The Mad Doctor of Market Street, and a few more movies

#198 [archive]

The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1941)
Streaming free

A mad scientist (the best kind, if you're making a horror movie) offers a hungry, indigent man $1,000 to participate in an experiment. All he has to do is die.

It's completely safe, though, says the doc — he's figured out how to revive the dead. (Spoiler: He's working on it, but hasn't quite figured it out.)

When the police start closing in, the Mad Doctor boards a ship sailing to New Zealand. Along the way, there's a man overboard, a fire, lighthearted terror, romance, a crazy aunt (Una Merkel) who seems younger than her hot niece, and other wacky elements best experienced without advance knowledge.

The great Joseph H. Lewis directed this — he'd later make The Big Combo and Gun Crazy and more masterpieces. This one's no classic, but it's almost psychotronicly strange — asylum-ready all the way, only 61 minutes and you'll wish it was longer. 

Sorry about the pudgy white guys playing indigenous islanders, talking in one-syllable words. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Bedtime for Bonzo (1951)

Before he produced The Tonight Show during its Johnny Carson era, Freddy De Cordova directed this borderline comedy about a chimp at college.

Nobody's ever told me the movie's any good, and it's famous only because it starred future-President Ronald Reagan, which made Bedtime for Bonzo a punchline for lots of jokes. 

But is the movie watchable? Is it art? I resolved to give it a fair viewing.

The man who lowered America's IQ plays a college professor of psychology, who talks a gorilla out of committing suicide. He's raising the chimp as human, in an experiment intended to finally settle the question of heredity vs environment. And of course, when he hires a too-young woman to pretend to be the chimp's mother, they're destined for love (the woman and Reagan, not the woman and the chimp).

This reminds me of Disney's beneath-the-bottom-of-the-barrel 'family films' of the 1970s — The Boatniks, SuperDad, Unidentified Flying Oddball, and all the other duds my dad took the family to see. Like those, Bedtime is structured like a comedy, but has few laughs. It almost has a message, but can't seem to decide what it is. Whatever it is, it'll be corny.

The movie's main amusement is hearing slightly liberal dialogue from the man who'd later ignore AIDS, cripple unions and the middle class, cut huge holes in the so-called safety net, etc. As President, I hated everything Reagan's handlers did while he napped, but he had a knack for seeming decent and affable, which he wasn't.

Thus you'd think he'd at least be a good actor, but he's not. Often he's painfully bad, and less an actor than a man making faces, trying and failing to fake being decent and affable.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Rockford Files (debut episode; 1974)

I have fond memories of this private eye show that sometimes seemed like a parody of private eye shows. Jim Garner stars, and he wasn't a great actor, but he was always one of the most charismatically likable guys on TV. 

Here he's Jim Rockford, a sleazy ex-con private investigator who lives and works in a ratty trailer near the beach. His distinguishing characteristics are that he'd rather not get into any fist fights, and he's a decent guy who's annoyed by his decency. Stuart Margolin is a hoot as Garner's lowlife buddy/snitch on parole. There's catchy music and cracklin' one-liners.

"Since I don't have any real close friends, I have to get along with myself."

Usually there's a corpse, and this time it's a wino who's been murdered. The cops have so little interest in investigating a bum's death, their thin folder of evidence goes directly into the cold case filing cabinet, even before the opening credits.

Tonight's 'special guest star' is Lindsay Wagner, playing the dead wino's daughter. She wants to know who killed him, maybe even why. And don't tell anyone you heard this from me, but — Rockford solves the case.

The mystery is average or below, but with Garner and Margolis it's fun. Garner's gotta be twenty years older than Wagner, so it's gross when there's goo-goo eyes between them. 

The Rockford Files holds up well. Liked it then, and I like it now. When I don't have time for a movie, I might watch another episode now and then.

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Invader (1991)

John Wick (2014)

The Last Case of August T Harrison (2015)

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

The Night Strangler (1973)

Nightmare Alley (1947)

9 to 5 (1980)

Risky Business (1983)

Smothered (2002)

Special Bulletin (1983) 

Squirm (1976) 

Stephen Fry in America (2008)

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • • • And then • • •

A Better Tomorrow (1996)

A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990)

A Night in Casablanca (1946) 

Alexander Nevsky (1938)

The Bat People (1974) 

The Beatles: Get Back (2021) 

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)

Brainwaves (1983) 

The Card Counter (2021) 

Cellular (2004)  

The Celluloid Closet (1996)

The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)

Dark Star (1974)

The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009) 

The Decline of Western Civilization (1980) 

Downsizing (2017)

Frankenhooker (1990) 

The General (1926) 

Get Shorty (1995)

The Gorilla (1939)

The Green Girl (2014)

Hiroshima (1953)

Hugo (2011) 

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

The Internet's Own Boy (2014)

Kids in the Hall (debut episode; 1988)  

Kids in the Hall (reunion debut episode; 2022) 

The Killing of America (1981) 

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)  

Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)

Love Happy (1950)

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The Man Who Thought Life (1969)

The Man with Nine Lives (1940)

The Manhattan Project (1996) 

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

Not Wanted (1949)

Nothing But a Man (1964) 

Phone Booth (2002)

PickAxe (1999)

Poison (1990)

Popeye (1980)

Reflections of Evil (2002)

Revelations (1993)

Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Romper Stomper (1992)

Room Service (1938) 

Same Kind of Different as Me (2017) 

Saved! (2004)

Scared to Death (1947) 

Secret Weapons (1985) 

The Shooting (1966)

The Soloist (2009) 

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Street of Crocodiles (1986)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Taken for a Ride (1996)

The Train (1964)

Truck Turner (1974)

Welcome to New Orleans (2006)

Who Farted? (2019) 

Who's That Girl? (1987) 

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

 Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
← PREVIOUS          NEXT →

No comments:

Post a Comment

🚨🚨 BY THE WAY... 🚨🚨
The site's software sometimes swallows comments. If it eats yours, send an email and I'll get it posted.