minions could really betray him at any times. He gets the last laugh against some of them, but that just shows how weak the other villains are. He puts up a fight in the climax, but it doesn’t save Cody. If you got rid of the fact that he had a fake romance with one of the mobster girls then he would have risen up from horrendously bad to just very bad. I know he’s not that smart, but it was obvious that she was playing him and he seemed to know it at times.

Cody’s Mom is easily the MVP from all of the villains. She talked tough and backed it up throughout the film. She may have bitten off more than she could chew by trying to take down a gang, but at least she was always prepared to fight until the end. She helped the villains get through a lot of tight spots with the police and she would have been a much more engaging lead than Cody. Even Cody’s rival probably would have been a cooler lead, but he was still a bad character so it wouldn’t be much of an improvement.

As you can see, most of the cops were not all that helpful or even good at their jobs so I wouldn’t really say that any of them were particularly likable. Just watch how easily the villains get out of the jail and you’ll be face palming. The security defenses were quite bad to say the least. The government would not have been proud if they had witnessed the whole debacle. At the very least, the cops talk tough like when they interrogated the villains, but even then they were verbally destroyed by Cody’s Mom.

Again, the film is two hours. Why is it two hours when this plot seems rather basic? Well, we have quite a lot of moments that are around to buy time. For example, the storm that hits the villain’s base. They stand around there for a while as the film gives us a lot of exposition and Cody starts to freak out. The scene goes on for quite a while to pad out the run time. White Heat could have easily shaved off a good half n hour and nothing would really change, except that the film could have maybe been a little better. A different main character would be crucial to making a real difference here though.

As per usual, you can tell that this film is really bad because it is not enjoyable. There are no fun scenes here or moments that will get you excited as you wait to see what will transpire next. White Heat never gets you engaged in the story and as a result, you’ll just be sitting there wondering when your next meal is going to occur or when the film will end. The best case scenario is that you start telling yourself how the film could have been better as the scenes go by. “Why wasn’t there any good music themes here” “Why are the characters not doing this?” etc.

Overall, White Heat is a film best left on the forgotten shelf. It doesn’t know what it means to be a good film and it just kept on getting worse and worse. Making a film based around a villain is always going to be very tricky since it’s difficult to make a villain likable. Extremely difficult and even more so nowadays than it would have been in the classic era. The best chance is to make the villain rather mild and petty, going for Now You See Me type of crimes instead of giving someone like the Joker his own film. It’s a lot of trouble to make it good though so it’s a lot easier to just churn out Spider-Man 10 or Godzilla 79. If you want to see a good film where the main character isn’t a hero, check out Madoka Magica Rebellion. Prepare yourself for an epic ending!

Overall 1/10