Roger Moore: More than just a Bond

Simply put, there was more of an actor in Sir Roger Moore, who died May 23, 2017, at 89, than required for the roles with which he became attached. He occasionally won an opportunity to prove that he had a range beyond portraying secret agent James Bond in seven motion pictures and the modern-day Robin Hood named Simon Templar, otherwise known as The Saint, in 118 episodes of a beloved TV series of the 1960s. One wishes he had more such opportunities arise during his interesting lifetime.

True, the action-adventure image Moore ably filled both on the large and small screen fit in with the relaxed, witty man of the world he most often played. From unlikely American western lead in his younger days to distinguished United Kingdom noblemen, Moore brought charm with authority, in addition to likeability to roles he essayed that didn't seem to warrant the effort. He may always be thought of as Bond, Ian Fleming's iconic espionage warrior with a license to kill, and that's inesca…

Lost and found: 'The Story of Molly X'

Recently billed on some streaming sources as a "lost" crime film of the post-World War II era, THE STORY OF MOLLY X (1949) offers an intriguing title for a pretty routine thriller from Universal-International at a time when the studio entered a vogue with noir-themed productions, although they weren't being called "noir" right then. According to some critics, the film and others of its stripe deserved to be hidden away. Found "dreary" by historian Clive Hirschhorn* except for lead player June Havoc's enactment of the title role, THE STORY OF MOLLY X does have its compensations in using a semi-documentary tone to tell its story and the determination of its supporting cast of relatively fresh performers to put the film over with audiences.

Written and directed by Crane Wilbur, the 82-minute feature produced by U-I veteran Aaron Rosenberg opens with Molly, narrating her story and not providing a last name, telling us of a turning point in her life in …

A tale of two movies: 'Women Without Men'/'Blonde Bait'

We're not on a run with women-in-prison movies here, but the case of the Hammer Films production of WOMEN WITHOUT MEN (1955) and its Americanized version BLONDE BAIT, released the following year, offer a fascinating look at how one overseas picture became something almost entirely different by the time U.S. audiences got to see it. Not an unusual situation, given the number of Mexican-made imports of the 1960s that underwent an almost complete transformation in plot and tone thanks to editing and dubbing into English. BLONDE BAIT is still recognizably WOMEN WITHOUT MEN, but with sequences filmed in Hollywood prior to release that made for some significant changes from the original, some for the good, others not so.

In fact, WOMEN WITHOUT MEN, directed by American film editor Elmo Williams, remains the best version despite its production manager, Jimmy Sangster, dismissing it as "silly," which may have had more to do with Sangster's own admitted aversion to the job he …

'Dear Joan ...': Recalling her final appearance

By the early 1970s, Joan Crawford's status as a true icon of Hollywood's glory days was firmly established. But like her famed rival Bette Davis, the 60-something actress still had the yen to work, and while the vehicles and assignments came her way, the demands on her talents weren't equal to the task. Joan's movie career had ended with the British-made thriller TROG (1970), in which the force of her presence made the horror-themed production palatable, despite one biographer's carping about Joan being "hardly required to bother with acting at all; it is sufficient that she is merely present and keeps a straight face no matter what happens."* Sadly, fans wished her convincing performance as a wealthy blind matron who pays for a few hours of vision in "Eyes," the middle story of the three-part made-for-TV movie NIGHT GALLERY (1969) had been her adieu to the screen, surrounded as she was in a classier enterprise that served as the initial directo…

Review: Relishing a new set of horrors and then some

FORGOTTEN HORRORS, VOL. 10: THE MISSING YEARS, by Michael H. Price with Van Cliburn and George E. Turner. Lower Klopstokia: Cremo Studios, 2016, 359 pages. $30.

The FORGOTTEN HORRORS franchise launched by George E. Turner and Michael H. Price with a single volume at the end of the 1970s heralded an appreciation of not only horror and science fiction films produced in Hollywood since the beginning of talking movies, but motion pictures whose creators included bizarre themes in what were intended as mainstream, non-genrified pictures. Many of these "forgotten horrors" had fallen into obscurity because thery were the product of B movie studios and independent producers, with some viewers finding their unknown status entirely justified. Not so for a growing legion of movie fans who encountered such films either on TV or home video and hungered for well-researched information and knowledgeable criticism, either good or bad.

The original FORGOTTEN HORRORS volume, revised and redesig…

Some thoughts on Robert Osborne

Robert Osborne's passing from this mortal coil on March 6, 2017, at 84 leaves a void in the world of film appreciation that will be filled, but perhaps without the wealth of experience, knowledge and savvy that the onetime actor and columnist brought to his role as the lead host of Turner Classic Movies. But in the more than two decades in which he performed that role with a courtly and engaging manner, he set a standard for class and backstory about the films he introduced that the cable channel will continue to pursue as co-hosts Ben Mankiewicz and Tiffany Vazquez presumably step up to take his place.

Not that I was always in love with Bob Osborne's approach and TCM's selection of films, but to each his own. I know he was enamored of the movies that defined Hollywood's Golden Age, especially musicals produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But there were times I wondered if he had a certain disdain for some genres and really hadn't seen some of the flicks he discussed, i…

'Bad Sister': Bette's inaspicious movie debut

FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN, the FX series that debuted March 5, is doing its part to shed light on the careers of screen legends and rivals Bette Davis (1908-1989) and Joan Crawford (1904-1977), not a bad thing given their influence on Hollywood acting style and history. While the series focuses primarily on Bette and Joan's first and only teaming for WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) and obsessive need to top one another both professionally and personally, the program is rich in reference to the movies that made Bette, played by Susan Sarandon, and Joan, enacted by Jessica Lange, such enduring icons. (Not to mention the record of the show's third major character, BABY JANE producer-director Robert Aldrich, capably brought to life by Alfred Molina).

The undeniable fact is that Davis and Crawford were both on their way to some kind of oblivion when BABY JANE's freak success put them in the spotlight again, earning its stars a new lease on life and movies of varying quality th…