Take 3: Ocean’s Eleven (1960) Review

Peter Lawford is an actor I was not familiar with prior to my participation in the 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon. But, like I’ve said in past blogathons, I didn’t let this stop me to joining Kristen’s event! As I was looking through Peter’s filmography on IMDB, I discovered he had starred in the original Ocean’s Eleven. This is the movie I chose to review for the blogathon because of how rarely heist films are talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. Two years ago, I wrote a review for Logan Lucky when I participated in my very first blogathon. Anyone who has read that article would know how I did not like that film. Another point I’d like to make is how Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero (who all appear in Ocean’s Eleven) starred in another movie I reviewed for a blogathon; Marriage on the Rocks. Like Logan Lucky, I was not a fan of the 1965 movie. With my review of Ocean’s Eleven, however, I’m hoping my luck will start to turn around!

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/18360/Ocean-s-Eleven/#tcmarcp-196918.

Things I liked about the films:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I have seen and reviewed Marriage on the Rocks. Three of the film’s stars, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero, reunite in Ocean’s Eleven! The 1960 picture allowed Dean and Cesar to work with acting material that was different from Marriage on the Rocks, with their performances appearing more dramatic. Meanwhile, Frank’s portrayal of Danny Ocean contained the same ease he displayed in the aforementioned 1965 movie. Ocean’s Eleven also introduced me to talent that I had never seen before, such as Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. What I liked about Peter’s performance was how he was able to adapt to any situation placed in his character’s path. Even though this was the first time I’ve ever seen Sammy act, I was impressed with the smooth confidence he consistently carried throughout the story! One thing that stood out to me was the on-screen chemistry among the cast! Every actor appeared to work well with each other and compliment their co-stars.

The differentiation among the casinos: In a movie showcasing five casinos, it’s important to differentiate these locations for the audience. This choice avoids confusion and prevents the casinos from blending in with each other. The various New Year’s Eve parties feature creative ways these facilities were able to set themselves apart! At the party in the Flamingo casino, pink balloons served as party decorations. Down the street at the Sands casino, blue balloons could be seen. The costumes of the on-stage performers also highlighted the differences between each location. Dancers wearing burnt orange and white checkered costumes were found at the Desert Inn. Meanwhile, black costumes were worn by dancers at the Sands.

The dialogue: For the most part, the dialogue in Ocean’s Eleven was smartly written and sounded clever! One example takes place during a conversation between Danny’s ex-wife and Sam Harmon. When she is talking about her relationship with her ex-husband, Sam responds by saying how Cloud 9 must have been boring. Another example of smart writing happens when Josh Howard to talking with one of the members of Danny’s group. In their conversation, they talk about bravery. Josh shares that being brave doesn’t make someone invincible. These two examples I shared show how there was effort placed in the script.

The 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes. Image found at https://knwiniarski.com/peter-lawford-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A dialogue heavy first half: Every heist movie sets aside time to lay out the plans for the heist. While the first half of Ocean’s Eleven does feature these plans, it also included explanations of why the members of Danny’s group wanted to pull off the heist. The first half of the story featured explanations of the characters’ personal issues as well. This caused the movie’s entire first half to be dialogue heavy. If some of these explanations had been shortened or cut, it would have presented the heist sooner.

A “bait and switch” third act: With a movie titled Ocean’s Eleven, the audience expects a good portion of the story to focus on the heist itself. While the planning and execution of the heist was shown, the story transitions its focus to Duke Santos and his investigation after the heist takes place. This creative choice made the third act seem like a “bait and switch”. It also caused this part of the story to drag a little bit, preventing the film from ending earlier than it did.

Too many characters: Despite the film containing an all-star cast, I felt there were too many characters in this story. There were times when I had difficulty keeping track of who was who. The large number of cast members also caused some actors to receive less screen time than others, with Red Skelton being one of them. When I saw his name on a casino marquee, I was given the impression he would perform a comedy sketch on the casino’s stage. However, Red was briefly featured in one scene where he was seen arguing with a casino employee. I wondered why this film’s creative team would recruit such a well-known star for such a small part, especially when Red Skelton’s claim to fame, comedy, wasn’t utilized?

Money image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/bills-and-coins-in-isometric-design_1065328.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ocean’s Eleven is the first film of Peter Lawford’s I have ever seen. But I have not seen the “Ocean” movies from the 21st century, so I cannot make a comparison. Despite all this, I found the 1960 movie to be a fine first impression! Unlike Logan Lucky, Ocean’s Eleven showcased a heist that was interesting, exciting, and even suspenseful. Clever dialogue and creative set design at each casino were worth seeing and listening. Even the acting was solid, not just from Peter, but from the cast as a whole! However, there are factors that held Ocean’s Eleven back from being a stronger film. While I liked the dialogue, I found the movie’s first half very dialogue heavy. There were also too many characters and the third act felt like a “bait and switch”. But I still thought it was better than Logan Lucky and Marriage on the Rocks. If Kristen brings this blogathon back next year, it’ll be interesting to see what I choose!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of the “Ocean” movies? Which film of Peter Lawford’s would you want to check out? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Death of Poor Joe (1901) Review (A Month Without the Code #5)

As Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code comes to a close, I wanted to review a movie that served as the grand finale. Since I found every movie I reviewed so far to be just ok, I knew whichever film I chose had to be memorable in some way. The more I think about my choice, the more confident I feel it will leave an impression. The Death of Poor Joe is not only the oldest film I have written about, it is the shortest film featured on 18 Cinema Lane! This movie is a minute long, revolving around the death of Joe from Bleak House. I read this book several years ago, with Joe being my favorite character. I’m not going to lie; I was not a fan of Charles Dickens’ decision to have Joe die in the story. But after reading Oliver Twist, I gained an understanding for why that decision was made. The Death of Poor Joe also serves as an important piece of film history. It is the oldest existing adaptation of any work from Charles Dickens. It is a former lost film as well, with a curator from the British Film Institute, Bryony Dixon, finding the film in 2012.

This is a screenshot from my phone of the film’s image. It is the closest thing to a film poster I was able to find on the internet. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in my Wild Oranges review, the actors in a silent film have to rely on body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors to portray what their characters are saying and feeling. Laura Bayley, the actress who is cast as the titular character, does a great job using these acting techniques to show what her character is experiencing. Right before Joe dies, the audience sees him looking toward the sky and holding his hands in a praying position. This tells them that Joe is begging God for mercy. The only other actor in this film is Tom Green, who portrays a police officer. Similar to Laura’s performance, Tom also utilized body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors in his favor. When the police officer first encounters Joe, he is seen pointing at the protagonist and waving his hand. These gestures indicate the police officer telling the young boy to move off the sidewalk.

The costume design: Another important piece of a silent film is costume design, as this specific component can help express character development. Though the movie’s costume designer is unknown, I was impressed with the costume design I saw! Both outfits, Joe’s and the police officer’s, appeared historically accurate and fit each characterization. They were also distinct, allowing the characters to contrast one another. The police officer can be seen wearing a dark suit and a top hat. This ensemble signifies the police officer’s importance and social standing within that time period. Meanwhile, Joe is shown wearing a shirt and pants that are torn and ragged. Joe’s outfit reminds the audience of how he lacks a parental figure who will look out for his best interests.

The use of snow: I don’t remember if it was snowing when Joe died, as it has been several years since I last read Bleak House. In this short film, however, I like how snow was incorporated into the characters’ surroundings! Snow has a consistent presence in this story, as it covers the ground and top of the wall behind Joe and the police officer. It can also be seen falling from the sky. Because of the black-and-white presentation of the movie, the snow helps create an image that is haunting. The presence of snow instills a feeling sadness as well, warning the audience that an uncontrollable fate is about to take place in the story.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of title cards: Most silent films feature title cards, which help give context to what is happening on screen. This staple of silent movies was absent from The Death of Poor Joe. Audience members who are not familiar with the source material might wonder why they should care about the characters. There is no preparation leading up to Joe’s death, as the event itself happens in mere seconds. If title cards had been included in this film, it may have resolved some of these issues.

No music: Music can strength a movie’s tone and set the mood for the story. But music was excluded from The Death of Poor Joe, causing the film to be very silent. While the narrative itself is sad, music could have enhanced the movie-viewing experience. Dramatic sounds from a violin or a somber piano tune could accompany the visuals well. Certain beats might match up with specific events, promoting a sense of musicality. I know live music would play during a silent film if it were presented in a movie theater. But I wish music was added to The Death of Poor Joe.

A shorter run-time: In this review’s introduction, I mentioned how The Death of Poor Joe was a minute long. Even though I knew this was a short film, I still feel it should have received a longer run-time. Pieces of Joe’s and the police officer’s backstory could have been included in the movie. The audience might be able to spend more time with Joe as a character, which would have made his death more heartbreaking. Seeing how the police officer deals with Joe’s death is an interesting concept to think about. Because The Death of Poor Joe’s run-time was only a minute long, it limits how much story was allowed to be told.

Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The history of The Death of Poor Joe might be more interesting than the film itself. In its 119-year lifespan, the film gained the mysterious title of “lost film”. This status has been placed on the project for about 66 years. Eight years ago, the movie received a new title: found. As someone who has taken an interest in lost media, I am grateful for Bryony Dixon’s and the British Film Institute’s efforts to preserve The Death of Poor Joe! As for the film itself, I thought it was fine. The story was straight-to-the-point and the production quality was impressive. However, I wish the film was longer. As someone who has chosen Joe as their favorite character from Bleak House, it would have been nice to see his story fleshed out more. Music and title cards also would have added to the movie-viewing experience as well. Joe’s on-screen death is the only thing that would need to change if this was a Breen Code era film. While this event is an important part of the story, it would need to meet Breen Code standards.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work? Are there any found films you’d like to see? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: A Matter of Time Review (A Month Without the Code #4)

Because I’m participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code and the 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, I wanted to review one of Ingrid’s films from outside the Breen Code era. On her IMDB filmography, the 1976 movie, A Matter of Time caught my eye. After reading the synopsis, I chose this film as my submission for the blogathon! I was able to watch the movie through a series of videos from the Youtube channel, BroadwaytoRio. The film was broken down into ten parts, each video about ten minutes long. Prior to these blogathons, the only movies of Ingrid Bergman’s I have seen are Casablanca and Gaslight. Both of these films were not only released in the ‘40s, they were also released in the Breen Code era. As this is the first time I’m reviewing a post-1954 movie of Ingrid’s, it’ll be interesting to see how A Matter of Time differs from her two previously mentioned films!

A Mater of Time poster created by American International Pictures. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074878/mediaviewer/rm3625653248.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since I chose to review this movie for the Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, I’m going to talk about her performance first. Ingrid’s role in A Matter of Time is different from her other roles I’ve seen so far. In this film, she carried herself with a sense of power and authority, demanding the audience to focus their attention on her. At the same time, she held mystery and sorrow close to her character’s heart. In the scene where Ingrid’s character, the Contessa, is talking to her ex-husband, she brings so much emotion during the conversation, that the scene itself feels earth-shaking. Even toward the end of her acting career, Ingrid still had what it took, acting wise, to carry a film! Last October, I reviewed the 1991 film, Stepping Out. While watching A Matter of Time, I immediately noticed how Liza’s character was different from the one she portrayed in the aforementioned ‘90s film. Nina, the protagonist of this story, grew as a person over time. She transformed from a timid young woman to someone who knew what she wanted in life. One scene shows Nina having a disagreement about the Contessa with a screenwriter. During this scene, she breaks out of her timid shell to defend her friend. It causes a fire to break forth from Nina, something the audience hadn’t seen up until that point. Similar to Ingrid’s performance, Liza’s portrayal of Nina in that scene was so powerful, it made this character a force to be reckoned with. The emotionality was very strong in Liza’s performance!

The scenery: Even though most of this movie takes place indoors, it did feature some nice scenery! A scene where Nina travels to the city showcases some of the sights of Rome and Venice, where A Matter of Time was filmed. Through her bus window, monuments and mammoth sized buildings are set against a clear, blue sky. Earth tone limestone covered some of the facilities, contrasting the black concrete roads leading to them. More sights from Rome and Venice could be seen in a montage where Nina goes sightseeing. Shots of the city’s landscape emphasis the large scope of this particular location. Statues served as everlasting art that patrons could enjoy in any season. Even some foliage was included in this montage, with red-ish trees located near a ledge and around a town center. These shots highlighted some of the most photogenic parts of these cities, potentially encouraging some viewers to plan their next vacation!

The messages and themes: While I wasn’t expecting A Matter of Time to contain relatable messages and themes, I appreciate their inclusion in this story. They were timeless and felt just as relevant now as they did in the mid to late ‘70s. One message revolved around being yourself. Even though this particular message has been shared on numerous occasions, it was nice to hear it coming from the Contessa. It was given as wisdom to Nina, in an effort to help her create her own path in life. An unexpected theme in A Matter of Time was mortality. Throughout the movie, the Contessa refuses to share her life story, saying, “My life belongs to me alone. I tell it only to myself”. She also says, “No one is dead. No one dies unless we wish them to”. These quotes speak volumes about the importance of a life story and the effort of keeping a person’s memory alive. It also reminds viewers how long life can feel, even when time seems so short.

The 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon banner created by Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema. Image found at https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com/2020/06/12/announcing-the-5th-wonderful-ingrid-bergman-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of magic: There was a crawling text at the beginning of the film. In this text, it says “What you are about to see may appear like a fairy tale…as we all know some fairy tales come true”. The text also says that Nina experienced a “magic moment”. This gave me the impression that A Matter of Time would be a modern fairy tale, similar to a film like the Hallmark production, Midnight Masquerade. If that was the creative team’s intention for the 1976 movie, they forgot one important ingredient: magic. In a modern fairy tale story, there needs to be a sense of whimsy or magic included in the narrative. The Halloween party in Midnight Masquerade showcases how a feeling of magic can be incorporated into a modern setting. A Matter of Time does not contain that feeling. If anything, it feels more like a drama than a fantasy. The movie makes it seem like Nina was conveniently at the right place and time instead of stumbling across a bit of magic.

The dream sequences:  Dream sequences appeared at certain points in the movie. These sequences were elaborate in nature, showing Nina living a life of glamour and luxury. While the dream sequences looked nice, I found them confusing. There was no distinction if they were dreams or future events from Nina’s life. Smooth transitions were not given to these scenes, making it feel like they were plunked into the story. I understand the dream sequences were meant to add some pizzazz to the overall picture. But their randomness prevented them from making a significant impression.

Grainy film quality: I know the quality of film from the 1970s is going to be different by today’s standards. Since that time period, technology and film-making have progressed tremendously. The presentation of A Matter of Time was grainy, making the production look like it hasn’t aged as well as other movies from the ‘70s. Because of the overall film quality, there were times when I had difficulty seeing characters’ facial expressions. I’m not sure if the videos I watched were recorded from a VHS tape or if that was the movie’s original presentation. But it’s not a good sign if I have trouble seeing what’s on screen.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

To me, A Matter of Time is an ok film. It has components of value; which are strong acting performances, nice scenery, and relatable messages and themes. However, the story is one that audiences have heard before and after the film’s 1976 release. Stories are inevitably going to get repeated over the course of time. When this happens, it’s important for a film’s creative team to find something that sets their project apart. With A Matter of Time, nothing new or unique is offered to the table. It feels like the overall production is ignoring their own message of being yourself. Even though this was a theatrically released project, it came across like a made-for-TV movie with a slightly higher budget. This statement is not made to disrespect television films, as there have been some good ones created over the years. What I mean is the presentation of this movie didn’t justify a theater release. Even though A Matter of Time has a PG rating, there are some pieces that would not appear in a Breen Code era film. These pieces are the following:

  • Some of the language in this script would be objectionable by Breen Code standards. There were times when the characters either swore or used God’s name in vain.
  • Some sexual references were made throughout the story, from Nina referring to a specific body part to a screenwriter wanting to create a violent scene for his upcoming movie.
  • A screenwriter named Mario attacks Nina while she is cleaning his room. Though he is acting out a scene from his script, the act itself would never appear in a Breen Code era movie.
  • Nina wears three dresses that have a low neckline. Even though one of these dresses is paired with a sweater, the sweater is never buttoned up.
  • There are two scenes where it is implied that Nina is not wearing any clothes. One of these scenes is briefly shown during a montage, showing a profile of Nina from her shoulders upward. The second scene shows Nina changing from one outfit to another. Only her back and her shoulders are visible.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen any movie from Ingrid Bergman’s filmography? Which actress would you like to see receive their own blogathon? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Reviewing Van Johnson’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote

Reviewing episodes of Murder, She Wrote is something I occasionally do on 18 Cinema Lane. Even though this is the fourth time I’ve done this, the last time I wrote about any episode was back in February. When I discovered Van Johnson had appeared on three episodes of Murder, She Wrote, I figured it would be a good topic for my submission in the Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon. It also provided an excuse to add some variety to my content for the month of August. Out of the projects listed on Van’s filmography, the only one I’ve seen is Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. While he has appeared on several television shows, I haven’t seen his episodes of those shows. Choosing to review Van’s episodes of Murder, She Wrote has allowed me to see the versatility of his acting talents. It also showed me what his characters had to offer in Jessica Fletcher’s world!

The Fourth Van Johnson Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Image found at http://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-fourth-annual-van-johnson.html.

Name: Hit, Run and Homicide

Season 1, Episode 6

Premiere Date: November 25th, 1984

The title card for ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Daniel, Van Johnson’s character, is an inventor who lives in Cabot Cove. Some of his inventions made the episode seem ahead of its time. While Jessica and Daniel are riding their bikes, Daniel reveals how he created a machine that will record a rider’s heart rate and mileage. In 2020, a product that is the closest to Daniel’s creation is the Fitbit. Throughout the episode, the people of Cabot Cove are scared of a car that can drive itself. Despite its limited availability, driverless cars have been tested on and are in the prototype stage.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Dialogue plays an important role in any mystery story. But in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’, the story ended up being dialogue heavy. Even though Jessica discussed the mystery with the other characters, these discussions felt more like casual conversations than attempts to solve the case. The story was not executed as well as other episodes because of this creative decision. It also made the episode have a lower sense of urgency. I understand ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ premiered in the show’s first season. However, I can think of other episodes that didn’t heavily rely on dialogue.

The mystery itself:

As I just mentioned, the story of ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ was dialogue heavy. Since I already discussed this, I will not repeat myself. What I will say is how interesting it was to see Sheriff Tupper ask Jessica for help on a case. During the lifespan of Murder, She Wrote, Jessica voluntarily gets involved in a typical murder investigation. The police officers, detectives, and/or investigators are either annoyed by Jessica’s presence or they don’t seem to care. Up until this point, I don’t recall ever witnessing someone ask Jessica for her sleuthing expertise.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Almost every show has changed their opening credits over the course of their existence. Murder, She Wrote is no exception. In this episode’s opening credits, the theme music was longer. It also featured more footage of Angela’s character. In most of the episodes that I’ve seen, the theme music is shorter with the credits showing about five shots of Jessica Fletcher.
  • Jessica rides her bike in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ more than she did in any episode I’ve seen so far. She can be seen riding her bike in her hometown of Cabot Cove, where this episode takes place.  The scenery in Cabot Cove was very picturesque. This kind of makes me understand why Jessica chooses not to drive. However, ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ probably marks the first and only time she got behind the wheel of a vehicle.
  • There were a few surprises in this episode of Murder, She Wrote! One of them was a car chase that takes place in Cabot Cove. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. All I’ll say is how I wasn’t expecting a car chase on this show.

My overall thoughts:

So far, I’ve seen four episodes from Murder, She Wrote’s first season. These episodes have ranged from poor to fine. The way I feel about ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ is similar to how I feel about ‘Paint Me a Murder’. There were some interesting components within the story, such as inventions that make this episode feel ahead of its time. However, the episode as a whole could have been stronger. While dialogue is an essential part of any story, ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ relied too much on that piece of story-telling. Because of this, there was a limited number of clues presented. Something I briefly mentioned in my review is the scenery of Cabot Cove. As I said earlier, the scenery was picturesque! It successfully makes this town look inviting!

Rating: A 3.7 out of 5

The funniest scene in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ is when Jessica tells her friend, “And you wonder why I don’t drive a car”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Name: Menace, Anyone?

Season 2, Episode 20

Premiere Date: April 6th, 1986

The title card for ‘Menace, Anyone?’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

Van Johnson’s character in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ was different from his character in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’. However, he did a good job making Elliot distinguishable from Daniel. This was because of two things: Van’s acting performance and the screenwriting. Speaking of acting, Murder, She Wrote has featured some future stars on their episodes. In ‘Menace, Anyone?’, two of them were Bryan Cranston and Linda Hamilton. I have not seen their most notable projects; Breaking Bad and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Based on what I do know about their roles in these projects, it seems like Bryan and Linda were given acting material that allowed them to portray a different type of character. It’s also an interesting coincidence that both actors were able to find success outside of the show.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

So far, my favorite episode of Murder, She Wrote is ‘Film Flam’! One of the reasons why I like this episode is the exploration of the movie industry. In ‘Menace, Anyone?’, the story revolved around the world of tennis. Even though this provided an interesting component to the episode, the subject of tennis could have been explored further. What’s great about ‘Film Flam’ is how educational the story was while also being entertaining. With ‘Menace, Anyone?’, I didn’t feel like I learned anything new about tennis. If anything, all the information presented in the story was content I already knew.

The mystery itself:

The mystery in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ is one of the better written stories I’ve seen from this show! It was not only compelling from start to finish, it also contained several twists and turns that left me guessing until the end. Several surprises were sprinkled into the story. There was also a satisfying number of suspects and clues. As I always do, I won’t spoil this episode of Murder, She Wrote. However, I will say the reveal of the guilty party was different from other episodes I’ve seen.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was surprised to see how seriously the athletes were taking the charity tournament in ‘Menace, Anyone?’. In a charity event involving sports, such as a tournament or a golf outing, the cause itself is what brings people together. I’m assuming these events don’t place a large emphasis on an athlete’s ability to perform, but, instead, on an athlete’s notoriety to raise awareness for the cause. Because of this, I thought the athletes would have some pressure lifted from their shoulders.
  • Fashion from the ‘80s can be hit or miss. However, there are some outfits that are memorable for better or worse. Cissy’s dress in this episode is a great example of this. I don’t know if this dress was a part of a trend from that time period or if the show’s costume designer was trying to be ambitious. But I’ll include a picture of the outfit in this review so you can decide for yourself.
  • As I’ve said before, I will not spoil this episode. However, I was not expecting to see mental health brought up in ‘Menace, Anyone?’. Though it was brief, it was interesting to see Murder, She Wrote incorporate a real-life topic like mental health into one of their episodes. This kind of storytelling is something the show is not known for. It reminded me of episodes like “The Legacy of Borbey House”, ‘Paint Me a Murder’, and “The Days Dwindle Down”.

My overall thoughts:

This is definitely one of the stronger episodes I’ve seen from Murder, She Wrote! Both the story and acting were solid, which made ‘Menace, Anyone?’ engaging to watch! The mystery was also interactive, providing the audience with enough suspects and clues to help Jessica solve the case. While I wish the subject of tennis was explored to its fullest extent, it did add interest to the episode. The more episodes of Murder, She Wrote I watch, the more I prefer the ones where Jessica travels abroad. The story in ‘Menace, Anyone?’ takes place in Boston, Massachusetts. Despite well-known landmarks being absent from this episode, the tennis court and banquet hall gave the show some interesting locations.

Rating: A 4.2 out of 5

In my opinion, the worst parts about this dress is how there’s too many ruffles and how the ruffles themselves are a very contrasting color. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Name: Hannigan’s Wake

Season 7, Episode 4

Premiere Date: October 28th, 1990

The title card for ‘Hannigan’s Wake’. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two instances in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ where flashbacks were used to enhance the story. Toward the beginning of the episode, Van Johnson’s character, Daniel Hannigan, is sharing the overarching mystery with Jessica. While he does this, a flashback of the mystery’s events is shown to the audience in order to present what happened. A second flashback appeared toward the end of the episode. This creative choice was made to reveal the guilty party. Without these flashbacks, the scenes would feel dialogue heavy. They would also lack the “show” in “show and tell”.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Even though the two scenes with flashbacks were not dialogue heavy, the majority of ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was. The mystery in this episode is a sixteen-year-old cold case. Despite this, the story put more emphasis on the characters’ conversations about the case than showing them actively solving it. This caused the mystery to feature fewer clues than a typical Murder, She Wrote episode. It also made the story have little suspense and intrigue. The limited amount of interactivity in the cold case episodes seems to be a common flaw, with ‘The Days Dwindle Down’ experiencing a similar issue.

The mystery itself:

Because I already talked about most of the components of this mystery, I will choose not to repeat myself. But what I will say is how I liked seeing a type of mystery that isn’t often featured on the show. This is something I mentioned when I reviewed the episode, ‘The Days Dwindle Down’. This helps break the series’ monotony, which gives the overall story fresher ideas.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I know funeral homes have their own styles and presentational displays for their parlors based on the preferences of their owners. However, the funeral parlor featured in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ did not look or feel like a typical funeral parlor. The walls of this episode’s parlor were bright blue, with the space featuring a lot of light. It gave off a more cheerful feeling than most funeral parlors would. I’m also aware that funeral services are unique to the family hosting that gathering. But in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, one funeral visitation felt more like a light-hearted dinner party. It almost seemed like the funeral itself wasn’t being taken seriously.
  • In this episode, the house of Stephen Thurlow, the father of the murder victim, is featured in a few scenes. Based on the exterior architecture, I recognized that house from the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘The Way to Dusty Death’! Out of all the episodes I’ve seen so far, this is the second time where I saw an out-of-Cabot Cove location presented in more than one episode.
  • To my disappointment, Van Johnson did not appear in ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ as much as he did in ‘Hit, Run and Homicide’ and ‘Menace, Anyone?’. In fact, he only appeared in three scenes. I know Van starred in this episode toward the end of his acting career. However, I was expecting his character to have a more consistent presence, especially since he was cast in more than one episode.

My overall thoughts:

At best, ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was an ok episode. But at worst, it was very mediocre. While it was nice to see a different kind of mystery, I was not a fan of how the story was dialogue heavy. I mentioned in this review how ‘The Days Dwindle Down’ had the same flaw. What made that episode work was the inclusion of the movie Strange Bargain. In ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, the inclusion of Irish heritage came across as a random afterthought rather than a unique component to the episode. ‘Hannigan’s Wake’ was also one of the sadder episodes of Murder, She Wrote. I won’t reveal why this is the case, but I was not expecting the episode to carry this particular tone.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

I would be willing to guess that pictures and videos do not do this house justice. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What are your thoughts on Van Johnson’s filmography? Do you have a favorite Murder, She Wrote episode? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Cabot Cove!

Sally Silverscreen

The Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag 2020

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, Hamlette and Heidi created a special tag for participants to engage in. Because the event revolves around westerns, the questions are western themed as well. Out of all the blogathons I have participated in, this is the first one that has a tag associated with it. It’s also the third tag I have posted on 18 Cinema Lane. However, the other two tags correlated with National Reading Month. The western genre is not one that I regularly watch, so my answers may seem like a stretch. However, I have tried my best to provide an honest perspective on this particular area of film.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.
  1. What’s the last western you watched?

That would be the 2015 film, Forsaken. I recently reviewed the movie for this event, so I’ll include the link in my post.

Take 3: Forsaken (2015) Review (A Month Without the Code #3)

2. A western of any stripe (happy or tragic) where you were highly satisfied by the ending?

INSP does not often create their own movies, so it’s nice to check out their efforts when they do release a new project. One of their stronger pictures is The Legend of 5 Mile Cave, which premiered last year. The overall story was solid and everything wrapped up nicely in the end. It had a mystery element that kept me invested from start to finish.

3. The funniest western you’ve seen?

I haven’t seen this movie in quite some time, but I do have fond memories of The Three Amigos! The scene with the singing horses and the talking turtle makes me smile every time I think about it.

4. What similar elements/themes show up in your favorite westerns?

When I think about the western genre, a sense of mystery is something that comes to mind. What I mean by this is there’s always that mystery of how the overarching conflict is going to get resolved. Most westerns also contain a journey, where the characters travel over a certain period of time. This creates the feeling of the audience going on an adventure with the characters.

5. Scariest villain/antagonist in a western?

For this question, I’ll give two answers. My first one is Dr. McQueen from my favorite Little House on the Prairie episode, ‘The Wild Boy’ Part 1 and 2. Not only does this villain think it’s acceptable to mistreat a child, he also represents a type of villain that I find to be the scariest. Dr. McQueen thinks in his mind he can justify his choices, even though he is clearly in the wrong. My second choice is Connie’s husband, Brad, from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Juggernaut’. He also thinks he can justify his actions, as well as being the type of villain someone could cross paths with in real-life.

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

6. Favorite romance in a western?

I’ll choose Rosemary and Lee Coulter from When Calls the Heart! When it comes to their relationship, they bring out the best in each other. They have also come a long way since they were first introduced in the story. It does help that Pascale Hutton and Kavan Smith have great on-screen chemistry. Both Rosemary and Lee are the glue that keeps that show together, as they are two of the best things to happen to When Calls the Heart.

7. Three of your favorite westerns?

Here are three westerns I would recommend:

  • The Legend of 5 Mile Cave – One of the stronger films from INSP. The mystery element allows the audience to stay invested in the story.
  • When Calls The Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree – The best movie out of When Calls the Heart’s collection of films. It took a tried-and-true idea from other Hallmark projects and gave it a new twist.
  • Cowgirls ‘N Angels – Even though this is a modern western, it was one of the best movies I saw in 2018. The acting was solid and the story was endearing.

8. Favorite actress who made 1 or more westerns?

A movie that I enjoy is Portrait of Jennie! Jennifer Jones’ performance is one of the reasons why I like that film. After doing from research on thegreatwesternmovies.com, I discovered that Jennifer starred in the 1946 movie, Duel in the Sun. I have not seen this movie, so I’ll try to find time to check it out!

9. Favorite western hero/sidekick pairing?

Charles Ingalls and Isaiah Edwards from Little House on the Prairie will be my choice for this question. While they’re not western heroes in the traditional sense, they are heroes in their own right. This is because they try to do the right thing and make Walnut Grove a better place.

10. Share one (or several!) of your favorite quotes from a western.

A quote I like comes from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Covenant’. Walker tells his students “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them” after they graduate to a green belt. This quote highlights how one should expect to work hard if they truly want something.

White horse image created by Gabor Palla at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Gabor Palla.”

What are your thoughts on this tag? Which westerns do you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Forsaken (2015) Review (A Month Without the Code #3)

When I reviewed The Crow back in May, I said in the comment section that I wanted to see Michael Wincott cast in a western, as I thought it would be a perfect casting choice. As the months have gone by, I discovered that Michael had starred in the 2015 western film, Forsaken! The Legends of Western Cinema Week is what reminded me of this wish. As a blogger of my word, I chose to review Forsaken as one of my two entries for this event! The western genre is one that isn’t often covered on my blog. While I do re-cap When Calls the Heart, this is an exception to the rule. The last western I reviewed was Little House: Bless All the Dear Children back in July, with the review before that being last year’s When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. I figured the Legends of Western Cinema Week served as a good excuse to revisit the western genre for the first time in about a month!

Forsaken (2015) poster created by Momentum Pictures, Mind’s Eye Entertainment, Panacea Entertainment, Rollercoaster Films, and Moving Pictures Media. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forsaken_Poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra last September, I said in the comment section how Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Cleopatra felt like Scarlett O’Hara was playing dress-up. This is because I thought the film’s creative team was attempting to take advantage of the popularity and success of Gone with the Wind. As Michael Wincott’s character, Gentleman Dave Turner, was first introduced with the film’s villains, I wondered if this portrayal was going to be a western genre version of Top Dollar from The Crow. Instead, Michael’s performance and the screenwriting presented a character that was his own person with his own story! A consistent aspect of Michael’s portrayal of Dave was the calmness he displayed. Even in the direst of situations, he always appeared to have control of his emotions. When I think of Kiefer Sutherland, I think of his portrayal of Jack Bauer from 24. Spending so much time on a show with a mix of drama and action seems to have paid off for Kiefer, as he was able to display a wide range of emotions! In one scene, Keifer’s character, John Henry, is recalling a fateful decision from his past. As he reflects over the lives of the people he hurt, his demeanor slowly transitions from remorse to sorrowfully sobbing. I’ve seen very few projects from Donald Sutherland’s filmography. However, I did think his portrayal of Reverend Samuel was strong! In a scene where his character is having an argument with John Henry about faith, Donald’s character quickly goes from calm and collected to yelling with anger. His emotionality definitely added to his overall performance!

The scenery: According to IMDB, Forsaken was filmed in Alberta, Canada. This particular landscape was captured very well throughout the film! Distant mountains paired with a blue sky were shown in establishing shots. These natural elements provided a great contrast to the lush, green fields also found in the movie. Forests were a part of the story as well, with sunlight giving this space a natural glow. The overall setting of Forsaken was picturesque and calming, which is different from the rough terrain that is a staple of westerns. This kind of scenery reminded me of shows like Little House of the Prairie and When Calls the Heart!

The on-screen chemistry:  In Forsaken, John Henry reconnects with his former love interest, Mary Alice, who was portrayed by Demi Moore. Keifer and Demi had good on-screen chemistry, as their characters appeared to truly care about each other! Through these performances, John Henry and Mary Alice’s interactions came across as bittersweet. This drove the point home that the romantic nature of their relationship was left in the past. There was also good on-screen chemistry among the other actors! During the film, the tension between John Henry and Reverend Samuel could be felt. It helps that Keifer and Donald had the emotional intensity to deliver performances that a story like this requires.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Michael Wincott: As I said in my introduction, the reason I chose to watch Forsaken is because I wanted to see Michael Wincott in a western. While I got what I wanted, I felt his talents were under-utilized. In this hour and thirty-minute film, Michael appeared in about five scenes. His character’s significance in the story was also not made clear. Gentleman Dave Turner can be seen spending his time with the movie’s villains. However, he claims to be John Henry’s friend and doesn’t condone the actions of his villainous cohorts. I found this part of film frustrating because Michael and his character had a purpose for being in this movie, but I couldn’t figure out what that purpose was.

More emphasis on drama: When it comes to the western genre, a certain amount of action is to be expected. Not all westerns utilize action to its fullest extent, but enough action is incorporated into most westerns to keep the story interesting. In Forsaken, the majority of the plot focused on the drama between John Henry and Reverend Samuel’s strained relationship. This part of the story wasn’t bad, but it did overshadow the action. Throughout the film, there were moments where action could be seen. Most of the action took place in the climax, which happened during the last twenty minutes of the movie. This creative decision caused the action to be used sparingly.

An overshadowed conflict: The overarching conflict in Forsaken is how a group of villains are trying to take over a small town. To me, this was the most compelling part of the plot. Because the story placed more emphasis on the estranged relationship of John Henry and his father, the conflict wasn’t given as much attention as I expected. This conflict was addressed in the film from time to time. However, it didn’t feel like its placement was consistent. While the conflict does get revolved, it doesn’t happen until the film’s last twenty minutes.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

On 18 Cinema Lane, it seems like 2020 is the year when wishes come true. First, it was Words on Bathroom Walls receiving a distributor and a release date. Next, it was seeing and reviewing the film, The Wife of Monte Cristo. Now, it’s watching Michael Wincott in a western! As I said in my review, I got what I wanted. However, I feel there was more to be desired from Forsaken as a whole. The conflict involving the villains’ attempts to take over the town was the most compelling part of the movie. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the drama between John Henry and his father. Even though westerns do contain a certain amount of drama, the appeal of this genre is the action/adventure aspect of the world and its characters. This gives the audience the feeling of going on a journey with spirited men and women of the Wild West. Despite this movie being rated R, Forsaken could certainly be transformed into a Breen Code era film! The only two offenses I was able to find were the swearing and the amount of on-screen blood. While violence is expected for a western story, this aspect, along with the language, would need to meet Breen Code standards before production began.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you see Forsaken? Are there any western films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Sally Watches…Walker, Texas Ranger!

For the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I was trying to decide if I should write a movie review for the 2015 film, Forsaken or create another television show review for Walker, Texas Ranger. Instead of selecting just one, I chose both options as my submissions for the blogathon! Prior to writing this post, I had never seen Walker, Texas Ranger. When I accepted my fourth Liebster Award back in July, I shared how I had never watched anything from Chuck Norris’ filmography. Hamlette and Heidi’s event gave me an excuse to not only change that, but to also expand my cinematic horizons to more westerns. Similar to last March’s review of Murder, She Wrote, I have randomly selected three episodes that happened to be airing on the INSP channel. This time, the episodes will be in the order of when I watched them, instead of chronologically. Each episode will be broken down into five categories: what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about episode, the story itself, other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. After reviewing these three episodes, I will share my final assessment of the show as a whole.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Heidi from Along the Brandywine. Image found at https://hamlette.blogspot.com/2020/07/announcing-legends-of-western-cinema.html.

Episode Name: The Covenant

Season 3, Episode 11

Premiere Date: December 9th, 1995

The title card for “The Covenant”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

My favorite scene in ‘The Covenant’ takes place toward the beginning of the episode. During a karate class, Walker notices how one of his students, Ricardo, is missing their purple belt. When he asks Ricardo about the whereabouts of his belt, Ricardo tells Walker he placed the belt in his recently deceased sister’s casket so she could take it to Heaven. After his confession, Walker gives Ricardo another purple belt. When this happens, Ricardo’s face immediately lights up. The music playing during this moment sounded like a tune you’d hear when an athlete in an inspirational sports movie reaches a breakthrough. This scene was both heart-breaking and heart-warming, allowing it to stand out in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Chuck Norris’ claim to fame is his karate skills, which have become a huge draw for any of his productions. This fact is the reason why Walker is an intelligent karate master. While karate was incorporated into this episode, its presence was very limited. In fact, the story was 80% crime drama, with 20% action. Before watching ‘The Covenant’, I had expected the episode to be 50/50 when it comes to the drama and action. However, the only times karate could be seen are in a montage during a karate class and in the story’s climax.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for ‘The Covenant’, it caused me to ask two “what ifs” about The Karate Kid (the original 1984 film). What if Daniel had never crossed paths with Mr. Miyagi? What if Daniel had joined Cobra Kai? I thought watching this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger would give me a basic idea of what these “what ifs” might look like. But as I reflect on ‘The Covenant’, I realize that comparing the stories of Daniel and Tommy, a student of Walker’s, is like comparing an apple pie to an Apple computer. While Cobra Kai was the villainous/antagonistic group in The Karate Kid, I don’t recall any member of that group breaking the law. Meanwhile, the gang that Tommy interacts with are comprised of legitimate criminals with violent actions and police records. This makes Tommy’s situation more dire than Daniel’s.

To me, this episode of Walker, Texas Ranger felt rushed, as the overall pace was faster than other shows of this nature. I don’t know if this is because ‘The Covenant’ was the first episode of Walker, Texas Ranger I had ever seen or if this was a legitimate creative error. But whatever caused this to happen, I found it difficult to keep up with the story. Another flaw I noticed was how context was missing in certain areas of the narrative. Even though this episode is called ‘The Covenant’, I am still confused as to what the covenant is in relation to the plot. Was it an ideology or a group? This question was never answered.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I was not expecting this episode to be Christmas-themed. However, the plot did not feel like a Christmas story. Sure, there were decorations shown in the background. But ‘The Covenant’ could have taken place in any time of year and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
  • Every television show is bound to have aspects that feel of its time. With Walker, Texas Ranger, there are elements that definitely look like it came from the ‘90s. This can be seen through the characters’ clothes, the background graffiti, and even the opening montage. These things definitely make any show feel like a time capsule.
  • Throughout my life, I’ve seen established shows include real-life topics in their episodes. Sometimes, these topics are effortlessly woven in with the episode’s plot. The anti-gang message of ‘The Covenant’ seems like a PSA was wedged into the overall story. I was given the impression the show’s creative team had chosen to write a narrative around an actual issue. There was some dialogue that sounded more like potential slogans than actual conversation. Even a message at the end of the episode revealed how the ‘The Covenant’ was dedicated to young victims of gang violence.

My overall thoughts:

 ‘The Covenant’ is the episode that inspired me to write about Walker, Texas Ranger. The “what ifs” relating to The Karate Kid are also a part of that inspiration. This episode ended up being different from what I expected, as the limited presence of karate is one reason why this is the case. Even though I liked the inclusion of karate, there was less of the sport than I had been led to believe. This is because the episode leaned more toward the criminal/police procedural part of the overall story. If anything, ‘The Covenant’ came across as part crime drama, part “after school special”, with the anti-gang message being dropped into the story rather than woven in. While this is not one of the worst television episodes I’ve ever seen, it definitely could have been stronger.

Rating: A 3 out of 5

As Walker says in ‘The Covenant’, “These belts don’t come easy. You have to earn them”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Juggernaut

Season 3, Episode 16

Premiere Date: February 10th, 1996

The title card for “The Juggernaut”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

In ‘The Juggernaut’, Walker has a limited presence within the story because he has to attend a weekend tournament. This creative decision allows the stakes to be raised to a higher level. It presents a scenario where the hero isn’t always readily available to save the day. It also forces the secondary characters to rely on their own skills to resolve the overarching conflict. Another component is how the episode’s villainous character posed a legitimate threat to Walker and those around him. Connie’s husband, Brad, was a terrifying character because of his realistic nature. Patrick St. Esprit’s performance added to Brad’s sinister persona as well. All of these elements helped make the episode suspenseful and it made me fear for the characters’ lives.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

As I just mentioned, Walker has to attend a weekend tournament. Because of this, Trivette steps in to host a self-defense class at a retreat for domestic violence survivors. I liked how the actual tournament was shown in the episode, as referenced events or situations aren’t always visually presented in TV episodes. But what I didn’t like was how the tournament itself seemed more like a karate clinic. This is because the referee was coaching the athletes during duels and the athletes were surrounding the ring as if listening to an instructor in a class. At the retreat, Trivette led his self-defense class in an interesting way, allowing the survivors to hit him while he was wearing multiple layers of padding. This helped the survivors become comfortable with striking an attacker. The actual lesson didn’t take place until the episode’s halfway point. In my opinion, this moment should have happened sooner in the story.

The story itself:

Unlike ‘The Covenant’, the topic of domestic violence was woven into the story of ‘The Juggernaut’. Instead of dropping this real-life subject into the plot and making it seem like a PSA, the situation presented in this episode feels like it belongs in the show’s world. It gives the message an opportunity to organically grow within the story. Because the retreat is led by Alex, a deputy district attorney and a friend of Walker’s, she’s the one who takes charge of the plot. She was also able to use her skills and expertise to save the day. I like how Alex progressed the narrative forward, as it gave one of the show’s secondary characters a moment to shine. It reminded me of The Babysitter’s Club, where each book is told from a different perspective.

The other factors from this episode:

  • I thought Alex’s cabin looked cute, despite the living room being the only interior shot shown! The green porch was not only eye-catching, but inviting as well. I also think the grounds surrounding the cabin were scenic. I don’t know if this is a real-life house or if it was a set created for the show. However, the location scout did a good job when choosing this particular spot!
  • During the retreat, C.D. tells Connie a story about a retreat participant who was able to turn her life around. After this story was told, C.D. asks Connie if she’ll write a happy ending to her own story. When Connie asks him why he wants to know, C.D. tells her how he wants to share her story with future retreat participants. To me, this was the sweetest moment of the episode!
  • Speaking of C.D., ‘The Juggernaut’ presented the second time I’ve seen C.D. become seriously injured. I’m not sure if this happened often on the show or if it’s just a coincidence. But I felt like bringing it up as a factor of this episode.

My overall thoughts:

When I first reviewed Murder, She Wrote last March, I ended up liking the second episode, ‘Film Flam’ more than the first one, ‘The Legacy of Borbey House’. The exact same thing has happened with ‘The Covenant’ and ‘The Juggernaut’, as I prefer ‘The Juggernaut’ over ‘The Covenant’. The story of the third season’s sixteenth episode contained a better written narrative. It also helped that the delivery of the domestic violence topic didn’t feel forced or preachy. With Walker in the episode for a limited amount of time, it allowed the story to have higher stakes. It also gave secondary characters more screen time and opportunities to be involved in the plot. ‘The Juggernaut’ kind of reminded me of Touched by an Angel, where the series’ regulars approached real-life topics with their wisdom in tow and kindness toward those who needed their help. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I liked ‘The Juggernaut’!

Rating: A solid 4 out of 5

This is one of the few shots of Alex’s cabin that was shown in broad daylight. I wonder how many times it was featured on the show? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: The Lynching

Season 3, Episode 8

Premiere Date: November 18th, 1995

The title card for “The Lynching”. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about this episode:

There were two scenes in ‘The Lynching’ where Walker interacts with Jonah, a man who is accused of killing a local woman. In the first scene, Walker is questioning Jonah about the murder. When he is asked why he ran away from the crime scene, Jonah reveals he was so afraid, that he wanted to go to “Jonah’s Island”. It is implied that “Jonah’s Island” is an imaginary world Jonah created in his mind. Another scene has Jonah stating that he’s “slow in the head”. Walker tells him how there’s nothing wrong with him and how some people get in trouble for moving too fast. These moments were emotionally touching and contained heart.

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Wilma Casey, a local woman from a smaller Texas town, is killed in broad daylight. The people in this town are so upset by her death, that they form a mob against Jonah. Statements such as “Wilma was a good woman” were spoken among the members of the mob. Other than those vague statements, no explanation was given for why Wilma was so beloved. A small amount of information about Wilma is provided in this episode, revealing how she’s wealthy and how she helped Jonah after his parents died. But her influence in the town is not told. Was she a philanthropist or a former governor? These questions were never answered in ‘The Lynching’.

The story itself:

The story within the ‘The Lynching’ is a murder mystery, as Walker and other members of law enforcement come together to solve Wilma’s case. With a variety of clues and some shady characters, this plot was intriguing as well as engaging! It also made more sense for the plot to rely on the criminal/police procedural aspect of the show, as the majority of murder mysteries incorporate law enforcement officers in the story. The actions and choices of the people involved in the case did raise more questions than I expected to ask. In one scene, Walker comes across an object that could be used in court. However, he chooses not to collect this object as evidence. These questions didn’t take me out of the episode, but it happened more often than it should have.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Wilma’s house in ‘The Lynching’ was absolutely picturesque! Most of this location was captured in exterior shots, with only the kitchen and office being shown on screen. Like Alex’s cabin in ‘The Juggernaut’, I’m not sure if this is a real-life structure. But whoever was the location scout for Walker, Texas Ranger deserves recognition!
  • According to INSP’s website, Trivette “is a little less “high noon,” and more “high tech” when it comes to fighting crime”. Based on the three episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger I saw, Trivette doesn’t use technology more or less than the other characters. INSP’s description makes it seem like he is the go-to guy for technology, similar to Angela’s adopted role on Bones. After seeing this show, I think the article from INSP is a little misleading.
  • At one point, Jonah has to be transferred from the jail to another location. Instead of taking him to a second jail, the people associated with Wilma’s case take Jonah to a secret area. What surprised me was how Walker didn’t suggest Alex’s cabin as a safer place for Jonah to stay. Even though the cabin is used for Alex’s domestic violence survivor retreats, I’d like to think she wouldn’t mind allowing Jonah to temporarily stay at her cabin.

My overall thoughts:

While I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as ‘The Juggernaut’, I did like it more than ‘The Covenant’. As someone who goes out of their way to talk about mysteries from time to time, the story was interesting enough to keep me invested in the plot. It contained the components that are usually found in a mystery: a collection of clues, potential suspects, some surprises, and suspense. Having this episode lean more toward the crime drama side of the show made sense with the narrative being told. This story is not without its flaws, however. Some of the actions and choices of the people involved in the overarching case were questionable in terms of believability. The lack of explanation for Wilma’s importance also didn’t help. Similar to ‘The Juggernaut’, the situation in ‘The Lynching’ felt it belonged in the world of Walker, Texas Ranger. This episode could have easily followed the footsteps of ‘The Covenant’, placing a message in the script and writing a story around it. Instead, ‘The Lynching’ focuses on themes that the audience could relate to; such as treating others as they would like to be treated.

Rating: A 3.6 out of 5

Is is just me or does this house remind anyone of Laura’s boarding house from Little House of the Prairie? Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My final assessment:

In my first review of Murder, She Wrote, I said the show as a whole, based on the three episodes I wrote about, was fine. I also said that I’d watch the show if I had nothing else to do. With Walker, Texas Ranger, I thought it was fine as well. However, the overall quality of the episodes was more consistent than the ones from my Murder, She Wrote review. Even though ‘The Juggernaut’ was the best episode of the three I chose, I did enjoy watching ‘The Lynching’. My least favorite episode was ‘The Covenant’, as I thought it was just ok. One aspect that stood out to me was how karate was only used during select moments of each episode. There was enough action in ‘The Juggernaut’ and ‘The Lynching’ to keep the plot interesting. However, I thought ‘The Covenant’ was a little light on action. While I probably don’t see myself watching Walker, Texas Ranger religiously, I wouldn’t mind checking out an episode or two if it happened to pop up on my television. But who knows? Since last March, I’ve seen more episodes of Murder, She Wrote than I originally expected.

Have you seen Walker, Texas Ranger? Are there any episodes you’d want to see me review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Dallas, Texas!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The House of God Review (A Month Without the Code #2)

The theme for August’s Genre Grandeur is “Medical Dramas”. I’m not going to lie, I had to do some research in order to find my entry. This is due to how specific the theme itself is. At first, I was going to review Article 99. But while reading some reviews on IMDB, I saw someone bring up the 1984 film, The House of God. Having never heard of this movie until this week, I read its synopsis on IMDB. After that, I was fortunate to find the movie on Youtube. According to IMDB’s description of The House of God, the film shares similarities with shows like M*A*S*H and St. Elsewhere. In fact, St. Elsewhere is referenced by a character named “The Fatman” in the 1984 title. While I’ve only seen pieces of M*A*S*H, I’ve never seen St. Elsewhere. However, I am familiar with each show’s premise.

The House of God poster created by United Artists. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087429/mediaviewer/rm2187241473.

Things I liked about the film:

The camaraderie between the characters: For a story like The House of God, the camaraderie between the characters is the heart and soul of that project. In the 1984 film, there was camaraderie to be found among the interns! The scene where they go to Dr. Watson’s Pub serves as a perfect example. Within this scene, the audience gets to learn about some of the characters. What the scene also does is showcase each of the characters’ distinct personalities. Because of the actors’ performances and their on-screen chemistry, it gave the impression that these characters got along well with each other. It also provided an interesting component to the movie!

A sense of honesty: In the synopsis for The House of God, it says “this film is closer to the truth than the public wants to know”. While watching the movie, I could tell the creative team wanted to present their story as truthful as possible. The character of “The Fatman” is one example of this honesty. He tells one of the interns that the reason why the doctors approve so many procedures is for the hospital to make money. Later in the film, Roy, one of the interns, questions the practices of Jo, one of the residents. He accuses her of caring more about autopsies than the needs of her patients. I know The House of God is based on a book written a real-life doctor. But I’m glad the film’s creative team chose not to sugar coat or glamorize their version of the medical world.

The informational inclusion of the medical world: Whenever a particular industry is showcased in a piece of media, there is sometimes an opportunity for the audience to learn something new. This is certainly the case for The House of God! One of the topics that “The Fatman” constantly brings up is “gomers”. He tells the interns this is an acronym standing for “get out of my emergency room”. “The Fatman” also explains that “gomers” are older patients who are dealing with a variety of medical situations, but are not high-risk. Dialogue like this is effectively used to educate the audience about the world of medicine. It helps them broaden their horizons and educate themselves in a cinematic way.

Heartbeat image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/medical-logo_763775.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/logo”>Logo vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The House of God’s limited scope: At the beginning of the film, the interns are shown a light-up map of the entire hospital. They are also instructed to follow colorful lines on the floor in order to reach a specific ward. Throughout the movie, however, the only areas of the hospital that are highlighted involve older patients and patients that are dealing with high-risk medical situations. I know there’s only so much story that can be told in an hour and forty-eight minutes. I’m also aware of how people in the medical field have to make rotations among different wards during their training period. But because the hospital’s scope was limited, it felt like a disservice was committed.

Limited amount of character development: While I liked the camaraderie among the characters, I never felt like I truly got to know them. That’s because the character development was limited. During the movie, the audience learns a little bit about some of the interns and the people working alongside them. But, in my opinion, more was desired in this department. In The House of God, there was a doctor named Dr. Alfred Pinkus. The only information about this character that the movie provides is he’s from New Zealand and he’s the resident heart consultant of the hospital. Because he is only in the film for a few scenes, the audience isn’t given the opportunity to learn more about him.

No overarching conflict: When I read the synopsis for The House of God, I thought the story was about a group of interns who oppose a lead doctor at the hospital they work at. This caused me to expect a narrative that features underdogs fighting against the leaders in their medical world. Instead, I got a story that didn’t have an overarching conflict. Sure, there were smaller scenarios within the movie that did get resolved. But this made the overall story feel more mundane than interesting. It also makes the synopsis on IMDB sound misleading.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

When I was searching the internet for medical dramas, suggestions for television shows were included as results. One of the most well-known is St. Elsewhere, which was referenced in The House of God. When I look back on this film, I honestly think the story would have benefited as a TV show rather than a movie. There was so much going on The House of God, but not enough time to explore it to the fullest extent. One of these areas is the character development, where some of the characters received a small amount. But the stronger components should not be ignored. The camaraderie among the interns was one of the most interesting parts of this story. It was brought to the audience through the acting performances and on-screen chemistry. This is not one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, but I can think of medical dramas that are better than this one. Despite The House of God being rated R, it could be “breenable”. However, these are the things that would need to be changed:

  • Throughout the film, there was language used that is not Breen Code friendly. This ranges from swearing to sexual references. More appropriate word choices would need to be chosen before production starts.
  • In one scene, Roy, one of the interns, and a nurse passionately kiss. This scene also heavily implies that they are about to have sex. During the screen-writing process, that particular scene would need to be rewritten to fit Breen Code standards.
  • Another scene in this film heavily implied a male and female intern was about to have sex during an autopsy check. These characters took their shirts/smocks off right before passionately kissing. This is another scene that would need to be rewritten to fit Breen Code standards.
  • One scene shows one of the interns using the bathroom. Because this scene doesn’t serve the plot and is not Breen code appropriate, this scene would be removed.
  • One of the interns ends up committing suicide. Instead of showing the act, it could be implied through Breen Code appropriate dialogue.
  • One of the patients at the hospital is shown bleeding. The amount of blood shown on screen would have to be reduced.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen The House of God? Do you like watching medical dramas on television? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Oh, The Places She’ll Go: A Map of Esther Williams’ Travels

When I think of Esther Williams, the pool at Michigan’s Grand Hotel always comes to mind! As one of the hotel’s many amenities, the pool is named after one of Hollywood’s most popular stars because the movie, This Time for Keeps, was filmed at the hotel. As I thought about this beloved place in the Great Lakes State, I started to wonder if there were other places across the country or the world where Esther left her legacy. I also thought about the places where Esther visited or frequented. This became the inspiration for my entry in Michaela’s Esther Williams Blogathon! My list consists of nine locations that share a connection with the actress herself. Each listing will feature facts and insight about that specific spot. I wasn’t able to visit any of these places due to the Coronavirus. Because of this, I had to include screenshots from my phone of photos I found on the internet. Most of the information in this list is from Esther’s Wikipedia page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther_Williams

The Esther Williams Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Image found at http://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2020/06/esther-williams-blogathon-announcement.html.

Manhattan Beach

Location: Los Angeles County, California

Status: Active

If we’re going to talk about the places in Esther’s life, we need to start with the beginning of her story. Born in Inglewood, California, Esther visited Manhattan Beach with her sister, Maurine, according to Wikipedia. While it’s unknown which specific places Esther frequented, it’s safe to assume she would have found a way to partake in the sport that brought her joy. On the Parks and Recreation site for Manhattan Beach, I came across the page for Begg Pool. Offering classes and times for lap and recreational swimming, the Begg Pool provides swimmers with a place to learn new skills and grow as athletes. As I was explored Manhattan Beach’s Park and Recreation site, I discovered the offering of performance arts classes. I also came across the page for the annual Shakespeare by the Sea event. Having these acting opportunities available in Manhattan Beach makes a lot of sense when it comes to discussing Esther Williams. Because she became an actress after she became an established swimmer, the inclusion of acting and swimming in Manhattan Beach serves the best of both worlds.

https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/aquatics

https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/special-events/shakespeare-by-the-sea

https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/cultural-arts/events-camps-and-classes

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/aquatics.

Los Angeles Athletic Club

Location: Los Angeles, California

Status: Active

On Wikipedia, there is a picture of Esther at the Los Angeles Athletic Club that was taken in 1939. The site also lists her as one of the club’s notable members. When I explored the official website of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, I got the impression the club served as a place for athletes to take their sport seriously. It would make sense for Esther to spend her time at this location, especially since she was an Olympic hopeful. Similar to Manhattan Beach’s Begg Pool, the Aquatics facility at the Los Angeles Athletic Club offers swimming classes. They also provide a conditioning club and a clinic.  Looking at the photo of the pool itself, the main takeaway is the simple style this space boasts. The black and white color palette makes the area seem like it is frozen in time, with the design choice of stripes bringing a sense of elegance. These elements create a facility that feels as timeless as the actress who went there!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Athletic_Club (the club’s official website is included in this Wikipedia page)

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://laac.com/athletics/aquatics/.

Treasure Island

Location: San Francisco, California

Status: Active

In the year, 1940, Esther starred in a water spectacle called ‘Aquacade’. This show was held during the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. The official location of this exposition was Treasure Island, “an artificial island in the San Francisco Bay and a neighborhood in the City and County of San Francisco”, according to Wikipedia. If you’ve never visited this island or had no idea this location existed until you read this article, you might think of the famous ‘Pleasure Island’ from the beloved classic Pinocchio. However, Treasure Island is nothing like the island from Pinocchio’s story. In fact, it serves as a community that could be similar to your own backyard. The island’s official website lists many resources that will sound familiar, such as a bike shop and restaurants. What I find interesting is how an extraordinary event like the Golden Gate International Exposition was held on an island that seems ordinary. It would be fun to travel back in time to see Treasure Island transformed into an elaborate world stage!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Island,_San_Francisco

https://sftreasureisland.org/treasure-island-businesses-attractions-and-recreation

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101854779/massive-redevelopment-underway-for-treasure-island.

The Beverly Hills Hotel

Location: Beverly Hills, California

Status: Active

Wikipedia states that one of the clauses in Esther Williams’ contract with MGM was “that she receive a guest pass to The Beverly Hills Hotel where she could swim in the pool every day”. After watching a video featuring this pool on the hotel’s website, I definitely see the appeal of this location! Similar to the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Aquatics facility, stripes are a design staple around the pool. They can be found in the seat cushions and the table umbrellas. Pink, green, and white serve as the the pool area’s color palette. Cabanas surrounding the pool showcase this palette beautifully. With the accent wall boasting a green leaf pattern, the two surrounding walls are a solid pink. A crème sofa and chair serve as seating options in this space. Wood furniture completes the overall look, capturing a classic style that has stood the test of time!

https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/the-beverly-hills-hotel/the-pool/

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Image originally found at https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/the-beverly-hills-hotel/the-pool/.

The Esther Williams Pool

Location: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Status: Active

Another hotel pool Esther frequented that joins this list! Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel was the filming location for the 1947 film, The Time for Keeps. Because of Esther’s involvement in the movie, the pool has been officially named the Esther Williams Pool!  Tanda Gmiter from MLive writes how Esther Williams and her film benefited the hotel’s longevity. The years when World War II took place were difficult for Mackinac Island’s crown jewel. The article states “during those lean war years, the Grand Hotel faced the same dismal predicament shared by many resorts: A long-term lack of paying guests”. However, a chance encounter would change the course of history for the hotel and those associated with the movie. Tanda says “someone connected to the film had seen a little 10-minute travelogue featuring the island that was done in 1944. When they were scouting sites for the Williams’ film, Mackinac seemed like a natural fit”. Since the release of The Time for Keeps, Grand Hotel has experienced years of success and has become an icon in Michigan.

https://www.mlive.com/travel/2018/07/how_a_hollywood_star_in_a_swim.html

https://www.grandhotel.com/activities/esther-williams-pool/

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.mlive.com/travel/2018/07/how_a_hollywood_star_in_a_swim.html.

Cypress Gardens

Location: Winter Haven, Florida

Status: Preserved

The 1953 movie, Easy to Love, was filmed in this particular destination, “where a swimming pool in the shape of the state of Florida had been built specifically for the film”. Wikipedia says “Cypress Gardens was a botanical garden and theme park near Winter Haven, Florida that operated from 1936 to 2009”. It was the Sunshine State’s first theme park, boasting attractions like water skiing, dinner cruises, and garden tours. This location was included in a 2014 list from the National Register of Historic Places.  Easy to Love was not the only Florida-filmed project Esther worked on, as she starred in multiple movies and television programs from the ‘50s and ‘60s. While the theme park has been closed and replaced with another one, Legoland Florida, the botanical garden is preserved inside the new park. In fact, it is included as one of their featured attractions!

https://web.archive.org/web/20070713205521/http://www.cypressgardens.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypress_Gardens

https://web.archive.org/web/20140426235832/http://www.nps.gov/nr/listings/20140425.htm

https://www.legoland.com/florida/map-explore/land-views/cypress-gardens/attractions/botanical-gardens/

While the Florida shaped pool still takes residence in Legoland Florida, it’s now used as a fountain. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Image originally found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiBkULOrf7Y.

Wembley Arena

Location: London, England

Status: Active

According to Wikipedia, Esther “starred in an aqua-special at Wembley Stadium in London”. A photo from 1956 reveals the event actually took place at Empire Pool, which is located near Wembley Stadium. The website Television Obscurities shares how this event was meant to serve as a part of an on-going tour lasting from 1956 to 1958. Poor reviews for the 1957 show caused this tour to be cut short. While I wasn’t able to find any photos of this event and a recording of the event itself hasn’t resurfaced, the Empire Pool is still part of the English community. Now known as the Wembley Arena, this venue hosts concerts covering a variety of musical genres. The arena is located in Wembley Park, a hub for attractions, entertainment, and leisure activities.

https://www.ssearena.co.uk/your-visit/wembley-park

If you want to learn more about the aqua-special, you can visit the website, tvobscurities.com, and type Esther’s name into the search bar located at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://wembleypark.com/attractions/the-sse-arena-wembley/.

The Raleigh Hotel

Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Status: Active

2010 saw the introduction of the Raleigh Hotel’s Esther Williams suite. This room “incorporates a beach summer theme”, with a basic color palette of white and beige allowing pops of color to be seen. Bright hues of blue, peach, and teal are found in pillows, towels, and curtains. There are three separate areas within the suite: the bedroom, the bathroom, and the main sitting area. Like the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Aquatics facility, the overall design of the suite captures a moment in time. While the style in this space is simple, it does help carry the consistency of the hotel. Its chic and vintage aesthetic make this location appear photogenic.

https://www.suiteness.com/suites/united-states/florida/miami/the-raleigh-hotel/the-esther-williams-suite

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34439-d85180-Reviews-The_Raleigh_Miami_Beach-Miami_Beach_Florida.html

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mercedes-benz-fashion-week-swim-lets-the-sun-in-98595984.html

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.suiteness.com/suites/united-states/florida/miami/the-raleigh-hotel/the-esther-williams-suite.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Location: Los Angeles, California

Status: Active

As we come to an end in our journey through Esther’s travels, we return to the place where we began: California. When Esther attended the first annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, there was a screening of her film, Neptune’s Daughter, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s pool. This choice was fitting, since she spent a lot of time around pools during her life. The style around this area is much simpler than The Beverly Hills Hotel’s pool area. However, it works with its respective hotel’s interior designs. The white pool chairs with the hotel’s official monogram promote a more classic flare that is carried throughout the hotel. It lets the pool itself be the focal point, with the light and dark shades of blue complimenting the chairs surrounding it. This space provides a memorable view from the various suites that are offered. With the hotel itself surrounding the pool, it makes this feature as celebrated as Esther Williams herself.

https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/pool/tropicana-pool-cafe

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/pool/tropicana-pool-cafe.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Marnie Review (A Month Without the Code — #1)

For the 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, I wanted to review a movie that was released after 1954 or before 1934. This is because I’m also participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon. While searching through Alfred’s filmography, I came across the 1964 film Marnie. The idea of the female protagonist being the center of the film’s mystery was something I hadn’t seen in the other Alfred Hitchcock projects I saw. As of August 2020, I have seen five of his movies, including Marnie. Two years ago, I said The Birds was the worst film I saw in 2018. However, Strangers on a Train appeared in my Honorable Mentions for my 2018 best movies list. Will Marnie appear on my best or worst of 2020 list? That mystery will get solved by reading this review!

Marnie poster created by Universal Pictures and Geoffrey Stanley Productions. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marnie1.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Tippi Hendren worked with Alfred Hitchcock when she starred in The Birds. In Marnie, she knew what to expect with the direction of her performance because of this pre-existing partnership. Tippi was given more acting material to work with in this film compared to the previous one from 1963. Her portrayal of the titular character was well-rounded, allowing her to express a variety of emotions. Marnie and Mark’s honeymoon serves as a good example of this. During a nice evening dinner, Tippi displays feelings of content. But when her character is having a heated argument, she provides a fierceness and strength to Marnie that projects off the screen. Before watching this movie, I had seen some of Sean Connery’s films. Even when the film surrounding him doesn’t hold up, he still gives his performance everything he has, talent wise. When I watched Marnie, Sean’s portrayal of Mark reminded me of Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. What I mean by this is Sean had a commanding presence that captured the attention of the audience. He also carried himself with confidence throughout the film. Despite appearing in the movie for about two scenes, I thought Louise Latham’s performance was strong! Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll say her portrayal of Marnie’s mother, Bernice, was powerful in the movie’s climax. It was captivating to watch and had a good amount of emotionality.

The cinematography: One of the staples of an Alfred Hitchcock film is the interesting uses of cinematography that can be seen. Marnie features camera work that was creative and appealing to the eye. My favorite example is when Marnie is stealing the money from the office. While she’s doing this, a custodian is mopping the floor in the same vicinity. The shot shows the custodian on the left side of the screen and Marnie on the right side. As this part of the story played out, it built suspense and left me on the edge on my seat. Another good use of cinematography happened at the beginning of the film. When Marnie is first introduced, her face is not shown on screen. This creates a sense of mystery that surrounds her presence. It’s not until she changes her hair color from black to blonde that we finally see Marnie’s face.

The use of the color red: Throughout the movie, the color red appears in various forms. When a red object crosses paths with Marnie, she reacts with panic and fear. One example is when Marnie and Mark go to a horse race. As soon as she notices the red dots on a jockey’s shirt, she immediately wants to leave. This aspect served as a consistent component of this character. It also allows the audience to engage in the mystery surrounding this visual choice.

The 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/announcing-the-4th-alfred-hitchcock-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The scene transitions: When a cinematic story moves from one scene to another, that transition can make or break the movie’s overall flow. In Marnie, some scenes ended abruptly, causing the transitions to feel clunky. A good example is when Marnie is leaving the office after she steals some money. As soon as she walks down the stairs, an employee shows up and greets a custodian. All of a sudden, the next scene begins. Had these transitions been smoother, the film wouldn’t feel like it was in stop-and-go traffic.

Light on thrills: Before watching this movie, I knew it was classified as a thriller. Because Marnie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I was expecting a mysterious and suspenseful tale that fits the brand he created. While it did have moments of suspense, the film as a whole was not thrilling. The majority of the story focused on the drama within the narrative. In fact, Marnie felt like it belonged in the drama genre. If Alfred wanted to try something new and go out of his comfort zone, that’s understandable. Unfortunately, this movie seemed out of character for him.

The run-time: Alfred Hitchcock once said “the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder”. However, it seems like Alfred forgot his quote when he directed this movie. Marnie is two hours and ten minutes. Because of this creative decision, some scenes were drawn out longer than necessary in order to satisfy the run-time. One example is a conversation between Mark and Lil after Marnie goes horse-riding. Personally, I thought this scene went on for too long. Had scenes like that one been trimmed down, it might have put the film’s run-time under two hours.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

Alfred Hitchcock is a director who has created a distinct brand for himself. Known as the “Master of Suspense”, Alfred’s work consists of mystery and thrills. This decision is the reason why Marnie sticks out like a sore thumb. I want to make it clear that this is not Alfred’s worst film. The mystery itself was intriguing and the creative choices involving visuals were interesting. But the drama in this story overshadows the thrills, making the overall project feel like it should have been classified as a drama. As I said in my review, this felt out of character for Alfred. It would be like if an author like Debbie Macomber, an author known for writing heart-warming stories, published a gruesome murder mystery novel out of the blue. This would feel out of the character for the brand she created. Because this is my first review for A Month Without the Code, it’s time for me to point out how Marnie could be “breened”! I believe this story could be made into a Breen Code era film. However, these are the things that need to be changed in order for this to happen:

  • Throughout the film, there is language used that does not belong in a Breen Code era film. This ranges from swearing to using God’s name in vain. These words would either be removed or switched to more appropriate choices.
  • There is one scene that heavily implies Mark and Marnie had sex. Even though this happens after they get married, the scene itself would need to be rewritten or omitted.
  • One scene shows Marnie attempting suicide. Because this is a sensitive subject, this scene would to be removed or rewritten.
  • The robe Lil wears has a low-cut neckline. Changes to the style of the robe would need to take place before filming begins.
  • A large amount of blood is featured in one scene. The use of blood would need to be reduced.
  • A horse gets injured and killed in two inter-connected scenes. This would have to get omitted or the scene would have to be rewritten.

Overall score: 6.4 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography? Do you have a favorite movie from the “Master of Suspense”? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen