January 2021 Mini-Reviews – After the Thin Man to Green for Danger

It’s early February as I write this (though I’ll be posting after mid-month), and 2021 is off to a good start for movies & shows.

Once again,  Monster Kid Radio’s Derek M. Koch has boosted my number with the Monster Kid Movie Club doing all-day Saturday shows and 2 movies Tuesday nights.  I hope and expect that will continue.

I also continued my (mostly) weekly (mostly Naschy) movie watch with friend, fellow author, and film professor David Annandale.  David puts up great summaries of our viewing — and his thoughts about them — on his site and Facebook.  And it didn’t hurt that TCM was doing a mystery month.  I love me some classic mystery movies!

With all that going and more to come, it’s possible that 2021 will be another banner movie-watching year.  You’ll just have to follow along and find out how it turns out.

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.

After the Thin Man ***** Nick & Nora take their second case to help a family friend accused of killing her cheating husband. Great couple chemistry.
Death Kiss, The *** Murder mystery on a movie set with usual mix of era comedy & thrills. David Manners is good. Lugosi appears as studio exec.
Bowery at Midnight, The *** Lugosi is playing both sides as professor studying the slums & villain exploiting them with a touch of horror added.
Suspense “A Cask of Amontillado” *** Adaptation of the classic Poe story is told in flashback, giving away the game, but features rare Lugosi TV role.
Invisible Ghost, The **** Lugosi’s missing wife turns up now & again to trigger psychotic breaks turning him into murderer. Good cast in interesting twist.
Bride of the Monster **** Bad in some ways, but also one of Ed Wood’s best, with giant octopus & Lugosi aiming to create a race of atomic supermen.
Return of the Ape Man *** Lugosi & John Carradine revive a dead Neanderthal, but Lugosi also wants to give him a new brain. Mad science ensues.
Corpse Vanishes, The *** Lugosi is kidnapping virginal brides before their wedding nights to create potion that keeps his ancient wife forever young.
Drive-In Massacre ** Mad killer loose at a drive-in theater. Plenty of gore. About what you’d expect with no real surprises.
Bell, Book, and Candle **** Kim Novak’s modern NYC witch seduces Jimmy Stewart with unforeseen results. Great witch-hipster stuff with Jack Lemon.
Discovery (Season 3) **** Discovery gets a little more like Star Wars but also has some great stories. Finally, this series is on its own for the better.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf **** Michael Landon is the prototype JD werewolf in this low-budget classic. Sadly, hard to see due to rights issues.
Gorgo **** This film that echoes King Kong has a great giant monster suit as Gorgo is taken for exhibit to London with surprise twist.
Gammera the Invincible *** Classic giant flying turtle movie with good FX & catchy song. Docked one star for boring US-added scenes that slow the film.
Return of the Giant Monsters **** The first appearance of Gyaos, the flying “vampire” kaiju as he battles Gamera is a classic of the genre. Lots of fun.
Destroy All Planets (G. vs. Viras) *** Gamera becomes a kids’ series (originally titled Gamera vs. Viras) as aliens kidnap kids & bring squid-like kaiju to earth.
Attack of the Monsters (G. vs. Guiron) *** Brain-eating aliens kidnap kids & Gamera & take them to planet where they battle Guiron & silver Gyaos. Silly kiddy fun.
Ultra Q ***** Innovative fantasy/SF/giant monster series has team investigating all sorts of strange phenomena. Almost like the Twilight Zone meets the Outer limits meets Godzilla or pre-X-Files X-Files. Kicked off the Ultra Man series which runs to this day.
Project Moon Base *** Some of Heinlein’s initial work shows through, but rewrites & direction play up 50s sexism, sadly.
Star Odyssey * Mishmash of aliens “selling” earth & kidnapping people & some Star Wars ripoff stuff. Wiki recap makes more sense than film.
Clue **** Mystery-comedy based on the board game is pretty silly, but quite amusing. And the triple ending makes it all worthwhile.
Ten Little Indians (1966) *** Christie’s classic mystery moved to a mountain retreat. Strong cast, though not as good as 1945 adpation. Great who dunnit.
Another Thin Man **** 3rd Nick & Nora. Sheldon Leonard’s gangster livens up this mystery of who killed a financial advisor. Funny baby party scene.
Shadow of the Thin Man **** 4th Nick & Nora. A jockey’s death at the racetrack leads to one of my favorite Nora lines & intriguing mystery for Nick to solve.
Thin Man Goes Home, The **** 5th Nick & Nora. When a young man dies on Nick’s doorstep he must unravvel the mystery & connedtion to a desired painting.
Curse of the Devil *** Around the middle of Naschy’s werewolf series. Starts with medieval witch killing & then to 1900s where werewolf curse dogs the descendant of the medieval knight hero. Plenty of beautiful (nude) women & great werewolf makeup. Transitions sloppy.
Song of the Thin Man *** 6th & final Nick & Nora has a murder aboard a gambling ship. The couple is great, but the “feel” isn’t quite the same.
Skeleton of Mrs. Morales, The **** Thriller with comedy elements about taxidermist & his shrewish wife who won’t divorce him. Beautifullly shot & fab ending.
Invasion of the Vampires *** Beautiful, atmospheric cinematography highlights story about vampire preying on family & eventually mass rising. Curt ending.
100 Cries of Terror ** Anthology with only 2 segments & both of them stretched too far. Not bad, per say, but take too long to get to their twists.
Aztec Mummy, The (La Momia Azteca) *** Hypnotic regression of Aztec princess leads to mummy resurrection & criminal scheme to nab treasure. Nice production values.
Creature of the Living Dead *** Doctor revives ghoulish “doctor” from earlier time who lives forever by draining the life from young women. Euro horror.
Falcon’s Brother, The *** Famous detective’s brother arrives to deal with spies. Treat to see real life bros George Sanders & Tom Conway together.
Gorilla, The *** Lugosi is deadpan butler in this mystery/comedy with the Ritz Brothers seeking criminal “The Gorilla” & real gorilla, too. Funny.
Snow Creature, The ** The first yeti movie is part travelogue & part King Kong & comes close to being quite good, but monster costume is a letdown.
Unknown Island *** Great cast including Richard Denning & Barton MacLane as adventurers looking for dinosaurs (men in dino suits). Colorful fun.
Penguin Pool Murders, The *** Edna Mae Oliver is a schoolmarm who stumbles into a murder at the zoo & helps cops solve it. First in a series with her.
Murder Ahoy **** Dame Margaret Rutherford is a hoot in the last of her 4 outings as Miss Marple, solving shipboard murders this time.
Mystery of the 13th Guest, The *** Some nice twists & turns in this story about inheritance & guests ad a party years ago being mysteriously killed off one-by-one.
Inquisition ***** Paul Naschy wrote, directed, & stars in moody shocker about the French Inquisition vs. witches they both create & persecute.
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein ** Monster-maker’s daughter in the US Old West carries on her experiments with a friend of Jesse James as monster. Okay.
Hell of Frankenstein, The ** Criminal seeking revenge uses a Frankenstein monster, Orlak, as remote control revenge aka Orlak, Hell of Frankenstein.
Frankenstein (1910) *** Edison company did this first film adaptation of the monster maker. Brief but entertaining with good production values.
Wayward Frankenstein *** Short. Boy whose father doesn’t show up for his birthday instead befriends the Frankenstein Monster, who fulfills his hopes.
Mystery & Imagination: Frankenstein **** Ian Holme plays both creator & creature in this TV adaptation which is, within its budget, quite faithful to the original book.
Frankenstein, the Vampire, & Company ** Spanish horror comedy owes a lot to Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, & when it veers away from that, it’s not so good.
Before Midnight *** Ralph Bellamy is a detective solving murders that seem timed to midnight & their connection to inheritance & hidden identities.
Phantom of Crestwood, The *** Radio show cliffhanger led to this film, solving the mystery. Woman blackmailing 4 lovers is killed & mystery face stalks survivors.
Mystery House *** Murder at a hunting lodge that’s snowed in strands all the suspects together. Some interesting camerawork & sets. Interesting.
Crawling Eye, The *** Solid suspense monster movie based on British serial. People in the alps are menaced by mysterious cloud & titular monsters.
Milpitas Monster, The ** Human garbage forms itself into a menacing monster in this low-budget effort with some stop motion. That helps, but not much.
Kennel Murder Case, The *** Philo Vance solve a murder related to a dog show at his kennel club. Pre-Thin Man William Powell makes it worth watching.
Orgy of the Living Dead *** Man’s inheritance complicated by murder & hangers-on, inc. Naschy, countess, scientist & daughter. AKA The Hanging Woman.
Out of this World **** An angelic character makes a bet with a devilish character about tempting salesman on Earth. Sales training short.
Zip Code with the Swingin’ Six *** “The Swinging’ Six” singers do numbers that now seem high camp to promote the US’s new Zip Code program in this short.
Curse of Bigfoot ** More than 10 years later, a director decides to wrap Teenagers Against the Thing with new footage to make a bigfoot film. Ugh.
Half Human (1955) *** Ishiro Honda’s film about pursuing and capturing a yeti is one of the best yeti/bigfoot films, but hard to see today because of ugly portrayal of caste minority in Japan. It features a lot of familiar actors from Godzilla and other kaiju films. Worth seeking out.
Legend of Boggy Creek *** The first of the “true” bigfoot exploitation films of the 70s looks good in restoration & gets an extra star for being first.
Creature from Black Lake *** Surprisingly good low-budget film. Chicago college students go south to seek legendeary monster. Some Cinema Verite feel.
Horrors of Spider Island *** A bevy of models & their manager are stranded on island with deadly spider & were-spider. German version has bonus nudity.
Earth vs. the Spider (Sven) **** One of my favorite Bert I. Gordon films as giant cave-dwelling spider threatens teens & town. Watch out for DDT! Good bug flick.
Green for Danger **** Alistair Sim is a slightly comic, self-deprecating police inspector investigating the murder of an OR nurse & patient. Good payoff.

So, total is 62 films/series/notable shorts for the month.  Off to another good start — might even rival last year’s.  But, as I said up top, you’ll just have to stay tuned and see how it works out.

Next Month: February is short, but the nights are long, and I finish off the final season of Korra for a start.  Meet me back here for the rest!

And hopefully, I’ll get around to posting the reviews earlier in February, too.

Until then… Stay Safe!  Stay Well! Mask up!

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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