Old noir and science fiction

I'm having my own film festival of old noir and science fiction, and you're invited! Eight reviews below, with no spoilers. All movies free on YouTube, and without commercials if you have a good adblocker. If it’s TL/DR, my recommendations are The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) and, slightly less enthusiastically,  Shield for Murder (1954).

The Bat (1959) — YES — Vincent Price plays a doctor on gaycation with his embezzler boyfriend, and they discuss what a man might do for half a million dollars. And then scary stuff happens. It’s not his best work, and he's not really the star — that's Agnes Moorehead — but Vincent Price steals every scene he's in, and even a low-level Price movie is fun.

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The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) — BIG YES — In surgery, a patient has died on the operating table. The surgeon’s son, who’s been assisting, says, “Now, Dad, do I have permission to take over and try things my way?” Dr Dad says, “Very well, the corpse is yours. Do what you want to do.”

From there, this becomes reminiscent of Re-Animator, but with the gore implied instead of shown — and it’s a roaring rollercoaster ride.

Memorable moments:
• The mad scientist goes ‘shopping’ for a new body for his fiancée.
• A disembodied head begins plotting vengeance, working with the monster in the closet.
• “Like all quantities, horror has its ultimate, and I am that.”
• “I’m only a head, and you’re whatever you are, but together we are strong — more powerful than any of them.”

Cause for Alarm (1951) — YES — Is Loretta Young a loving housewife, as she says in the movie’s narration — or is she planning her inexplicably ill husband's murder, so she can run off with the family doctor? I’ll never tell, but I’ll tell you there’s no mystery here. Everybody’s motivations are obvious within the first few minutes. Then it gets crazy, and then it gets crazier, but when crazy people keep making crazy decisions, after a while it becomes unintentionally comedic.

Memorable moments:
• All three conversations with the grumpy mailman.
• Aunt Clara, the busybody who won’t shut up and won’t go away.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) — BIG NO — I saw this movie sent up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, but even when a movie sucks, and even when the commentary is funny, I prefer it if the audience shuts the hell up so I can watch the movie. This one is quite bad, even without Joel and Tom Servo. If you’re traveling and Torgo offers help, decline.

Menace from Outer Space (1956) — NO — This is several episodes of a TV series stitched together to feature length. It’s a kiddie show, but I’ve seen worse science fiction for adults. There’s a newly-discovered meteor approaching, and little Bobby hopes it will be named after him. But wait — “It isn’t a meteor, it’s a rocket!” Better call Space Ranger Rocky Jones on the astrophone!

There’s also Winky the teenaged navigator, and Vena Ray, a gorgeous woman in a skimpy outfit who tags along but rarely says anything beyond, “Oh dear, I do hope I brought the right clothes.” The aliens, please note, simply want to establish channels of trade with earth, but they’re led toward hostility by an earthling. It’s always an earthling.

Shed No Tears (1948) — YES — Edna Grover (June Vincent) kisses her husband goodbye at the bus station, then kisses her boyfriend hello in the parking lot. After that, everything goes wrong, noir ensues, and it’s a good time. Johnstone White is great as a slithery private investigator, and I’d love to see him in a sequel, but sadly, IMDB says he never played this role again.

Memorable moments:
• Edna’s half-attempt at a love letter to her husband.
• “Love may be a little overrated.”
• “Amazing you can be such a skunk and smell so nice."

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Shield for Murder (1954) — YES — By now we all know that if you’re a murderer, being a police officer is a great cover. They knew it in 1954, too.

Here’s a cop who’s had several confirmed kills on duty, and we get to see his next one — it’s cold-blooded. His boss scolds him, but covers for him. The other cops know he’s a killer, but none of them are willing to say anything. “Once a cop pulls a trigger it’s one big secret society.” Nowadays we call that the blue wall.

For further authenticity, we later we hear someone being battered in the precinct’s interrogation room, and one cop says to another: “Go home and beat your wife.”

The clues leading to the killer-cop are fairly obvious, especially after his second on-screen murder, but will any cops follow the clues if they lead to a badge?

What Price Crime (1935) — BIG NO — Gangsters, undercover cops, ditzy girl, boxing, yawns. This has all the trappings of a cops & robbers movie, made by people who had the technology but no technique.



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  1. Cause for Alarm, I watched it on your review and it is totally fucked up!! There shouldve been a big reveal at the end where she'd be carried away in a straightjacket.


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