Monday, August 28, 2023



Another Western from director Antonio Margheriti (or Anthony Dawson, if you prefer). VENGEANCE was also co-written by Margheriti. The movie's original Italian title is JOKO INVOCA DIO...E MOURI. 

This is a more typical Euro Western, with a scruffy loner as the main character, plenty of sweaty close-ups, and tightly edited action sequences. Richard Harrison plays "Rocco" Barrett (at least that's what he's called in the English dub of the movie that I saw--other sources say the man is called "Joko"), who wants vengeance on the men who tortured and killed his friend, and made off with a horde of stolen gold. Rocco himself was involved in the gold robbery--but he's far less of a bad guy than those he's after. 

The movie starts out with a visually arresting pre-credits sequence detailing how Rocco's friend was tortured and killed (he's roped to a number of horses, and basically drawn and quartered). The film then becomes a series of confrontations between Rocco and the men he's after. Along his travels Rocco gets involved with a saloon girl (Spela Rozin) and he's tailed by a mysterious Pinkerton agent (Paolo Gozlino) who resembles and dresses like Lee Van Cleef's Colonel Mortimer. 

Richard Harrison is an acceptable enough Spaghetti Western hero, but there's really nothing that makes him stand out. About halfway through the story it is revealed that Rocco is part Native American, but this feels like a random point designed to try and inject some interest in the character. Some sources state that the man Rocco is getting revenge for is his brother (in the version I viewed he's a close friend). Spela Rozin, an attractive actress from Yugoslavia that I had never encountered before, manages to make an impression in her role (Margheriti makes sure to show her in her underclothes in one scene). Euro cult legend Luciano Pigozzi (credited under his "Alan Collins" moniker) has a small role as the most pathetic of the men Rocco is after. 

The most notable character in the film is the eccentric "Professor" Mendoza, played by Claudio Camaso. Mendoza is a weirdly dressed fellow who carries a cane (the best way I can describe his fashion sense is that he's a roughneck fop). Like a lot of Euro Westerns, the unconventional villain gets the viewer's attention much more than the hero. 

VENGEANCE does have a lot of impressive shot compositions (the cinematographer was Ricardo Pallottini), and Margheriti includes a few unique elements, such as a nighttime shootout and a death by spurs in the neck. The energetic music score is by Carlo Savina. 

I wouldn't call VENGEANCE a top-tier Euro Western, but like most films directed by Antonio Margheriti, it's entertaining and energetic enough to spend your time watching it.  

Saturday, August 26, 2023

IS PARIS BURNING? On Blu-ray From Kino


As a World War II buff, I've seen nearly every major film that revolves around a battle or campaign from that conflict. One WWII picture I had not yet seen was the 1966 French epic IS PARIS BURNING? Kino has just released a restored version of the film on Blu-ray.

IS PARIS BURNING? is essentially a French equivalent of THE LONGEST DAY. Both films have a massive running time, several characters played by plenty of famous names, and a sweeping, dramatic look at an important time in history from various viewpoints. 

The Liberation of Paris in 1944 was a messy, chaotic, thrilling affair, and IS PARIS BURNING? does its best to present it in a cinematic fashion. French President Charles de Gaulle was firmly behind the production, which allowed director Rene Clement and his crew incredible access to the city of Paris and its landmarks. (To get this access, however, the filmmakers had to accede to de Gaulle's wishes when it came to script and story development.) The script is credited to Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola.  

There's plenty of notable performers in this three-hour epic, including such legends of French cinema as Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Boyer, Leslie Caron, Alain Delon, Yves Montand, and Simone Signoret. The American actors who make cameos are more distracting than welcome--this is a French story, after all. (Kirk Douglas as George Patton?? Glenn Ford as Omar Bradley??). Orson Welles gives another of his many bit roles in a major international production as a Swedish diplomat trying to save Paris from being destroyed, but this time around he seems more committed to his role than in his other cameos. Gert Frobe does very well as the German commander of Paris, a man stuck in a very difficult position. 

If there is a lead character in this film, it is the city of Paris itself. Due to the fact that this movie was made in black & white, and it was produced only 20 years after the end of WWII, there's a definite documentary-like feel to IS PARIS BURNING?, especially since there's a lot of historical footage mixed in. Despite the length of the film, it has a driving momentum throughout, and the tension increases as the actual liberation comes closer. One can't help but be moved during the climax, even though the final result is already known. One of the major successful elements of IS PARIS BURNING? is the majestic music score by Maurice Jarre. 

I found IS PARIS BURNING? to be an excellent and riveting film, and I rank it among the best WWII epics. The movie wasn't a big hit upon release in America, and I can't ever remember it being shown on local TV during my younger days. This may be due to the fact that, as I have stated before, this is a French story--and the big American names are only onscreen for a few minutes at most. I'm very happy that Kino has given this film a proper home video release--it deserves to be better known. 

On the disc cover of IS PARIS BURNING? Kino states that the film has been restored from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The black & white 2.35:1 image is very sharp--but it does make the actual historical footage stick out even more. There are three audio options: 5.1 English, 2.0 English, and 2.0 French (with English subtitles). The 5.1 mix is very robust, and it really brings out Maurice Jarre's wonderful score. This Region A disc presents the full uncut version of the film, with the roadshow overture, intermission, and entr'acte. 

A new audio commentary is included by Daniel Kremer and Howard S. Berger. Both men are very enthusiastic, but that enthusiasm gets them carried away at times, to the point where they spend too much time talking about things that have nothing to do with the actual film. 

If you love historical and/or World War II epics, this Kino release of IS PARIS BURNING? will be a fine addition to your movie collection. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023



My quest to seek out movies directed by Antonio Margeriti that I haven't seen begins with the 1967 Euro Western DYNAMITE JOE (also known as JOE L'IMPLACABILE). 

This movie features Rik Van Nutter as "Dynamite" Joe Ford, a special agent for the U.S. Government after the Civil War. Joe is called upon to stop a series of raids perpetrated by Comancheros upon gold shipments, and his explosive skills come in handy. 

DYNAMITE JOE feels like a Spaghetti Western made in the early 1970s--the "Trinity" era of the genre--than one made in 1967. It's a lighthearted outing, even a bit silly at times, but it's also entertaining. Despite all the explosions (an Antonio Margheriti specialty) there's no overt blood or gore--Joe's enemies are literally blown up to nothingness. 

As for Dynamite Joe himself, he's not a taciturn scruffy loner. He's a well-dressed outgoing ladies man, who enjoys the finer things in life (such as gambling and dance hall girls). Since Rik Van Nutter had played James Bond's buddy Felix Leiter in THUNDERBALL, one would assume that there was an attempt to give Dynamite Joe a 007 type of vibe, and I'm sure that's true--but while watching this movie I was constantly reminded of the great American 1960s TV adventure series THE WILD WILD WEST. Joe Ford has a lot in common with Robert Conrad's James West--both men are always impeccably dressed, both men are handsome and a hit with the ladies, and both men have a seemingly inexhaustible amount of gadgets hidden in their clothing. The plot of DYNAMITE JOE could have easily been turned into an episode of THE WILD WILD WEST. Instead of being teamed with a master of disguise like James West was, Joe gets help from an old coot and an alluring blonde double agent (Halina Zalewska). 

I've stated on this blog before that Rik Van Nutter was one of the most mediocre actors to portray Felix Leiter in the James Bond series, but I have to admit he does a good job here as the dashing Joe. (One main reason for this may be that unlike in THUNDERBALL, Nutter in this film isn't surrounded by actors with far more screen presence than he had.) DYNAMITE JOE does fall short in the villains department--we get another duplicitous American businessman and a typical over-the-top Mexican bandit chief, but at least a late plot twist reveals some good old political corruption. The main notable strange Euro Western element here is a stagecoach made entirely of gold, which, unfortunately, isn't showcased properly. 

DYNAMITE JOE was shot in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and Margheriti (credited as usual as Anthony Dawson) makes expert use of it. Margheriti and cinematographer Manuel Merino (who worked extensively with Jess Franco) make the movie look much more expensive than it probably was. There's also an energetic music score by Carlo Savina. The movie not only includes a few songs, it also has a couple of ballroom scenes--for better or worse, it does stick out from the usual Spaghetti Westerns made at this time. 

It doesn't belong in the top tier of Euro Westerns, but DYNAMITE JOE is a fun (if goofy) viewing experience--especially if you like to see things blown up. What DYNAMITE JOE really does is show how versatile Antonio Margheriti was as a director. If you watch this film and, say, his later Western AND GOD SAID TO CAIN back-to-back, you'd swear they were made by two different people. 

It would be great if DYNAMITE JOE got a proper North American Blu-ray release. The movie is available on YouTube and a number of streaming outlets, but make sure you pick a version that is uncut and in widescreen. 

Saturday, August 19, 2023



One of the new additions to the Tubi streaming channel is the 2013 documentary THE OUTSIDER--THE CINEMA OF ANTONIO MARGHERITI. 

I have a huge home video collection, and if you sorted it out by director, you'd find there's quite a few titles helmed by Antonio Margheriti. Better known under the moniker "Anthony M. Dawson", Margheriti made films of all genres over a 40-year career, including many that have gone on to achieve cult status. 

The documentary's title comes from Margheriti's sci-fi outing BATTLE OF THE WORLDS, where Claude Rains refers to a galactic menace as "The Outsider". This film tries to suggest that Margheriti was an outsider in the world of Italian cinema because he made adventures and thrillers for a general audience--although personally I don't think it makes that case. 

THE OUTSIDER was produced and directed by Margheriti's son Edoardor, and he appears onscreen, going over various aspects of his father's career. Instead of a straight narrative, the documentary breaks down Margheriti's work by genres, covering science fiction, horror, sword & sandal, westerns, and finally a series of jungle commando action movies the director made in the 1980s. Most of the movie footage comes from trailers of the actual films. 

A number of people who worked with Margheriti provide their memories, including Barbara Bouchet, Franco Nero, Richard Harrison, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, Luigi Cozzi, and Ernesto Gastaldi. There's also plenty of vintage interview footage of Margheriti himself, where among other things he discusses his dealings with Klaus Kinski and Barbara Steele. (Unfortunately there's no footage of him talking about Christopher Lee, who he worked with on THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG.) 

Considering that THE OUTSIDER was made by the son of the subject, I expected much more detail and insight into the life and work of Antonio Margheriti than what is given. Only the most basic biographical info on Margheriti is presented, and what the man himself says doesn't reveal much. (There is an explanation of how Margheriti came upon his Anthony Dawson pseudonym.) The viewer finds out that he loved movies, loved making them, and didn't take his work (or himself) too seriously--and that's about it. (He also liked blowing things up, as a mere cursory examination of his directorial career will show. Margeriti was also a FX artist who worked extensively with miniatures.) 

At one point during THE OUTSIDER Margheriti is called a storyteller rather than an author. I think that's the best analysis of the director in this film. I believe what was meant by that is Margheriti was not an innovator, or an originator--he took familiar stories and popular genres and made dozens of movies that tried to entertain, and could be watched by anyone. In the end there's nothing wrong with that. 

THE OUTSIDER is only an hour long, and at times it feels like a rough cut of something that was meant to be longer and more extensive. It's not badly made, but it will be better appreciated by those who are just beginning to get into Italian cult genre cinema. THE OUTSIDER has given me a few more Antonio Margheriti titles to track down and watch. 

Monday, August 14, 2023



This is not THE NAKED GUN, it's just plain NAKED GUN, a 1956 low-budget Western that has a cast that will get the interest of classic sci-fi movie fans. 

If anything, NAKED GUN has too many characters and subplots for its 69 minute running time. There's a drunken piano player who introduces the film, a town boss (Barton MacLane, playing a variation of one of his many gangster characters), his hot-tempered bodyguard (cult legend Timothy Carey), a hanging judge, a disreputable gambler and his tough-as-nails wife (Veda Ann Borg), the Sheriff (Morris Ankrum, billed as "Morrie") and his niece (Mara Corday), and the actual leading man of the film, Willard Parker as insurance agent Breen Mathews. 

Breen Mathews has taken a vow to protect the treasure of the Salazars, an old Mexican family. While traveling to San Francisco to search for the last Salazar heir, Mathews stops in the town of Topaz, and he gets involved in the sundry doings of its inhabitants. 

One expects the Salazar treasure to be the main plot point, but the story veers off into dealing with one of the town judge's many executions, and how those who helped set up the wrongly accused are being killed off (I correctly guessed whodunit). The Salazar treasure winds up getting stolen, but even after that Mathews seems to fade into the background compared to all of the other goings-on. 

A lot of that may have to do with Willard Parker, a B movie veteran who wasn't the most dynamic actor in the world. A romance develops between Parker and Mara Corday's character, which feels forced, because Parker looks like he could be Corday's father. (Parker was 44 when this movie was made, and he looks older.) Parker would later star in the British science-fiction feature THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, directed by Terence Fisher. 

The main sci-fi connections here are of course Mara Corday and Morris Ankrum, who were major stars of several fantastic films of the 1950s. Fans of the gorgeous Corday will be disappointed--she doesn't get much to do. Throughout the story there's talk of her character singing at the town saloon, so one expects a scene of her performing while wearing a dance hall girl outfit--but it never happens. A catfight does start between Corday and Veda Ann Borg, but Willard Parker almost immediately stops it. There's a literal last-minute revelation about Corday's character which boosts her importance, but it comes way too late. 

NAKED GUN was produced and co-written by low-budget maven Ron Ormond, and it feels more like a talky hour-long episode of a TV series than a feature film. Even the title is a misnomer--much of the brief violence is perpetrated by a knife rather than a pistol. The main reason I watched NAKED GUN was due to Mara Corday and Morris Ankrum, but even their worst sci-fi outings were more fun to view than this. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023



Last year I chose the German-made adaptation of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT as the best film of 2022. After I wrote a blog post on it a few people mentioned the 1979 TV film of the novel, which I had never seen. 

Recently I bought an 8-movie DVD set of action films from Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers for about $7. The set was made by Shout Factory, so the quality is good. What all eight of the movies featured on it have in common is that they were produced by Lord Lew Grade's ITC company--and one of the films in the set happens to be the 1979 ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. The version in this DVD set has been formatted to 1.78:1 widescreen, and it is 157 minutes long. 

The 1979 ALL QUIET was one of the many American TV network adaptations of classic novels and stories made in the late 1970s-early 80s. This was an attempt by the networks to gain ratings by showing new versions of distinguished fare, usually with bigger stars (and bigger budgets) than a viewer would see in a typical TV show. The '79 ALL QUIET follows this pattern, with an international cast, a European shooting location, and an Oscar-winning director. 

Richard Thomas (best known at the time for his starring role in THE WALTONS TV series) plays Paul Baumer, the young German student who enlists in his country's army during World War One. As in other movie adaptations of Erich Maria Remarque's novel, Paul's youthful exuberance goes away rather quickly as he experiences the violence and devastation of the Western Front. 

The '79 ALL QUIET starts out with a major battle sequence, before any of the characters are even introduced. The story then shows how Paul and his schoolmates joined the army and went through training by a series of flashbacks. 

Due to the non-linear narrative, the movie is more a series of vignettes than a consistent main story, showing all aspects of the war as seen through the eyes of common soldiers. There's a lot of narration by Paul, which is something Richard Thomas did during THE WALTONS. This means that at times it does feel like you're watching JOHN-BOY GOES TO WAR. 

The cast is quite impressive, with Ernest Borgnine as the crafty veteran soldier Kat, along with Donald Pleasence and Ian Holm. Patricia Neal plays Paul's mom. Both Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine are very good, but it must be pointed out that they are much older than the characters they are playing. 

This production does have a theatrical rather than a television type of feel, especially when one views it in widescreen. The '79 ALL QUIET was filmed in Czechoslovakia, and the battle scenes are well-staged. The cinematographer was John Coquillon, and the production designer was John Stoll, so visually the movie is excellent. The director was Delbert Mann (MARTY), and he keeps a nice balance between the intimate and epic elements of the story. (This movie was actually released theatrically in a few countries.) 

I don't think that the '79 ALL QUIET is as powerful as the 1930 and 2022 versions, but it is definitely worth seeing, especially if you are able to watch the full-length cut (I believe the 157 minute version has scenes not included in the original TV broadcast). It's a fairly faithful adaptation, and it's quite grim for something shown on 1970s American TV. 

Monday, August 7, 2023



I was going through some of my back issues of CINEMA RETRO (a fine magazine, by the way) when I came across an article on the 1962 French film LAFAYETTE. This was an epic production about Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, and his involvement in the American Revolution. The CINEMA RETRO article detailed how this production was one of the most expensive French films up to that time, and how it was a 70mm epic with a running time of nearly three hours. 

I decided to see if I could find LAFAYETTE on any streaming channels or internet sites. I did find a 133 minute version of it on the Internet Archive, a version that also had the original French sound track with English subtitles. The presentation was in widescreen, and the picture quality, featuring bold colors, was fantastic. 

Nearly the entire film of LAFAYETTE revolves around the American Revolution. The young Marquis (Michel Le Royer) is a well-to-do young aristocrat with a beautiful wife, yet he's determined to help the rebels in North America fight for their independence against the British Empire. After much cajoling among the court of King Louis XVI, Lafayette finally arrives in America, and becomes close to George Washington (Howard St. John). Lafayette goes on to prove his worth to the American cause, and is present when the British General Cornwallis' army surrenders at Yorktown. 

LAFAYETTE is a well-mounted production, with plenty of extras, lots of soldiers and horseback riders, and many sweeping battle scenes. But it's lacking a certain emotional element. Lafayette is constantly going on about how much he is committed to the American cause, but he never really explains why (at least he didn't in the version I saw). Lafayette is also always virtuous and brave, at times almost unbelievably so. Because of this he seems more like a set of ideals than an actual person. According to this movie, it was the Marquis who gave Washington the idea that the Continental Army should harass and snipe at the British instead of fighting them head on in a major battle, and the young fellow even convinces a group of Iroquois warriors to turn against their English allies! (We also don't learn anything about what happened to the Marquis after his service in the American Revolution.) 

Washington (played by an American actor who recites his dialogue in English) is also incredibly noble--the only time he gets angry is when he's dealing with members of Congress (can't blame him there). Jack Hawkins (who also recites most of his dialogue in his native tongue) plays a very foppish Cornwallis, while Orson Welles does another of his many guest-starring turns as Benjamin Franklin. Eurocult fans will be very happy to know that German cinema legend Wolfgang Preiss gets a very substantial part as Baron Kolb....and he even gets an impressive death scene. Other notable names among the cast are Edmund Purdom, Rosanna Schiaffino, and Vittorio De Sica. 

LAFAYETTE was directed by Jean Dreville, who uses the widescreen format very well. (The battle scenes taking place in America were actually filmed in Yugoslavia.) Despite all the money and effort put into this picture, LAFAYETTE comes off more like a historical pageant instead of a gripping true life story. It's the type of movie that would be shown in schools to kids in the 1970s.....but it still would be nice to see it get a major Region A home video release. 

Saturday, August 5, 2023



My latest Tubi discovery is the English language version of the 1966 remake of DIE NIBELUNGEN. Like the legendary silent version of the story directed by Fritz Lang, the 1966 version is in two parts, with a massive running time. The title WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY is affixed to this English language version. 

The silent version of DIE NIBELUNGEN is one of my favorite films of all time, so I had some concern about how the 1966 version would come off. I have to say that the '66 version is much better than I expected it to be. It's a true cinematic epic, being one of the most expensive German productions up to that time. 

The 1966 version follows the silent version's storyline almost exactly, with the first part detailing how the noble Siegfried (Uwe Beyer) slew a dragon, gained control of the Nibelungen treasure, and assisted King Gunther in his quest to win the hand of Brunhild (Karin Dor). Siegfried marries Gunther's sister Kriemhild (Maria Marlow), but jealousy leads to betrayal and murder, with Siegfried dying at the hands of the scheming Hagen. The second part tells how Kriemhild, devastated over the death of Siegfried, plots revenge against her family after her marriage to the King of the Huns (Herbert Lom). 

WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY is in color and widescreen, and it has majestic shooting locations and interior sets. Most of the outdoor scenes were shot in either Yugoslavia, Spain, or Iceland, and they all have an unusual, otherworldly look, making viewers believe they truly are watching a tale taking place in an ancient time and land. The sets are grandiose, as are the costumes, and the music score is sweeping and dramatic. This production also uses color the way it should be used--the hues are vivid and vibrant. (This isn't one of those epics that makes the ancient world look grungy and pallid.)

The filmmakers behind WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY were producer Artur Brauner and director Harald Reinl, best known now for the various Krimi movies they were involved in. Karin Dor was also a Krimi veteran (and Harald Reinl's wife at the time). She makes a very determined and fiercely independent Brunhild. Uwe Beyer wasn't an actor--he had been an Olympic athlete when he was chosen to play Siegfried. Nevertheless, his naive exuberance and physical prowess is right for the part. Maria Marlow is very good as Kriemhild, displaying how the character goes from innocent young girl to ice-cold widow, but she isn't able to project the searing intensity that Margarete Schon gave the role in the silent version. 

A few other performers will in WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY will be of interest to film geeks. Skip Martin, who plays the dwarf Alberich, appeared as Hop Toad in Roger Corman's THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Spaghetti Western legend Terence Hill (billed here under his birth name, Mario Girotti) plays one of King Gunther's brothers, and Samson Burke is in this as well--he was Hercules in THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES. As already mentioned, Herbert Lom plays the King of the Huns, though his Attila is much more stately than Rudolf Klein-Rogge's interpretation of the role in the silent version. 

Despite how impressed I was with WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY, I still feel the silent version of DIE NIBELUNGEN is superior. The silent version, due to its lack of dialogue and being in black & white, has a timeless, fairy tale quality to it. WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY can't help but be more realistic, due to more modern cinematic techniques. Where WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY really comes up short is in the more fantastical elements of the story, such as Siegfried's battle with the dragon. The 1966 version's dragon is sadly mediocre (it looks like something from either a cheap kaiju movie or a TV show for kids). One would think that with all the money spent on the 1966 version, they could have come up with a more impressive creature--but it seems to me the '66 version downplayed the fantasy elements, which might have been the right choice. 

Those who have seen the silent DIE NIBELUNGEN and appreciate it will definitely want to see the 1966 version, at least for a comparison. The '66 version uses the almost exact same shot compositions as the silent version in a few scenes. (According to internet sources producer Artur Brauner actually wanted Fritz Lang to helm the remake.) An English-speaking viewer of today may find the 1966 version to be heavy going--the dubbing isn't all that bad, but none of the characters are all that warm or engaging. Anyone who happens to like vast, grand cinematic spectacle will get into WHOM THE GODS WISH TO DESTROY. The print of it being shown on Tubi looks magnificent, which makes me wish that this production somehow gets a Region A special edition home video release in the future. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023



LADY FOR A NIGHT is a 1942 Republic production starring two of my favorites, Joan Blondell and John Wayne. With the film being set in post-Civil War Memphis, I assumed it was going to be a rollicking period adventure--but it actually is more of a Southern Gothic with a few GONE WITH THE WIND elements thrown in. 

The movie begins with a Mardi Gras carnival, where a Queen of the festivities is to be chosen. The winner is Jenny Blake (Joan Blondell), a woman who owns a gambling boat and who also has a notorious reputation. The choice of Jenny as Mardi Gras Queen angers Memphis society, and she is so upset by this she decides to do whatever it takes to join the so-called respectable class. Jenny uses the gambling debts of drunken Alan Alderson (Ray Middleton) to induce him into marriage. The Aldersons are an old Southern aristocratic family, but they've fallen on very hard times--and they want absolutely nothing to do with Jenny. The woman tries to win over her new in-laws, but she doesn't realize how dangerous they are. Observing all of this is the only man who truly accepts and loves who Jenny is, Memphis big-wig Jackson Morgan (John Wayne). 

LADY FOR A NIGHT does have a few musical numbers scattered in it (even Blondell gets to perform in a couple), but the main plot revolves around Jenny's dealings with the snobbish but downtrodden Alderson family. Alan is drunken and irresponsible (and he spends almost no time with his new wife), while his father (Phillip Merivale) acts as if the Confederacy won the war. Alan's aunts are a couple of spinsters--Julia (Blanche Yurka) is a Mrs. Danvers-like character who will do anything to uphold the family "name". while the dotty Katherine (Edith Barrett) had her only chance at happiness ruined by her relatives years ago, and has never gotten over it. The Aldersons live in a run down, rambling manor called (appropriately) The Shadows, and the rest of the world has seemingly passed them by. The weirdness of the Aldersons almost makes LADY FOR A NIGHT feel like a Tennessee Williams story. 

This movie is a bit of a stretch for Joan Blondell. For one thing, it's not a contemporary story, and Jenny Blake isn't one of Blondell's typical sassy & energetic portrayals. Jenny is a calculating woman who is so determined to "better" herself, she lets her own very successful gambling showboat catch fire so she can start a new life. After her marriage of convenience Jenny finds out quite quickly that her new situation isn't anything like she hoped it would be. Jenny tries to crash society by hosting a soiree at The Shadows, but she invites a troupe of can-can girls to perform, giving the movie an excuse to present another musical number and shocking her guests. Eventually, due to the machinations of the diabolical Julia, Jenny winds up being accused of murder. The former gambling queen learns the hard way that there's nothing very impressive about the "upper class". 

As for the GONE WITH THE WIND elements, Jenny certainly has a lot of Scarlett O'Hara vibes about her, and she is even given a Mammy-like maid in the form of Chloe, played by Hattie Noel. One would presume that John Wayne is the Rhett Butler equivalent, and he is, sort of, but the Duke doesn't have all that much to do here. One expects Wayne to take matters into his own hands and solve all the plot problems himself, but he doesn't--this is Blondell's movie all the way. (One must remember that in 1942, Wayne was just at the beginning of his time as a Hollywood leading man.) 

LADY FOR A NIGHT was directed by Leigh Jason, a man who doesn't have any major pictures to his credit (or at least any that I am familiar with). He does well in mixing the dance hall and Gothic elements. Cinematographer Norbert Brodine provides some fine black & white images, especially those involving the Aldersons' manor house. At one point Blondell wanders about the lonely house in the dark, just like a traditional Gothic heroine would. 

I once again must mention Blanche Yurka and Edith Barrett as the Alderson sisters--they make a vivid impression, and they even overshadow Blondell and Wayne. Yurka is a distinctly memorable villain, and Barrett gains sympathy as the beaten-down and poignant Katherine. (Ironically, even though Barrett is playing a woman supposedly much older than Jenny, in real life the actress was a few months younger than Blondell.) 

LADY FOR A NIGHT is a very good film, but this isn't a movie that presents a wisecracking, fast-talking Joan Blondell and a hard-charging John Wayne. It does, however, provide a different type of story that will pleasantly surprise most viewers.