Showing posts from September, 2016

Charlie Chan in charge: 'The Black Camel'

Earl Derr Biggers' novels featuring Honolulu police detective Charlie Chan, whose politeness and seemingly slow approach to the mystery he's investigating at the moment mask a keen intelligence and understanding of his fellow man, may be forgotten today due to the controversy surrounding the character that has arisen in recent times. Such discontent over a perceived slight of Asians and Asian-Americans is unjustified in that Charlie, a man held in high esteem by colleagues for his prowess in crime-solving, is an appealing creation who fulfills a heroic role in the stories in which he was cast by Biggers. None of the negative stereotypes of Asians that filled pages of popular fiction in Charlie's time, such as Sax Rohmer's clearly villainous Dr. Fu Manchu, can be attributed to the soft-spoken sleuth whose use of old Chinese sayings and aphorisms help underline key points in the proceedings. The reader encountering the Biggers novels will find in the humble Charlie an en…

A tribute to Hamilton MacFadden

Okay, you may ask with some justification, who is Hamilton MacFadden? Only one of those unsung lesser lights who made significant contributions to the golden era of Hollywood in the 1930s before fading from the scene, never realizing his name would spark renewed interest is some of the bigger names and films that have been preserved for showing in the digital age and beyond. How's that for an answer?

His major contribution was directing the movie that introduced the world to Shirley Temple, 1934's STAND UP AND CHEER, which ironically led to his departure from Fox Film as the studio's corporate structure simultaneously changed. For fans of the Charlie Chan detective series launched by Fox, MacFadden had a hand in developing the style and character of the soft-spoken Chinese-American sleuth by directing three of the series' first five features. In other projects, as noted by Anne Morra, Museum of Modern Art assistant film curator, MacFadden "had a particular eye and …

Richard E. Cunha's horror film legacy

'I decide what's evil!': Richard E. Cunha's horror film legacy

Although he had no particular affinity for horror or science fiction films, Richard Earl Cunha plunged wholeheartedly into the two genres when he directed a quartet of features aimed at an audience of the late 1950s that welcomed a blend of wild science and outright scares in their cinematic fare. And despite outlandish plots, low budgets and cheesy effects, these Cunha-directed movies remain as entertaining now as they did when first unreeled in the course of a single year in the latter 1950s.

Horror/sci-fi combinations of that period, when made for little money or not issued by more successful producers such as Hammer Films and American International Pictures, tended to earn sneers critically at the time of their initial release, and continue to do so at this writing. Cunha's movies get raspberries more for their subject matter or seemingly spare production value, but some of the doubters do give them c…