Tuesday, August 30, 2022

MURDER STORY On Blu-ray From Severin


Included in Severin's THE EUROCRYPT OF CHRISTOPHER LEE COLLECTION 2 Blu-ray box set is the very obscure--and very generically titled--MURDER STORY (1988). 

American teenager Tony (Alexis Denisof) lives in the Netherlands (his father is stationed on a U.S. Air Force base there). Tony is an aspiring writer, and he encounters mystery novelist Willard Hope (Christopher Lee). While coming up with story ideas, Tony and Willard stumble across a murderous plot involving an alternate energy source. 

MURDER STORY was written and directed by Eddie Arno & Markus Innocenti, who gained noticed by working on several famous music videos in the 1980s. This was the duo's first feature film, and it's capably done....but it feels very much like an episode of an American mystery/adventure TV show that goes on too long. This movie is rated PG, and it could easily play unedited on prime time television. The story is focused on Tony and his girlfriend Marty (Stacia Burton), and they're very clean cut. MURDER STORY is much more like a modern-day Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew tale than a engaging mystery thriller. 

It's surprising that the film is so tame, considering it was made at the height of the hone video rental era, when low-budget independent filmmakers would go out of their way to get their products any sort of attention. Despite Arno & Innocenti's music video background, there's no over-the-top camera or editing tricks used here. 

The decision to set the story in Holland was the idea of the producers, apparently to save money. This results in the movie getting a bit of a different look than similar projects made around the same time. But it's a bit strange that a story that takes place in the Netherlands does not have any major characters who are natives of that country. 

MURDER STORY does give Christopher Lee a chance to play a "normal" character for change. It appears that Lee enjoyed this opportunity. Lee could have taken the easy road and portrayed Willard Hope as a crusty curmudgeon, but his Hope is a kindly (if a bit formal) fellow who doesn't look down on Tony and Marty. Lee has an easy rapport with the young actors he shares most of his scenes with, and the movie sorely misses his presence when he's no longer around. The mid-to-late 1980s was not the best period for Lee when it came to the type of projects he was working on. Willard Hope is actually one of the better roles for Lee around this time. 

Alexis Denisof and Stacia Burton are likable (if somewhat bland) as the young leads, and Bruce Boa is a decent villain. Boa played Rebel General Rieekan in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and MURDER STORY has another STAR WARS connection, other than Lee--Garrick Hagon plays the part of Tony's dad. Hagon was Biggs in the original STAR WARS. 

MURDER STORY is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the picture and sound quality are excellent. The extras include a trailer, and a short talk with producer Tom Reeve, who discusses why the movie was made in Holland and his relationship with Christopher Lee. 

There's also a new audio commentary with writer-directors Eddie Arno and Markus Innocenti, moderated by Severin's David Gregory. The duo give out all the background info you could want on the film, while going over their own careers in the entertainment industry. Christopher Lee is not the focus of this talk, but the two men do share some stories about him (they both enjoyed working with Lee). 

Also included on this multi-region (A,B, and C) disc is a bonus feature: 1985's MASK OF MURDER. I'll cover that in a separate blog post. 

MURDER STORY isn't a major highlight of Christopher Lee's acting career, but it's much more watchable--and likable--than most of the other work he was involved in during the 1980s. I have a feeling that most Lee fans have never even heard of it, let alone seen it. Despite its rarity, Severin gives it a high-class presentation. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

DRACULA AND SON On Blu-ray From Severin


The main highlight of Severin's THE EUROCRYPT OF CHRISTOPHER LEE COLLECTION 2 Blu-ray box set is its 3-disc presentation of the 1976 French comedy DRACULA AND SON (originally titled DRACULA PERE ET FILS). The film is not only shown in a restored, uncut condition, it is also the recipient of several worthy extras. The notorious American re-edit of the film is also included, along with a CD of the original soundtrack. 

DRACULA AND SON begins in Transylvania, 1784, where a stately vampire, referred to as The Count (Lee of course) kidnaps a young beauty (Catherine Breilliat) in order for the woman to bear his child. The new wife and mother's lack of experience as a vampire soon causes his death, while the Count grows frustrated over trying to bring up his milquetoast son, named Ferdinand, as a proper vampire over the many decades. In the late 20th Century, the Count and son (Bernard Menez) are forced out of their ancestral castle by Romanian communists. The Count winds up in England, where he becomes a star of vampire movies, while Ferdinand struggles to make a life for himself as a poor immigrant in France. Father and son are reunited, but they both fall for the same woman (Marie-Helene Breilliat), who happens to resemble the Count's long-ago wife. The two men begin to quarrel, as Ferdinand starts to question his "life" as one of the undead. 

The first thing I need to point out about DRACULA AND SON is that not once during the original version of this film is Lee's character ever referred to as the Dracula. Lee maintained over the years that he most assuredly was not playing Dracula in this film...but in the extras on this Blu-ray those associated with the production speak as if Lee was portraying Stoker's famed vampire. It's up to the individual viewer whether Lee is Dracula here (I personally think he isn't). 

I also don't think that it really affects the film whether Lee is Dracula or not. Either way, he's playing a very different kind of vampire than his Hammer Dracula, with a very different look and approach. Lee's vampire in DRACULA AND SON is an Old World romantic, charming and aristocratic. Lee looks magnificent in this film (this Count is a very sharp dresser, whether it be the 18th or 20th Century). He handles the comedic aspects of the story wonderfully, especially the more subtle ones--but Lee is also still able to pull off a "walking into a doorway" gag that would make Moe Howard proud. Despite the funny business, Lee effectively uses his commanding presence when he has to. DRACULA AND SON has to be considered one of Lee's best performances and showcases, especially in the context of what he was doing in the late 1970s, when he got very few chances to present his true worth as an actor. 

I had never seen DRACULA AND SON in any version before this Blu-ray, and it turned out much better than I expected (this is the original uncut version of the film I'm referring to). It's not a Mel Brooks-like gag-fest--the humor is more witty than obvious. Ar times the comedy doesn't work, especially for an English-speaking audience. The movie flattens out when it focuses on the hapless Ferdinand, and it loses steam toward the end--it feels as if it has run out of things for the Count and his son to do. The beginning of the story, set in 18th Century Transylvania, is actually as atmospheric as any "serious" Hammer vampire film. DRACULA AND SON was directed by Edourd Molinaro, who is best known for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES.

Bernard Menez does a decent job as Ferdinand, but the script makes his character such a dweeb it's hard to be very interested in him (and it also doesn't give him much of a chance to make any impression when appearing in the same scene as the majestic Lee). Ironically Menez was in another French vampire farce, the absolutely horrible TENDRE DRACULA, starring Peter Cushing. Having sisters Catherine and Marie-Helene Breilliat play the two loves of the Count's existence was a clever casting decision. 

Severin gives the original uncut restored version of DRACULA AND SON its own disc, with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The visual & sound quality is superb. The original French dialogue track is included, with Lee effectively speaking that language, along with English subtitles. There's also an English track, with Lee's voice. The problem with the English track is that everyone else in the cast wind up with plain, flat American voices. I believe the best way to appreciate the film is through the French dialogue track. 

A second disc includes the American re-edited version of DRACULA AND SON. This version is one of the most egregious examples of a movie being butchered for English-speaking audiences. The American version is twenty minutes shorter, and several scenes have been moved around or reworked...but worst of all, this cut features a truly terrible dub track that is filled with all sorts of ridiculous corny dialogue and "jokes". Needless to say, Lee's voice is not featured on this version. Whoever provided the voice for Bernard Menez in the American re-edit seems to be doing a Don Adams impression, for whatever reason. The disc with the American version also has a German credit sequence as an extra, and a TV spot for the re-edit which sums up how silly this version is. One may wonder why Severin even bothered to include the American version of DRACULA AND SON, but it shows that the company went all out to add as much material on the film as possible--and, experiencing the American version at least once makes you realize just how awful it actually is. 

The third disc is a CD of Vladimir Cosma's quirky music score for the film, and a track listing is included in the disc case. 

The first disc of this DRACULA AND SON Blu-ray contains a ton of extras. There are two new audio commentaries. One features Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons. They both appreciate DRACULA AND SON, but they also point out the film's deficiencies, while discussing the state of Christopher Lee's acting career at the time. I have to point out that Rigby uses several French names, titles and phrases during the talk, so much so that maybe the commentary should have come with subtitles for ordinary guys like me. The second commentary is by Kat Ellinger. 

The extras also have a new interview with Bernard Menez (who enjoyed his experience with DRACULA AND SON) and a talk with filmmaker Patrice Leconte, who discusses his relationship with Claude Klotz, the man who wrote the novel on which DRACULA AND SON is based. Leconte barely mentions the film, except toward the end when he states that he doesn't like the vampire genre. 

There's also a 1976 interview with Claude Klotz, and a 1979 audio-only talk with Edourd Molinaro. Ironically both men seem unimpressed with DRACULA AND SON. A trailer for the original French version is also included. Finally there's a very short talk with Christopher Lee, in costume, on the set of DRACULA AND SON. Lee tries to convince the interviewer that he's been in very few horror films (yeah, sure). Both Blu-rays in this set are Region A. 

Severin's Blu-ray release of DRACULA AND SON is a must-see for Christopher Lee fans. It gives a proper showcase for one of Lee's best overall performances, and it also provides plenty of extras to give context to it. If you are only familiar with DRACULA AND SON through its pathetic American version, this Blu-ray is a must-see as well--the uncut French version is the true way to experience this film. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022



AFTER THE DANCE, a 1935 Columbia film, is one of the most weirdly constructed movies I've ever seen. 

Nightclub entertainer Jerry Davis (George Murphy) is implicated in an accidental death. Jerry accepts a manslaughter conviction after he learns that the partner in his act, Mabel King (Thelma Todd) will not testify in his behalf. While in prison Jerry is forced to take part in an ill-fated escape attempt. Jerry gets away from the authorities, and while on the run, he befriends Anne Taylor (Nancy Carroll), who just so happens to be a nightclub entertainer herself. Jerry teams up with Anne on-and-off stage, while hiding his real identity. Mabel happens to get a job at the club Anne and Jerry perform at, and she starts to blackmail Jerry. Mabel then demands that Jerry let her take Anne's place, or she'll inform the police on him. 

The first half of AFTER THE DANCE is a mini-prison melodrama, with Jerry trying to get along in the Big House, and then becoming an unshaven transient while on the run. After his incredibly lucky break in getting help from Anne, Jerry gets to show off his singing and dancing talents, while wearing a Lone Ranger-style mask on stage. (One would think that appearing this way would just attract even more unwanted attention on him.) 

The return of Mabel complicates matters, and the viewer expects a climatic blowup of some kind--but it never happens. AFTER THE DANCE ends in such an abrupt, unsatisfactory manner that one wonders if there was another ending that for some reason didn't make the final cut. 

Actually, one wonders if there were several sequences that were originally supposed to be in AFTER THE DANCE, since the movie clocks in at only an hour long. The incident of the accidental death that gets Jerry in trouble is never shown, and we never find out why Mabel refuses to give testimony that would help Jerry out. (In the movie the prosecutor tells Jerry that Mabel is a "bad" girl, but it's never explained why she is, or what she has done to make her so.) There's also a number of montage sequences that cover certain passages of time. My theory is that the original script might have been written during the Pre-Code era, and that a number of adjustments were made on it to conform to post-1934 standards. 

George Murphy is a likable, if lightweight personality, but he seems much more comfortable performing song & dance routines instead of being stuck in the Crossbar Hotel or appearing as a desperate guy on the run. Nancy Carroll gets to sing and dance as well, but her nice girl role doesn't give her much to work with, and you have to wonder why her character would take such a chance in helping out Jerry. 

Thelma Todd is very vindictive here as Mabel--so much so that even though she doesn't have a lot of screen time, she's still able to overshadow Nancy Carroll. At the beginning of the film Thelma is dark-haired, but she's her beloved blonde self when she reappears toward the end. 

AFTER THE DANCE was directed by the Russian-born Leo Bulgakov. With such a strange plot construction, I don't think it wouldn't have made a difference who directed it. It's a uneasy mixture of hard-boiled prison drama and backstage theatrics, and it feels as if a number of scenes were left out of it. While looking for an appropriate image from the movie to go with this blog post, I noticed that none of the posters and advertising material for AFTER THE DANCE refer to the prison subplot--it was sold as an apparent musical comedy. I can only imagine what moviegoers must have thought after seeing it. 

Saturday, August 27, 2022



SITTING PRETTY is a 1933 musical from Paramount, directed by Harry Joe Brown, and starring Jack Oakie, Jack Haley, Ginger Rogers, and Thelma Todd. 

Chick Parker (Jack Oakie) and Pete Pendleton (Jack Haley) are songwriters who travel to Hollywood, hoping to break into the movies. While there they befriend an aspiring hoofer named Dorothy (Ginger Rogers), and they get hired to write songs for a film starring egotistical actress Gloria Duval (Thelma Todd). Gloria gets her hooks into Chick, and gives him a swelled head, which causes him to break away from Pete and Dorothy. A chance encounter with a drunken movie director winds up bringing everyone back together for a happy ending. 

SITTING PRETTY appears to be an attempt by Paramount to copy the Warner Bros. musicals of the early 1930s, but it has nowhere near the pizzazz or spunk of a 42ND STREET or FOOTLIGHT PARADE. Jack Oakie and Jack Haley are all right in the lead roles, but the plot involving their characters is very thin. Oakie as Chick is fast-talking and brash, while Haley's Pete is the decent nice guy who has to deal with all the problems Chick causes (at least Haley winds up with Ginger Rogers at the end). If this movie had, say, James Cagney and Dick Powell playing Oakie and Haley's roles, then we might have had something. 

Ginger Rogers is cute and perky as Dorothy, but she really doesn't have much to do (she does gets to dance a little). Thelma Todd plays a variation on one of her "other woman" roles, and she even gets to sing a little. The movie would have been much improved if there was more of Ginger and Thelma and less of Oakie and Haley. Mention needs to be made of young Jerry Tucker as Buzz, Dorothy's sarcastic kid brother, who steals every scene he's in. 

Thelma Todd and Jack Oakie

The songs featured in SITTING PRETTY were written by Mack Gordon & Harry Revel (who both have cameos in the film). The tunes are pleasant enough, but the only one that is memorable is "Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?", which is used for the finale. This climatic number tries to be a Busby Berkeley-style spectacular, with a troupe of dancing girls dressed in suggestive costumes and overhead camera angles, but it lacks the grandiose go-for-broke sensibility that permeates Berkeley's work. 

SITTING PRETTY is a decent, if lightweight film that would have been better if it had given Ginger Rogers and Thelma Todd more to do. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022



THE GREEN GIRL is a 2014 documentary on actress Susan Oliver, best known for her prolific work on American network television from the 1960s through the 1980s. The film was directed and produced by George A. Pappy Jr., and I viewed it on the Tubi streaming channel. 

The title THE GREEN GIRL refers to a sequence in the first pilot for the original STAR TREK TV series, called "The Cage". In that sequence Susan Oliver's character takes on the persona of a seductive green-skinned Orion slave dancer. Footage from "The Cage" was used for a two-part STAR TREK episode called "The Menagerie", enabling Oliver's performance to become a part of pop culture history. 

The title of the documentary is somewhat misleading, however. Coverage of Oliver's work for STAR TREK takes up only a small part of this film. Susan Oliver's overall life and acting career was far more fascinating than just one cult TV appearance. 

The blonde, blue-eyed Oliver guested on dozens of network shows during the classic period of American TV, quite often appearing on a particular show more than once, playing different characters. There were several attractive women who showed up nightly during the classic TV era, but Oliver had an indefinable quality about her that made her unique. The characters she portrayed were not just eye candy--they usually were complicated and troubled, and she often stole whatever episode she was in from the regulars of the series. 

THE GREEN GIRL features dozens of clips from Oliver's TV work that attest to her talent and versatility. (Obviously Oliver must have been highly dependable as well, or she never would have gotten so much work in the hectic world of network TV.) 

Oliver could have had an extensive big screen movie career, or at least have starred in her own TV series, but THE GREEN GIRL shows she was far too independent for that. Oliver didn't want to be controlled by a major studio, or tied down to just one TV show. She also had no interest in the Hollywood social scene. She was a multifaceted individual who was also a record-breaking aviator. When her acting career started to slow down in the late 1970s, she trained to become a director, and she eventually helmed single episodes of M*A*S*H and TRAPPER JOHN M.D. (The documentary puts forth the idea that Oliver's directing credits would have been more extensive if not for a "Boy's Club" mentality in the entertainment industry.)

Susan Oliver

Many of Oliver's friends and relatives are interviewed here, along with fellow actors such as Lee Meriwether, David Hedison, Gary Conway, and Roy Thinnes. Coverage is also given to Oliver's financial and health struggles toward the climax of her too short life. 

THE GREEN GIRL presents a thorough look at Susan Oliver's life, but at the end the actress remains a bit of an enigma. Despite dating several movie stars, and famous baseball players, she never married or had any children. One gets the feeling after watching this film that even those who felt they were close to her never really knew her completely. There was much, much more to Susan Oliver than just playing a famous Star Trek role, and one wonders if she accomplished all that she wanted to. 

THE GREEN GIRL is very well done, and it's perfect for retro TV fans. It shines a light on one of the best performers of the classic TV period and details what it was like to work as an actor during that era. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS On Blu-ray From The Film Detective


In 2017, I wrote a blog post on BATTLE OF THE WORLDS, a 1963 American version of a Italian science-fiction film directed by Antonio Margheriti (under the name Anthony Dawson). In that post I stated that the film needed a proper official Blu-ray release. It now has one, courtesy of The Film Detective. 

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS is mostly known for two things: the numerous public domain home video releases of it, and the fact that it starred the great English actor Claude Rains. Rains plays a curmudgeonly scientist, who, in an unspecified future, uses his genius to help save Earth from an oncoming planet-like body he calls "The Outsider". 

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS isn't as flamboyant as Margheriti's later "Gamma One" series of sci-fi adventure films, but it has a few low-budget charms of its own, mainly Rains' performance. You can debate over whether Rains should have been in a movie like this, but there's no disputing that the grand actor gives his all for the production. 

The Film Detective's presentation of BATTLE OF THE WORLDS is stated to come from an original 35mm archival print, and it is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Visually I have to say that the colors lack vibrancy. It's better looking than the public domain versions and what you can find on YouTube, but the picture quality isn't spectacular. 

The disc does come with some nice extras. Inside the case is a ten-page booklet featuring an essay entitled "Margheriti's World" by Don Stradley. The essay is a casual discussion of BATTLE OF THE WORLDS and Antonio Margheriti's film making career, accompanied by shots from the film. 

Also included is a featurette called "A Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti", produced by Ballyhoo Pictures. Tim Lucas narrates this half-hour program, which has plenty of stills and facts on Margheriti and his sci-fi output. It's very well done, and one wishes that it had been longer, and delved into Margheriti's entire life and overall career. 

Finally there's a new audio commentary by Justin Humphreys, who gives out plenty of info, analysis, and observation on just about everything involved in the production. It's a fine talk, helped by the fact that Humphreys is an admirer of the movie. 

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS isn't STAR WARS--heck, it's not even WILD, WILD PLANET--but where else are you going to be able to see Claude Rains in a full spacesuit?? The real reason to get this Blu-ray over the public domain versions are the extras--any serious discussions about Antonio Margheriti are welcome (and needed). Hopefully The Film Detective has plans to release other lesser-known science-fiction films from the mid-20th Century. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022



Warren William--The King of Pre-Code, the Captain of Cads--is back to his devious schemes again, this time at MGM instead of Warner Bros., in the 1932 production SKYSCRAPER SOULS. 

William plays bank president David Dwight, who has borrowed $30 million to build a spectacular skyscraper called, fittingly enough, the Dwight Building. The $30 million will soon be due, but Dwight has plenty of nefarious plans to avoid paying and gain even more power as well. Dwight has an open marriage, which allows him to carry on a heavy relationship with his personal assistant (Verree Teasdale). But the high-living businessman enjoys plenty of women on the side, and when he gets a gander at Teasdale's own secretary (Maureen O'Sullivan), he starts putting the moves on her as well. Dwight manipulates the stock market to further his ambitions, but his dirty dealings and womanizing catch up with him in a shocking climax. 

SKYSCRAPER SOULS, being a MGM film, is somewhat different than the usual Warners Pre-Code melodrama. At 99 minutes, it's much longer, with a steadier pace, and it lacks the Warners rough edges. 

Warren William is more subtle here than one expects him to be, but he still is able to be dastardly when he needs to. Near the end of the film William gets to perform a great robust speech about what the building means to him. I believe that SKYSCRAPER SOULS is one of Warren William's best roles period. He once again proves that even though he's the cause of everyone's problems, he still has more charisma and style than anyone else in the cast, and he dominates all the other actors in any scene he's in. 

Warren William and Maureen O'Sullivan

Maureen O'Sullivan is technically the leading lady in the story, but Verree Teasdale gets the better role as Miss Dennis, a woman who has had to stand on the sidelines while the man she loves gets whatever he wants. Miss Dennis is old enough to be her secretary's mother, and when she realizes that her young protege is going to replace her (in more ways than one), she decides to take matters in her own hands. 

As for O'Sullivan, her character is burdened with a boyfriend that happens to work in Dwight's bank (located in the skyscraper). This fellow, played by Norman Foster, is an ordinary guy that the audience is supposed to root for, but Foster's whiny voice and his annoying manner makes one wonder why O'Sullivan would even want to be around him. 

There's plenty of important supporting roles in SKYSCRAPER SOULS--the building houses all sorts of shops and apartment dwellings that numerous folks work and live in. Anita Page plays a model with a bad reputation who surprisingly gets a happy ending, and there's also Gregory Ratoff, Jean Hersholt, Wallace Ford (the resolution of the subplot involving him is quite memorable), Edward Brophy, and Billy Gilbert. Hedda Hopper plays Dwight's wife, who only shows up when she needs money. At one point I saw a glimpse of what looked like Boris Karloff...and, according to multiple sources, he is listed as being in the film. Considering that this movie came out after the release of FRANKENSTEIN, I can only assume that Karloff was meant to have more than just one fleeting appearance, and for whatever reason his role was cut down. 

One of the main characters in the story happens to be the Dwight Building itself, which, in the first shot of the film, is shown to be taller than the Empire State Building. The interior of the Dwight Building, especially the lobby, is a art-deco lovers dream, augmented by MGM's expensive gloss. Thousands of folks live and work in this building, and they all have their own stories. I have to admit that the idea of a TV series based on an edifice like the Dwight Building popped into my head while watching this movie. 

SKYSCRAPER SOULS was directed by Edgar Selwyn. He does a capable job, but I couldn't help but wonder what a William Wellman or a Frank Capra could have done with a story like this. Selwyn is helped by William Daniels' cinematography, which at times uses a roving camera to establish the momentous interior of the Dwight Building. One particular shot that impressed me was an overhead view of the lobby during the early hours of the morning, as Warren William and Maureen O'Sullivan navigate their way through a group of cleaning ladies--the women almost move in unison like chorus girls. 

SKYSCRAPER SOULS is a great Pre-Code, especially for Warren William fans. It should be viewed just for the climax alone. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022



Last night I watched the 2021 documentary BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER on the Tubi streaming channel. The film was directed and co-written by Thomas Hamilton. 

It's a fine program, giving a fairly complete retrospective on Boris Karloff's acting career. What makes it a cut above is the amount of video and audio clips used and the people interviewed for it. There's the expected snippets from Karloff's greatest hits, but there's also plenty of very rare footage, especially from the actor's silent period and his television work during the 1950s and 60s. Among the many folks providing their opinions and analysis on Boris and his life are some very distinguished names, including film historians Greg Mank, Kevin Brownlow, and Leonard Maltin, and filmmakers such as Guillermo del Toro, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman. These are people who have written about Karloff or have been creatively inspired by him, and what they have to say is very insightful. 

The film does not dive deeply into Karloff's complicated marriage history, which is probably just as well (his daughter Sara Jane does get plenty of screen time). The documentary thankfully also stays away from any "Boris vs. Bela" fanboy arguments. 

There's not much here about Boris' non-horror film roles, but his stage work is highlighted, and the case is made that he was a far more capable actor than he was given credit for. Karloff is presented as a hard-working, dedicated professional who always brought a touch of humanity and poignancy to even his most villainous roles. 

BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER will be enjoyed by the actor's most adoring fans, but it also makes a great "starter kit" for those who are just beginning to learn about the legendary man's life and career. 

Friday, August 5, 2022



As you can tell by the name of this blog, I am a lifelong dedicated fan of the Chicago White Sox. But I'm also a dedicated baseball fan period, and there are several MLB players I've had great admiration over the years who never wore a White Sox uniform. 

One of my favorites was the legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan. His records, longevity, and status as the premier power hurler of the 1970s and 1980s make him seem more like a myth than a real person. Everything he accomplished most definitely happened, and it's all covered in the excellent new documentary FACING NOLAN, written & directed by Bradley Jackson. 

The film really does go deep in the heart of Texas, thoroughly examining Ryan's upbringing in the Lone Star State and his loyalty to it. The movie also follows Ryan as his MLB career takes him from his first team, the New York Mets, to the California Angels, where he became a star; to the Houston Astros, where he was paid the biggest contract in baseball at that time; and finally to the Texas Rangers, where he cemented his status as one of the greatest legends in American professional sports. 

FACING NOLAN also establishes how important Ryan's wife Ruth was to his life and baseball career, and how important family was and still is to him. It also reveals that, despite his intimidating presence on the mound and his Hall of Fame reputation, Ryan would much rather be dealing with cattle on his Texas ranch instead of basking in the spotlight. 

There's plenty of rare video and audio here from Ryan's baseball career, and there's also several interviews with those who played with and against him. Ryan, his wife, and his children are also extensively interviewed (Ryan himself comes off as self-effacing and thoughtful). 

I loved this documentary, and one of the main reasons is that I grew up in the late 70s and early 80s, when Nolan Ryan was at his height as a baseball star. Anyone who followed Major League Baseball in the 70s and 80s will certainly have their memories jogged while watching FACING NOLAN. This movie will also make baseball fans realize how much the game has truly changed--most of Ryan's records will never have any chance of being broken, let alone even being approached--not when the average MLB pitcher of today seemingly goes on the disabled list every other week. 

There's something else about FACING NOLAN that makes it special, and it doesn't have anything to do with baseball. It's the fact that it's very refreshing to watch a modern-day documentary about a famous American who is truly a hard-working, talented, decent individual, and who doesn't have any trending tabloid stories about him, or any embarrassing moments to deal with. FACING NOLAN is really a positive story about American effort and perseverance, and we certainly need such stories in this day and age.