Johnny Tremaine and Shane,
and a few more films

#241  [archive]
JAN. 26, 2024

I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1948)

Cats are snarling outside, so a guy throws his shoes out the window to startle the critters. The next morning a person unknown returns the shoes, leaving them outside the guy's door.

That's peculiar and implausible enough — how would anyone know whose shoes they were? — but during the night, while the shoe-tosser had no shoes, a bad guy wore them, killed someone, and left a shoe-print in the mud. That shoe-print is somehow evidence enough to convict the innocent shoe-tosser for murder.

Based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, this is noir that — sorry, Cornell — doesn't work.

In its favor, the movie shows cops as cocky but none-too-bright, more interested in convictions than justice. There are also a few scenes set on death row, where we're shown the sadness but also the dignity of several condemned men.

The movie's sympathies are in the right place, but the script is wooden, and I couldn't get past the shoe-print in the mud.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Johnny Tremaine (1957)

Five, maybe six times when I was a kid in grade school, the teacher threaded a 16mm projector and clicked off the fluorescent lights, and the whole class was shown a Hollywood movie — during school time! These were, of course, my five, maybe six favorite days in school, but curiously, every time, they showed one of only two different movies.

This was one of them. It's from Walt Disney, and I think we saw it in second, third, and fifth grade.

It's a fictionalized story of the American Revolution, centered on squeaky-clean apprentice metalworker Johnny Tremaine, whose hand has been injured in a molten metal accident. 

The story is launched when someone illegally works on Sunday, and a constable approaches to enforce God's Holy Day. After that, it spans the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere's ride, and seems fairly accurate to what little I know of history.

There's not a moment of this that isn't designed to swell any patriotic pride you have in ya, and I don't have much, but I can certainly understand why they showed it to school children. It's really, you know, for kids.

Hal Stalmaster stars as Johnny Tremaine, and never did anything else of note, but his brother was Hollywood casting giant Lynn Stalmaster. The rest of the cast includes Richard Beymer, Whit Bissell, and my favorite Mr French from Family Affair, Sebastian Cabot.

Verdict: YES, if you're ten.
MAYBE, if you're a grownup.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Not of the Earth (1957)

My pop taught me that when seeing a lady home, a gentleman should watch and wait until she's safely entered her home. This movie shows why, in the first scene — dude drives off, and a space alien gets the girl.

The alien is the mysterious 'Mr Johnson', who always wears dark glasses, and suffers from evaporating blood. He hires a doctor, sworn to secrecy, to examine and evaluate his blood disease, which isn't a disease at all. Spaceman is just trying to figure out human physiology.

Written and directed by legendary pennypincher Roger Corman, this is cheap and looks it, with so-so acting but a fairly smart script. It's not money that makes a good sci-fi flick, though, and this is pretty good. It might be Corman's masterpiece.

"Do not run from me, Nadine. I am going to dispatch you."

Beverly Garland plays a snap-crackle-pop tough nurse at the doctor's office. Jonathan Haze (Seymour, from Corman's original Little Shop of Horrors) plays a minor miscreant very well-paid to be the Mysterious Mr Johnson's personal assistant. Familiar character actor Dick Miller tries selling the spaceman a vacuum cleaner. Paul Birch (never heard of him) plays the title role, and he's creepy but oddly sympathetic.

There's a scene at a newsstand that might've been 'homage'inized by a startlingly similar newsstand scene in John Carpenter's masterpiece, They Live.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Shane (1952)

The second movie they kept showing us in grade school was George Stevens' production of Shane (1952). It has educational value, as it's set amidst Wyoming's range wars of the 1890s, but it's mostly for grownups, and it's simply a very good old-time western. 

Shane (Alan Ladd) is a retired gunslinger who's befriended by a sodbuster (Van Heflin), idolized by the pig farmer's big-eyed boy and, less overtly, by his wife (Jean Arthur).

There be trouble abrewin', though, with Jack Palance and Ben Johnson. The ranchers need open space for cattle grazing, but the farmers need fences to keep the cattle out, and the script shows sympathy for both sides. It isn't black and white, it's Technicolor. 

"What are you lookin' for?" 


Elisha Cook Jr, Edgar Buchanan, Ellen Corby, and Nancy Kulp are also in the cast. The movie's only minor annoyance is a pipsqueak named Brandon De Wilde, who plays the boy — he's all cute and dumb and eyeballs, keeps saying, "Shaaaaane!"

Some of the manliness here is so manly it triggers my gaydar, but that's a plus, and the three principal players are crazy good.

Verdict: YES, and if not for the boy, a BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 


• • • Coming attractions • • •  

The Saint in New York (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
The Shooting (1966)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Winter Soldier (1972)

... plus schlock and surprises

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. 
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