Sunday, February 26, 2023



THE LADY VANISHES is a 1979 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's much more famous (and better) 1938 film with the same title. The '79 THE LADY VANISHES is now best known as being the last theatrically-released feature that Hammer Films was involved in during the 20th Century. 

The head of Hammer, Michael Carreras, had tried to get THE LADY VANISHES off the ground for a number of years before it was finally made. It was one of Carreras' many quixotic attempts to still make Hammer relevant in the 1970s. The main result of the picture is that it put Carreras and Hammer into even more financial hot water than they were already in, and it hastened the end of Carreras' involvement with the company. 

It's hard to understand why Carreras was so determined to get the project made to begin with. I believe he was influenced by the major success of the 1974 MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, and he was hoping to put together a package on a similar scale, with an all-star cast, European locations, and a story based on well-known source material. But remaking a Hitchcock film--and one of his best at that--will only engender comparisons to the original, and those comparisons are bound to fall short. 

The screenplay for the 1979 THE LADY VANISHES, credited to George Axlerod, is based directly on the script for the 1938 version--so much so that it contains a lot of the same dialogue, and even some of the same camera setups. The major difference in the '79 version is that it changes the two main characters from being British to American (most likely in an attempt to cast big stars in the roles to appeal to a mainstream audience). 

So instead of the 1938 version's Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave as two somewhat quirky but realistic English folk, the '79 version has Cybill Shepherd as flighty rich girl Amanda Kelly and Elliott Gould as Robert Condon, who works for LIFE magazine. The duo find themselves on a train leaving Bavaria in August 1939, when world tensions are at their height. On the train Amanda befriends the kindly Miss Froy (Angela Lansbury). After taking a nap Amanda discovers that Miss Froy is nowhere to be found--and everyone else on the train denies the woman even existed. Amanda tries to get help from Robert Condon, who thinks she's a ditzy blonde, and a Dr. Hartz (Herbert Lom), a distinguished-looking man who is more than he seems. Amanda's search for Miss Froy develops into an international incident that threatens all the passengers on the train. 

The '79 THE LADY VANISHES is a handsomely-mounted production, with picturesque Austrian locations, excellent cinematography by Douglas Slocombe, and a fine music score by Richard Hartley. (The train used in the production is quite impressive too.) It's not bad--but it lacks a certain spark, a certain element that would make it memorable. If you want an example of what a great director like Hitchcock can bring to a story, just compare the 1938 and 1979 versions of THE LADY VANISHES. 

The '79 version was directed by Anthony Page, who mainly worked in television. He does a serviceable job, but the '79 version has a lot of talky scenes to it, and there's also a lack of pace. The '38 version certainly had plenty of light humor, but there was also a definite underlying sense of peril throughout. You don't get that with the '79 version. 

The lack of peril is mostly due to the performances of Cybill Shepherd and Elliott Gould. Like the movie itself, they're not bad....but they feel out of place in the whole affair. Shepherd is supposed to be a Carole Lombard-like madcap heiress, but for most of the film she comes off as snotty and unlikable. (Shepherd would get a much better handle on screwball-type antics in her later MOONLIGHTING TV series.) In the '38 version, Margaret Lockwood's search for Miss Froy has a tense desperation to it. When Shepherd's Amanda goes looking for Froy, she acts shrill and annoying. Another reason it's hard to take her Amanda seriously is that she spends the entire film wearing a satin evening dress and high heels. She looks gorgeous, but to a guy like me her wardrobe is a bit distracting at times. 

Cybill Shepherd in THE LADY VANISHES

Elliott Gould does somewhat better in his role. I expected him to be a loudmouth "ugly American" type, but he tones down his usual eccentricities for the most part. Still, the idea that his Condon and Amanda could wind up being attracted to each other is too far-fetched, and their supposed comic byplay falls flat for the most part. 

Angela Lansbury's Miss Froy is more livelier than May Witty's in the '38 a matter of fact, you have more faith in this Froy's ability to handle Nazis than you do in the two main leads. The great character actor Herbert Lom gives the best performance as the mysterious Dr. Hartz. Lom's assured, skillful way with the character gives this version some much-needed weight. Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael play Charters & Caldicott, and while they're alright, they just can't match the legendary status of the original duo played by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford. 

Among the supporting cast are genre notables Vladek Sheybal (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE) and Wolf Kahler (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK). Star Wars fans will glimpse William Hootkins and Jeremy Bulloch in the early part of the film. 

When THE LADY VANISHES was released in 1979, it failed to make much of an impact, either financially or critically. It got almost no attention whatsoever in America (I was a kid at the time, and I don't remember hearing or seeing anything at all about it). Elliott Gould and Cybill Shepherd were not exactly big box-office stars at the time, and this became another late-era Hammer project that didn't accomplish much of anything. The '79 THE LADY VANISHES isn't a terrible film, but it belongs on the endless list of unnecessary remakes. One wishes that Hammer and Michael Carreras had shot their last bolt on something fresh, exciting, and original. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023



OUTLAW WOMEN is an unusual 1952 Western with plenty of low-budget prowess behind it--it was directed by Sam Newfield and Ron Ormond, and the picture was distributed by Robert Lippert's company. 

Marie Windsor plays the splendidly named Iron Mae McLeod, who is the boss of a town called Las Mujerers. Mae runs the Paradise saloon/gambling hall, and she and her dancing girls literally run the town. Trying to horn in on Mae's action--and Mae herself--is a former flame, and the leader of a bandit gang, while the town's new doctor tries to convince the ladies to change their ways. 

OUTLAW WOMEN has a great premise, which it unfortunately doesn't take advantage of. Marie Windsor (who had already spent plenty of time in big-screen Western saloons by the time she made this film) is perfect as the ravishing, tough, and clever Mae. 

She's so perfect that it's a shame that the climax domesticates her with the boring former flame. (At least the character wasn't killed in the final gunfight as "punishment" for being a strong independent woman.) OUTLAW WOMEN is very much a product of its time--the female characters are far more interesting and charismatic than the male ones, yet they are put in their "place" at the end. 

It doesn't help that the male leads, Richard Rober and Allan Nixon, are two actors I'm not familiar with, and dull as old dishwater besides. Among the supporting cast are veterans Lyle Talbot and Tom Tyler, and Jackie Coogan--yes, that Jackie Coogan--gets a notable part as a rugged gunslinger named Piute Bill. Among Mae's girls I recognized Connie Cezon, because she had appeared in a few Three Stooges shorts. 

OUTLAW WOMEN was filmed in the unique-looking Cinecolor process, but Marie Windsor and her girls still manage to be very attractive regardless. There isn't all that much action in the story, but there is, as mentioned, a climatic gun battle between all the females of Las Mujerers and the bandit gang. Instead of a bar brawl, the viewer is treated to a catfight instead. 

This picture is available on all sorts of free outlets, such as YouTube and Tubi. It's a decent enough B Western, but it's one of those movies, that, while you are watching it, you start thinking about what should have happened in it instead of what actually did. It's worth seeing mainly due to Marie Windsor. 

Friday, February 24, 2023



One of my recent YouTube discoveries is the complete 13-episode run of the 1972 British TV series SPYDER'S WEB, which featured my dear friend Veronica Carlson. 

SPYDER'S WEB deals with the adventures of Charlotte Dean (Patricia Cutts), who runs a documentary production company called Arachnid Films. The company is actually a front for Charlotte's activities as a secret agent for Britain--she takes her orders from a mysterious entity known as Spider. (SPYder's Web--get it??) Charlotte's partner in espionage is ex-military man Hawksworth (Anthony Ainley). The very small staff of Arachnid Films is made up of secretary Wallis Ackroyd (Veronica Carlson) and cameraman Albert (Roger Lloyd-Pack)--the duo do not know about the spy stuff going on. 

While watching all 13 episodes over the past few weeks, it became rather easy to realize why the show didn't last very long--it wasn't very good. SPYDER'S WEB tries to be in the manner of THE AVENGERS, mixing bizarre espionage adventure with quirky humor. The difference is THE AVENGERS had style and flair, and it was genuinely entertaining. SPYDER'S WEB comes off as clunky and weird. 

One big problem the show has is that the interiors were shot on videotape, and the very few location scenes were shot on film. This was a standard practice for British television at the time, but it's very disconcerting for viewers not used to it. The majority of scenes for all the episodes of SPYDER'S WEB were shot on videotape, and this format limited what the show could do. There's way too much talk and not enough action in the episodes, and what action is shown is handled in a haphazard fashion. 

The main characters of Charlotte Dean and Hawksworth are not all that appealing either. Anthony Ainley (best known for later playing the arch-villain The Master on DOCTOR WHO) gives Hawksworth an unctuous manner, and he also constantly has a creepy grin on his face. The result is that Hawksworth seems more like a threat than the actual bad guys in the episodes do. Patricia Cutts (who played Vincent Price's unfaithful wife in THE TINGLER) for some reason shouts most of her dialogue, and the byplay between Charlotte and Hawksworth doesn't come off very well (the two are a far cry from John Steed and Mrs. Peel). 

Despite the show's attempts at ironic humor, there's plenty of characters killed off in each episode, mostly by Charlotte and Hawksworth. The combination of weird sarcasm and spy intrigue doesn't work--one wonders what type of show the producers and writers of SPYDER'S WEB were trying to make. The episodes run about an hour long, but honestly this could have been a half-hour show. Every episode has a lot of extraneous scenes that just seem to pad out the running time. 

SPYDER'S WEB was filmed in color, but only two episodes survive in that format--the rest of them only exist in black and white. Even if I had been able to watch all the episodes in color, I don't think that would have improved things much. The sets and production design are very perfunctory--this show obviously didn't have a large budget. The best looking things in SPYDER'S WEB by far are Veronica Carlson and her wardrobe. 

Speaking of Carlson, even though she got third billing in the credits, she wasn't given much to do in the series. She's basically eye candy (a task that she was eminently suited for). Her Wallis is always wearing either mini-skirts or shorts, and she's always showing plenty of cleavage. I assume that if the series has lasted, her character probably would have been given more to do. (Veronica herself wasn't very impressed with how the series turned out.) 

The best episode of SPYDER'S WEB by far was the second one, titled "The Executioners". This story is enlivened by the presence of Hammer regulars Andre Morell and Charles Lloyd-Pack (father of Roger). Morell plays an aristocrat who has a very unusual way of dealing with those he feels has contributed to the "moral decline" of Great Britain. It feels very much like an episode of THE AVENGERS, and you also get the bonus of seeing Veronica Carlson disguised as a nun. 

I always wanted to watch SPYDER'S WEB because Veronica Carlson appeared in it. I have to say, though, that some of the episodes were a slog to get through (especially the scenes in which Veronica didn't appear in). It might be unfair to judge a TV series based on only 13 episodes--it might have turned out to be something quite different if it had lasted. The thing is, I don't think it would have lasted very long unless major changes in the show's format were made. The main interest one would have in watching SPYDER'S WEB is in the horror/science-fiction associations that Patricia Cutts, Anthony Ainley, and Veronica Carlson had. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Raquel Welch (1940-2023)


Raquel Welch was the very first sex symbol I was aware of--and even as a little kid, I knew why she was a sex symbol. How could you not?

If you were not around during the 1970s, it would be hard for you to understand how much of a cultural impact Raquel Welch had back then. She wasn't just Raquel Welch, she was RAQUEL WELCH. If anyone used her name as a reference, everybody knew what that person was talking about. (For example: "Your sister isn't exactly Raquel Welch....") The Seventies was a time when major stars showed up just about everywhere. Welch did movies, but she also appeared in TV variety shows, talk shows, THE MUPPET SHOW, and even a couple famous episodes of MORK & MINDY. The type of mainstream clout that Welch had is almost impossible to obtain now. 

Saying that a certain star was a much better performer than given credit for has become way too common (and simplistic), but in Welch's case it was true. When given the right type of material she could rise up to it. The problem in her case was--what type of role do you give to the most alluring woman in the world?? 

She was surprisingly good in the Westerns she was cast in, especially HANNIE CAULDER, where she played a woman who is raped and ravaged by a group of scum who also murder her husband and burn down her home. She spends the rest of the film going after them and getting her revenge. HANNIE CAULDER, as a film, has a lot of problems--its tone is way too uneven--but Welch pulls off her character's transformation from brutalized victim to cool EuroWestern gunslinger quite capably. 

Welch also made a huge mark in THE THREE and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS as the ravishing but klutzy Constance. One of the biggest gut-punches in movie history is when her Constance is killed by Faye Dunaway's Milady de Winter. That's the way Dumas wrote it, but it still comes as a total shock, because Welch is so appealing in the role. 

And yes, I have to mention ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. The publicity image of her used on that movie's poster is probably the most famous movie still photo of all time. For a while it seemed that Welch wasn't happy about being constantly reminded of that film (and the photo), but she finally appeared to accept and appreciate the cult status it gave her. 

One other thing that has to be pointed out--Welch never appeared nude onscreen or in print, a fact that, taken in the context of today's times, seems mind-boggling. 

Raquel Welch's time as a major movie star was actually rather short, but she always had an iconic status. She also for the most part managed to avoid the major public scandals and personal issues that affected so many other famous sex symbols. Her passing is another sad reminder of the fact that there's very few real movie legends left. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023



THE BODY STEALERS is British science-fiction film made by Tigon Pictures and released in 1969. It concerns the disappearance of a number of skydivers over England, and the investigation that follows. 

The overall cast of THE BODY STEALERS had plenty of genre credentials. The movie features George Sanders, Maurice Evans (PLANET OF THE APES), Patrick Allen (CAPTAIN CLEGG), Hilary Dwyer (WITCHFINDER GENERAL), Neil Connery (Sean's brother), Robert Flemyng (THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR), and Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru in STAR WARS). 

With all those notable acting names you'd think it would lead to something halfway interesting, but THE BODY STEALERS is a low-budget, talky, slow-moving story that could have easily been told in about a half an hour. 

Patrick Allen plays Bob Megan, a devil-may-care type who is called in by his friend Jim (Neil Connery) to help find out why the various skydivers have supposedly disappeared. George Sanders plays a General on the military base where the investigation is being held, and Maurice Evans and Hilary Dwyer are scientists involved in the efforts. 

If you are expecting the usual sci-fi FX, don't....because there aren't any (the best special effect is Neil Connery's toupee, although the spaceship from DALEKS: INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. does make a cameo appearance). Most of the running time doesn't even deal with the plot--it focuses more on Bob Megan's attempts to hit it off with nearly every female in the cast. His main priority is a mysterious blonde (Lorna Wilde), who--you guessed it--has a major connection with the strange goings-on. 

Being that this is a Tigon production, there is plenty of eye candy made available, including of course Hilary Dwyer. (Including a number of attractive women in the cast was a specialty of producer Tony Tenser.) It doesn't do much, however, to help get the story going. Most of the plot takes place on the military base, and despite cinematographer John Coquillon's attempts at injecting some atmosphere into the proceedings, THE BODY STEALERS looks more like an episode of a mediocre TV show instead of a feature film. 

The direction of Gerry Levy (who was also one of the film's writers) is rather leaden, and the annoying music score by Reg Tilsley doesn't help matters. The climax will be very predictable to those who have watched plenty of 1950s and 60s sci-fi (such as myself). 

I've read just about everything I could get my hands on about British horror and science-fiction films made in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and I've seen most of those films as well. For some reason THE BODY STEALERS always eluded me. I wondered, with the cast that it had, why there was almost nothing written about it. After having watched it for the very first time, I now know why....there isn't much you can really say about it. 

It is worth seeing at least once for the cast (and if you want to see what Hilary Dwyer looked like in a movie while wearing contemporary clothes). If you do want to check it out, there's a very good print of it on the Tubi streaming channel. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023



This is a 1978 version of A.E.W. Mason's famous story about the meaning of courage, produced for American TV, but also released theatrically in Europe. As far as remakes go, it's rather good. 

Beau Bridges plays Harry Faversham in this version, and he's backed by a great supporting cast: Robert Powell, Simon Ward, Harry Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Richard Johnson. (A note for film geeks: Robert Flemyng also has a very small role.) 

For a TV movie, THE FOUR FEATHERS has stellar credentials. It was directed by Don Sharp, and the cinematography was by John Coquillon. Allyn Ferguson provided a rousing score. 

Don Sharp was the perfect director for this type of material. He knew how to tell a story in a lively manner, and he also knew how to work under a budget. The '78 THE FOUR FEATHERS wasn't shot in widescreen, but it should have been. It was filmed in England and Spain, it has excellent costumes and production design, and the action sequences are handled and edited very well. 

If this movie has any drawback, it's the casting of Beau Bridges in the lead role. I assume that since this was mounted mostly as a program for American TV, the producers wanted an American lead. Bridges isn't terrible, but it takes awhile to accept him as a young British military officer in the late 19th Century. 

After Harry Faversham resigns his commission after finding out he's been sent to Egypt for battle, three of his friends and his true love (Jane Seymour) present him with four feathers--symbols of Harry's supposed cowardice. Harry's father, a life-long distinguished soldier (Harry Andrews) wants nothing more to do with him. Harry decides to go to Egypt on his own, and while in disguise, find a way to prove his mettle in battle. 

Ironically Beau Bridges is much more believable in Arab disguise than he is as a young Englishman. He's still overshadowed by Robert Powell, much the same way as John Clements was overshadowed by Ralph Richardson in the 1939 version of THE FOUR FEATHERS. Powell has the much better role of Harry's best friend, who not only loses his sight in battle, but also loses his chance at love with Jane Seymour (looking exquisite as always). As I did with Ralph Richardson in the '39 version, I had much more interest in Powell's plight than in Harry's. (I also think Powell would have made a better Harry Faversham.) 

Bridges also has to compete with Richard Johnson, who makes a big impression as Abou Fatma, an Arab who helps Harry on his quest. (I know an Englishman playing an Arab isn't supposed to sit well today, but that shouldn't take away from Johnson's fine performance.) As a matter of fact, with all the above-average characterizations in the movie, Bridges' Harry almost gets lost in the shuffle. 

I still think the 1939 version of THE FOUR FEATHERS is the best, but the '78 version stands out on its own, due to the action sequences and the overall cast. (The '78 version actually uses a few shots from the '39 version.) The '78 version also clocks in at a concise 100 minutes. I know I have a reputation for knocking remakes--but I have no problem if a remake is done well. (Besides, the '78 version isn't so much a remake as it is another adaptation of a classic tale.) The 1978 version of THE FOUR FEATHERS can be viewed on the Tubi streaming channel. 

Monday, February 6, 2023



THE DEFENSE RESTS is a 1934 drama about the law profession produced by Columbia Pictures, starring Jack Holt and Jean Arthur. 

Jack Holt plays Matthew Mitchell, a big-time hot-shot defense attorney who never loses a case. But Mitchell is no Perry Mason--he freely admits that he's unethical and unscrupulous, and he'll use every trick in the book to get his shady clients off. A young lady fresh out of law school named Joan Hayes (Jean Arthur) gets a job in Mitchell's office as a law clerk, and the idealistic woman decides to "reform" the powerful lawyer. Mitchell is coerced by the mob to defend a man accused of kidnapping and murdering a small child, much to Joan's dismay. A tragic encounter with the murdered child's mother finally forces Mitchell to change his ways. 

THE DEFENSE RESTS has a strange premise--it wants the audience to root for the main character's rehabilitation, even though that event would cause him to lose his financial and social standing. The character of Matthew Mitchell should have been played by someone like William Powell or Warren William--actors like those two would have had the charm and personality to make the viewer dislike their actions while still wanting to watch their antics. Jack Holt, with his tight-lipped and brusque manner, doesn't even look comfortable in a courtroom. He comes off as too cold and calculating, even after he has supposedly "turned". 

It's also hard to believe that someone as poised and appealing as Jean Arthur's Joan Hayes would be so taken with Holt. Joan explains in the movie that she has followed all of Matthew Mitchell's cases, and she's dreamed of working with him--yet even when she finds out what he's really like she tries even harder to put him on the straight and narrow (and she wants to marry him to boot). It's to Arthur's credit that she makes the situation work. In all honesty, a movie with Arthur as a big-shot attorney would have been much more entertaining to watch. 

There's plenty of familiar faces for movie geeks to keep track of during THE DEFENSE RESTS, including Donald Meek, Ward Bond, J. Carrol Naish, and Samuel S. Hinds. Sarah Padden gets special mention as the distraught mother of the murdered child (obviously this plot element was based on the Lindbergh kidnapping case). Nat Pendleton plays another of his many "dumb palooka" roles. 

The film has to-the-point direction by Lambert Hillyer, best known for later helming DRACULA'S DAUGHTER and THE INVISIBLE RAY. (Some sources say that Hillyer was born in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana, but other sources say that he was born in Tyner, a small town in the next county.) Jo Swerling is credited with the screenplay, which takes care of all of Mitchell's problems too neatly (I would have liked to have seen him suffer a bit because of his shenanigans). 

It's fitting that the above ad gives Jean Arthur top billing--she's the main reason to view this film. 

Sunday, February 5, 2023



BLACKOUT is one of the many crime/suspense/noir tales produced by Hammer Films in the early 1950s, before they turned their attention to science fiction and Gothic horror. This movie was first released in 1954, and it was titled MURDER BY PROXY in the United Kingdom. It was directed by Terence Fisher. 

If you have any knowledge of the low-budget noirs made by Hammer, you'll be familiar with the main plot points of BLACKOUT. A down-and-out American in London comes across a duplicitous female, gets associated with a murder, and spends the rest of the film trying to clear his name. 

An American named Casey Morrow (Dane Clark) is getting drunk at the bar in the hotel he is staying, when a gorgeous blonde (Belinda Lee) comes up to him and offers to give him 500 pounds if he marries her. Casey is in such a bad state he can hardly refuse...but he wakes up the next morning in someone else's apartment, with no knowledge of what happened the night before. Casey soon learns that the young woman who he supposedly married is Phyllis Brunner, the daughter of a rich businessman who was found murdered. Casey suspects he's being set up, and tries to find out what really happened, while dealing with Phyllis and the various associates of the dead man. 

BLACKOUT isn't a bad movie, but whatever suspense it is supposed to have is mitigated by a screenplay that goes off on too many detours. This type of story needs an attitude of haunted desperation, and it certainly isn't here. At one point, while trying to avoid the authorities, Casey reconnects with his mother (who he hasn't seen in eight years) and also starts to develop real feelings for Phyllis. This sequence brings the proceedings to a halt. One gets the feeling that the script for BLACKOUT was written for a particular running time (the movie's length is about 90 minutes, which I think is too long for this type of material). 

Another problem with BLACKOUT is that the main character of Casey doesn't instill warm feelings to the audience. It doesn't help that in the first scenes Casey is so drunk he can barely function. As an actor Dane Clark was something of a minor league John Garfield. He's okay here, but there's nothing about his character that is all that interesting. Clark tries to inject some light humor into what he's doing, but this falls flat. 

One thing that must be said about BLACKOUT is that the female characters are far more stronger than the males. Even secretaries and Phyllis' middle-aged mother are more than a match for Casey. Belinda Lee was still only a teenager when she made this film, although you wouldn't believe that while watching her. Lee died in a car accident in 1961--if she had lived, she might have been as well remembered as her contemporary Diana Dors. (Terence Fisher had in fact already directed Dors a couple years earlier in a movie called MAN BAIT, also known as THE LAST PAGE, and I thought that Belinda Lee did a much better job in BLACKOUT than Dors did in the earlier film.) The most likable character in the film is the helpful Maggie, played by Eleanor Summerfield, who acted in a number of pictures directed by Terence Fisher during this period. 

If, while watching BLACKOUT, you're going to be looking for any special "directorial moments" from Terence Fisher, you won't find any. BLACKOUT is made effectively, but there's nothing in it that sticks out, or reminds you of anything in Fisher's later career. The script was written by Richard Landau, who did a lot of work for Hammer at this time (he would later work on the script for THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, then spend most of his time in American television). The story offers no real surprises, and things are tidied up a bit too neatly at the end. 

BLACKOUT is available on the Tubi streaming channel. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023



Did you know there was a 1969 TV movie for ABC that starred Janet Leigh? And Barbara Steele?? I didn't have any knowledge of this either, until recently. HONEYMOON WITH A STRANGER is a decent suspense/mystery tale with some effective twists. 

Janet Leigh plays Sandra, an American woman who has recently married a European playboy named Ernesto (Joseph Lenzi) after a whirlwind romance. Ernesto takes his new bride to one of his many domiciles, a modernized castle in Spain. It appears that Sandra's life has become too good to be true, and that's exactly the case. Sandra goes to the local town to report that her husband has gone missing, and soon another man (Cesare Danova) shows up at the castle, claiming that he's Ernesto, and that he married Sandra. Ernesto's lawyer (Eric Braeden) and younger sister Carla (Barbara Steele) arrive to back up the second man's claims. Sandra appears to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown over all of this....but there's more revelations to come, with everyone involved concealing all manner of secrets. 

I became aware of this movie through Michael Eugene Wilson's blog Mike's Movie Room ( Michael is a huge Barbara Steele fan. I've read plenty of things about Steele and her career, but the subject of HONEYMOON WITH A STRANGER never came up as far as I know--another example of a performer's television work being considered unimportant. Barbara doesn't have a lot of screen time here, but she looks quite stylish in her contemporary wardrobe, and she plays the cold-blooded Carla very well. One big bonus with this movie is that Steele isn't dubbed, so you get to hear her actual voice. 


Janet Leigh takes advantage of a role that allows her to literally go through the gamut of emotional states. Joseph Lenzi, Cesare Danova, and Eric Braeden give the production a continental flavor, even though their characterizations are simple and to the point. Rossano Brazzi plays the local police inspector investigating the goings-on, and he also gets the chance to have a tentative romance with Leigh's Sandra. 

HONEYMOON WITH A STRANGER was directed by Joseph Peyser and written by David P. Harmon and Henry Slesar (all three were long-time veterans of American network TV). The story on which the teleplay was based has been adapted for film or TV several times. The Spanish locations do make the picture stand out a bit from the typical fare being made at the time, but I have to say that the way the movie was shot and edited still gives it a very American TV feel. 

I must admit that I kind of anticipated the major plot twist, but it was still pulled off effectively nonetheless. The storyline reminded me very much of the "Mini-Hitchcocks" suspense thrillers made by Hammer Films and usually written by Jimmy Sangster, where a plot twist takes you down one avenue, and another plot twist has you go back and rethink everything. In HONEYMOON WITH A STRANGER, there's a couple of plot details that seem unimportant at the time, but become vital when the viewer finally knows exactly what is going on. 

I watched HONEYMOON WITH A STRANGER on YouTube--unfortunately the video quality of it was mediocre. As far as I can ascertain, this movie has never had a major home video release. I'm surprised at that, since the involvement of Janet Leigh and Barbara Steele would certainly be an enticement for prospective buyers. This movie is the type of product that Kino or Shout Factory would be interested in. 

I liked HONEYMOON WITH A STRANGER and would recommend it. Hopefully a better version of it becomes available in the future.