June 2020 Mini-Reviews – Charlie Chan’s Secret to Mighty Joe Young

June 2020… Where did it go?  Vanished into Social Distancing and the pandemic, I suppose — at least a lot of it.  Seems like it just got here, and now it’s over (and I’m a week into July, as I write this — already).

I logged an astonishing 63 films/complete shows this month (counting a few single-show & short film special viewings).  Even for me, that seems a lot, and pushed me well up over the 300 total by month’s end.  A big part of this continues to be the Monster Kid Radio Twitch Stream, currently called Social Distance Saturdays (but soon to have a less-pandemic name change).  With more than 9 hours of content (usually), those numbers can add up.

Additionally, I watched some Charlie Chan flicks, which inspired me to (finally) begin reading the original novels.  (And they’re good, though they contain some shudder-worthy racist language from the times they were written.)

We also finished Discovery S2 and Picard S1 this month, and then capped it all off with my hero Ray Harryhausen’s 100th Birthday at month’s end.  There’s nothing more wonderful than my annual Harryhausen Holiday (which I started when he was still alive) — except that this year I got to enjoy it online Kenny from Monster Kid Radio and other friends.  So, it was quite a party!

With all that, is it any wonder that my total ran up over 300 this early?  (See the bottom notes for the exact number.)

Anyway, on with the show…!

Ratings are out of five stars. Here’s what those stars mean to me…

* – This film is not good. Avoid it unless you tolerate dreck well.
** – A flawed film. You may enjoy it if you like this genre or the folks in it.
*** – A good solid film. If you like this genre, you’ll probably like this film.
**** – A superior film within its genre. Thoroughly enjoyable.
***** – An outstanding film on many levels. A great example of its genre.

Charlie Chan’s Secret **** Warner Oland as Charlie Chan gets wrapped up with fake mediums to solve a murder. Lots of intrigue & suspects.
Chinese Ring, The *** Roland Winters as Charlie Chan investigates the murder of a Chinese princess buying US weapons. Mantan Moreland.
Dangerous Money *** Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan must solve the murder of a crew passenger, where no one is quite what they seem. Good.
He Who Made Monsters – The Life & Art of Jack Pierce **** A good overview of the life & work of make-up legend Jack Pierce, creator of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, & more.
Screaming Skull, The *** New bride, just out of an asylum, is haunted by the titular screaming skull of husband’s dead ex. One of my cheapie faves.
One Step Beyond “Who Are You?” *** A seriously ill girl wakes up and flees her parents, believing that she is the dead child of another couple. Eerie.
Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The **** I love this low-budget gem about ambitious doctor who kee’s his fiancee’s decapitated head alive while he shops bodies.
Cave Women on Mars **** Mihm’s scifi homage has fun cast (Sjerven, Lembke, Grubb, etc.) & all the usual man on planet of women touchstones.
A Coffin for the Black Phantom *** Short western superhero film of a gun-slinging lady with a whip. A good start to build on.
Dracula A. D. 2015 **** Joshua Kennedy’s student film tribute to Hammer classics is filled with homages, good student cast & fine atmosphere.
Doctor Blood’s Coffin *** Crazed Doc works on his own projects using humans as experiment fodder to bring the dead back to life. Boring stretches.
Zaat ** Cheapy about a scientist who makes himself part fish to get revenge. Incoherent plot made piecemeal with “Huh?!” ending.
Duck Soup ***** Groucho becomes head of small country & genius comic chaos ensues. One of the Marx Brothers’ best. Classic.
Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman *** Public Domain print loses a star for quality, but otherwise this is a fine Naschy werewolf film. (see Werewolf Shadow)
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror *** Shudder doc about black characters, actors, directors, etc. in horror films. Only touches on older stuff to concentrate on more modern horror with fewer stereotype characters for black actors. Good, but I hoped for more classic info & opinion.
Ator the Fighting Eagle ** Cheap Conan-style Euro-ripoff with an attractive cast & a boring & cliche plot that barely keeps the action moving.
A Kiss Before Dying *** Noir in widescreen & color with Robert Wagner as a cad who kills Virginia Lieth’s sister & then pursues her & her fortune.
Devil Within Her, The *** Joan Collins & Ralph Bates have a baby who may be a satanic dwarf. Lots of baby killing folks, but it’s no Omen.
Hercules, Samson, & Ulysses **** In one of my fave Sword & Sandal (peplum) mash-ups, Greco-Roman strongman meets Hebrew one. Gloriously silliness.
Slave, The *** Steve Reeves is the son of Spartacus, leading a new revolt against a corrupt Roman governor, a la Zorro. Fun peplum.
Grandmother, The *** David Lynch short film about a lonely, isolated boy who grows his own grandmother for company. Super weird.
Cornered **** Dick Powell as a GI looking for the person who killed his wife at war’s end. A fine Noir with interesting character actors.
War of the Insects (Cinematic Titanic) **** Normal sized insect swarms end up causing A-bomb plane to crash & powers race to retrieve it. CT riffs it well.
Society, The (Joe Bob Drive-In) *** Boy falls for hot girl who happens to be in rich society that are actually aliens who feed on humans. 80s horror/SF SFX.
Danger on Tiki Island (Cinematic Titanic) *** Brides of Blood under an alternate name. Women sacrificed to horny monster. Riffing by the CT crew adds humorous fun.
Alien Factor, The (Cinematic Titanic) *** Don Dohler’s low-budget film about 3 alien monsters loosed in Midwest killing people. Stop motion. Riffing helps.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein **** Good doc on the woman who created Frankenstein &, thereby Science Fiction. Glosses over possible libertine lifestyle.
Shock *** A woman sees Vincent Price kill his wife & then ends up in Vincent’s sanitarium, trying to recover; he plots against her.
Creature of Destruction *** Remake of She-Creature isn’t nearly as good, but a fun watch if the print is good. Hypnotist creates regressed soul monster.
Science Fiction Theater (“No Food For Thought”) *** Scientists trying to create a substitute food (pill) for space flight end up discovering they can’t go back to real food.
Last Case of August T. Harrison, The *** Dark Shadows’ Jerry Lacey as detective who gets mixed up with supernatural cultists out to rule the world. Fun.
Atom Age Vampire *** No vampires. But a pretty fun Euro horror about scientist trying to find a new body for scarred lady. Too long in Italian.
Horror of the The Zombies **** Actresses on a TV stunt & then possible rescuers stumble into eerie ghost ship filled with undead Templars. Blind Dead 3.
Dark Alibi ***** Sidney Toler as Chan solves a case of phony fingerprints. Mantan Moreland & Ben Carter do their classic comedy routine.
Letter, The **** Bette Davis shoots a man in opening minute & then her story unfolds/unravels for the rest of the runtime. Fine noir.
Monster Bash 2019 film **** Fan made film of events & interviews at the 2019 Monster Bash. Fun spotting friends among the celebs.
Hollywood & the Stars: Monsters We’ve Known & Loved *** Narrated by Joseph Cotton, this is an interesting — if not very deep — survey of monster films.
Man Who Changed His Mind, The **** Karloff’s mad scientist discovers how to transfer the mind of one person to another, without messy surgery. Minor classic.
Elgin Hour: “Sting of Death” **** Karloff plays a TV Sherlock Holmes-like Mr. Mycroft up against a sinister beekeeper breeding bees to kill his enemies.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (In VIVID Black-and-White!) *** Manos is still a low-budget cut film, but it acquires a bit of gravitas when seen in B&W. I still prefer restored blu-ray.
Vampyr **** Carl Theodor Dryer’s film is nearly silent, super-eerie, & haunting, but can seem a bit slow. Be fully awake when watching.
I Eat Your Skin *** Low-budget film about an island infested by traditional plantation zombies. Some creepy moments, but predictable.
Star Trek: Discovery (Season 2) **** Captain Pike joins the crew for a rollicking ride from Trek’s past to its future. Over-ambitious, but some great stuff.
Star Trek: Picard (Season 1) **** Admiral Picard comes out of retirement & we get a look at his achievements & failures. Slow building, a bit predictable, fun.
Mystery Train **** Quirky collection of semi-connected tales about people visiting & living in Memphis. A bit of Elvis. Great Japanese tourists.
War Between the Planets (Gamma One 3) *** The science is laughable & the story hard to follow, but the colorful sets, SFX, & production make this story of a rogue (living) planet threating the Earth entertaining. Third in the (loose) series of 4 (5 if you count Green Slime).
Nightmare: The Birth of British Horror **** Good TV doc about the creation of the novel Dracula & the horror traditions it sprang from.
Torture Ship *** Mad doctor decides it would be a good idea to “rescue” criminals from the law by “treating” them on his private ship.
Mystery and Imagination: Dracula *** Denholm Elliot is Dracula in this TV adaptation of the story. A good retelling. Occasionally very faithful, but not at climax.
Crimson Ghost, The **** Republic serial has all the standard tropes — mysterious villain, fights, cliffhangers — but done with the usual Republic verve. Actors (Serial Queen) Linda Stirling, Kirk Alyn (Superman), & Clayton Moore (future Lone Ranger) make it extra good.
Spider Baby or, the Maddest Story Ever Told *** Lon Chaney Jr. is the patriarch of a weird trio of children with murderous intents. Really fun cult film with a great performance by Lon & the last screen appearance (all too brief) by the great Mantan Moreland.
Idol Threats *** Short of an evil idol’s bad effects on a relationship. Has echoes of “Amelia” (He Who Hunts) from Trilogy of Terror.
Keep Watching the Skies *** Fan film of alien blob attacking earth. Really well done for a ’70s fan film.
Fangs of the Living Dead *** Woman inherits a title and a castle, only to discover that she’s apparently cursed to inherit vampirism, at least in US cut.
Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters *** The two top boys, Slip & Sach, get trapped in a house with 3 mad scientists & their experiments. Silly monster fun.
War of the Gargantuas (International dub) *** The monster battle & other kaiju action is great, but the International dub saps some of the life out. Titra dub is better.
One Million Years BC **** Raquel Welch is lovely, but easily outshone by Harryhausen’s spectacular dinosaurs in this Hammer caveman epic.
Jason and the Argonauts ***** One of Harryhausen’s masterpieces. Jason voyages across the world, facing amazing creatures to find Golden Fleece.
Golden Voyage of Sinbad ***** Harryhausen’s last masterpiece has great monsters, great Sinbad, plus Tom Baker & Caroline Munro. Super Dynamation!
7th Voyage of Sinbad ***** My favorite pure-fantasy film can’t be topped for production, story, or – most of all – Harryhausen creatures! The best!
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers **** The best flying saucers attack film ever done. Harryhausen gives ’em life & personality, destroys Washington DC.
Mysterious Island **** Sure, the creatures are all just larger-than-life animals, but the production, music & quality make this a sure winner.
Mighty Joe Young ***** This kinder, gentler version of Kong is a fun film for all ages, with great animation by Harryhausen, Peterson, & Obie.

That’s it for June.  Total for the year is 315 movies/shows — a huge number, and with social distancing (and MKR streaming) continuing, this could be a record year by the time we reach the end.  Though, you know what?  I’d rather be going out to dinner and the movies and seeing my friends and family than racking up big numbers on this list!

I hope that, at the least, my watching helps you add things to your watch list or furthers enjoyment of things you were already planning on watching.

Next Month: July has barely started as I write this, but the viewing rate remains high.  You can look forward to more monsters, more series, more Twitch streaming & chat, and even Hamilton! Stay Safe & Healthy!

Remember, you can support this and all my other writing work, including Frost Harrow, Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors, and more, by joining my Patreon for a buck or two a month.  Thanks!

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