Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star Review

I am so close to publishing 200 movie reviews! Because of this, I have devoted this week to publishing my 199th and 200th movie reviews. Next week, I will publish a celebratory post to commemorate this accomplishment. Yesterday, I watched Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. When I posted my review of Perry Mason Returns last month, it ended up becoming more popular than I expected, with the article receiving nine likes! These factors are the reason why I chose to review Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. For the most part, I have enjoyed this particular series. While some films have been better than others, I haven’t come across an installment that was bad. What works in Perry Mason’s favor is having consistent elements, such as the acting performances. Because these elements have been, more often than not, strong, it has helped the memorability of the series!

While searching the internet for this film’s poster, I took a screenshot of this one, as I love the overall design! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Joe Penny is an actor I’m familiar with because of his performance in Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. What I liked about his portrayal of Robert McCay in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is how he was given more opportunities to use emotion! A great example is when Robert is being questioned by Perry Mason at the police station. For most of this scene, the sadness and concern of the situation can be seen on Joe’s face. As the scene progresses, Robert’s anger explodes. Another actor that uses facial expressions well is Jennifer O’Neill! Portraying the murder victim’s wife, Alison Carr, Jennifer used her eyes to enhance the emotions her character was feeling. Her best scene was when Alison and Perry are having a conversation at a law library event. During this conversation, Alison tries to convince Perry that despite everything she has experienced, she is fine. But because her eyes contain so much pain, it appears that Alison is falling apart at the seams. Something I enjoy about the Perry Mason TV movie series is how new, memorable characters have been introduced in each story. Michelle Benti, portrayed by Wendy Crewson, is one of these characters. A photo journalist from New York City, Michelle plays an integral part of the story. She also had a great on-screen personality! Because of these things, it makes me wish Michelle became one of the series’ regulars.

The cinematography: There are times when a mystery movie offers visually appealing cinematography to their audience. Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is one of these films, as I noticed some interesting cinematography while watching the movie! In the scene where Robert is being questioned by Perry, light is pouring into the room through the blinds of the windows. Both the light and shadows reflect off of Robert’s face, highlighting his facial expressions. Toward the beginning of the film, Robert is walking through the city at night. Smoke could be seen at various moments in that scene. This element helped add to the mysterious nature of the story!

Scenes that tricked the audience: Throughout Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, Robert McCay is filming a movie in New York City. This caused a few scenes to be presented in a way that tricked the audience. In the aforementioned beginning scene, Robert finds himself in the city at night. At one point, he is surrounded by two sets of gang members. As the scene goes on, it is revealed that Robert and the gang members are in the middle of shooting a film scene. Later in the film, Robert and one of his co-stars, Kate, are seen having a conversation with each other. At first, it seems like they are gaining a mutual understanding of the murder case. But, like the previously mentioned scene, this moment is also revealed to be a part of Robert’s movie.

New York City skyline with letters image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/new-york-skyline-typographic-silhouette_719554.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Characters with wasted potential: While each character in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star gets their moment to shine, there are a few characters that could have had a greater significance in the story. The gang members from the very first scene serve as a good example. I understand these characters were meant to be extras in Robert’s movie. However, I feel at least one of them could have been given more lines and screen time. Who knows? Maybe they would have become a series regular.

The funeral/memorial dinner: When I reviewed the Murder, She Wrote episode, ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, I mentioned how one funeral visitation felt more like a light-hearted dinner party. There was one scene in this movie that made me feel similar to the aforementioned episode. In Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, the funeral/memorial dinner for the murder victim felt more like an award ceremony. This is because of two things; the fact that some characters don’t wear black attire and how one of the murder victim’s closest friends incorporated jokes during his speech. As I said in my review of ‘Hannigan’s Wake’, funeral services are unique to the family hosting that gathering. However, the two factors I brought up prevented this scene from displaying strong feelings of sadness and grief.

An unbelievable stunt scene: I am aware how fictional stories make their audience suspend their disbelief to varying degrees. But in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, there was one scene involving a stunt that didn’t seem believable to me. The stunt itself is not what caused me to feel this way. This was brought on by the stunt coordinator’s decision to allow a civilian, Perry’s colleague Paul, to participate in a stunt without taking precautionary steps beforehand. I understand this particular scene was meant to serve as a comedic moment. But I just can’t believe any stunt coordinator would willingly overlook details like that, especially in a mystery movie that appears grounded in reality.

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My overall impression:

As the eighth movie I’ve seen in the Perry Mason TV movie series, I’d say Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star is the best one! Despite its flaws, this film did contain a mystery that was not only intriguing, but also captivating from start to finish! Almost every series features at least one chapter that revolves around show business. When this creative decision is chosen, Hollywood usually serves as that chapter’s backdrop. In Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, a movie was being filmed in New York City. This allows a nice change of scenery and a different perspective to this tried-and-true plot point. While watching the film, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Brandon Lee tragedy. It is due to the murder victim also being killed by a prop weapon in Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star. There’s no denying the major differences between the real-life and fictional situations. But after watching Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, it does make me wonder if there would have been a heightened sense of awareness had someone working on the film or a person who knew a cast or crew member had seen the 1986 movie prior to production on The Crow?

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

What are your thoughts on the Perry Mason TV movie series? Do you have a favorite mysteries series? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: New Trailers for Upcoming Hallmark movies + Official synopsis for next ‘Aurora Teagarden’ movie revealed

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been easy finding movie news stories to discuss on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I am thankful when I come across news about Hallmark productions! While I did talk about stories revolving around Hallmark films last month, those projects were Christmas related. In this Word on the Street article, I will address Hallmark films that will premiere outside the Christmas season! With the ‘Fall Harvest’ line-up just around the corner, it’s common for viewers to see trailers rolled out as the weeks go by. My Word on the Street story will focus on the first new trailer for the line-up. Before the Christmas season begins, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries likes to air some new films during the Fall. This Word on the Street story will feature a discussion about two upcoming movies; with one receiving a trailer and the other receiving a synopsis. As I sometimes do, I will share my opinion on these pieces of movie news.

Poppy and chamomile pattern image created by Klyaksun at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/seamless-pattern-with-chamomile-and-poppies-flowers_1308007.htm’>Designed by Klyaksun</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Klyaksun – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Two new trailers have been released from Hallmark; with one for a ‘Fall Harvest’ film and the other for an upcoming movie from Hallmark’s second network! The first one represents the Hallmark Channel movie Follow Me to Daisy Hills, which currently has a release date of September 19th. In the trailer, there were three scenes that featured good cinematography! These scenes revolved around a river during the autumn season. The acting from the leads, Cindy Busby and Marshall Williams, appeared stiff to me. However, this is not a reflection of their performances in the film, as the movie has not been released yet. I am disappointed that with a project called Follow Me to Daisy Hills, there were no daisies to be found. It makes me wonder why the film’s town is even called ‘Daisy Hills’ at all?

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.

The other trailer is for one of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest titles, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. This movie is advertised on the main page of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ official website and boasts a release date of September 27th. As I look back on this specific trailer, I noticed how this movie feels like a complete tonal shift from its predecessor. From what I remember, JL Family Ranch was a gritty, modern western that had a certain amount of adrenaline and suspense. According to the trailer, however, the sequel is a heart-felt drama that focuses on family and second chances. Even the color scheme and lighting appear brighter than the first film.

Female detective image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/female-detective-with-magnifying-glass_1250814.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Brgfx – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Speaking of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, an official synopsis for Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and it Feels So Deadly has been posted on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ website! Below is the description for the movie:

“Aurora’s high school reunion turns deadly when a body is found in the hotel pool. Aurora and her Real Murders Club help investigate which classmate was most likely to kill.”

Even though the movie sounds interesting, I am disappointed that the “reunited” part of the film will not have anything to do with Aurora’s ex, Martin. In a Word on the Street story back in February, I wondered if Martin would return to the series, based on the film’s title. A dynamic that hasn’t been featured in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film before could have been found in this project. But I guess there’s always the next film. What I do wonder is if any mentions of Nick and Aurora’s engagement will be found within the script? Will we see any wedding planning in the film? If we do, it would continue the story’s overarching continuity.  

What are your thoughts on these pieces of movie news? Are you looking forward to any of the films I talked about? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links if you want to check out each source:

https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/love-at-daisy-hills/videos/preview-follow-me-to-daisy-hills

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/jl-family-ranch-the-wedding-gift/videos/preview-j-l-family-ranch-the-wedding-gift

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/aurora-teagarden-mysteries-reunited-and-it-feels-so-deadly

Take 3: Perry Mason Returns Review + 235 & 240 Follower Thank You

Two weeks ago, 18 Cinema Lane received 235 followers! With The Legends of Western Cinema Week taking place last week, I decided to publish my blog follower dedication review this week. Shortly after the aforementioned blogathon, my blog received 240 followers! As I’ve done before, I combined both achievements into one review. It has been a while since I wrote about a mystery film for a blog follower dedication review. In fact, the last time a mystery movie was discussed in this type of review was Gaslight, when my blog received 155 followers last November. It has also been awhile since I reviewed a made-for-TV mystery film, as I wrote about Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek in May. This provided a good excuse to choose Perry Mason Returns for this blog follower dedication review!

This is a screenshot of the poster I took from my television with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I liked about the film:

The acting: Even though there were good performances from the actors, it’s the performances from the actresses that steal the show! Holland Taylor’s role in Perry Mason Returns was similar to her roles in George of the Jungle and Legally Blonde. What I liked about her performance in this 1985 film was how it seemed like she was given more material to work with! My favorite scene featuring Holland’s character, Paula Gordon, was when she demanded Perry Mason to leave her house. The anger she brings forth seems genuine, allowing Paula to grace the screen with a sense of authority. Another Gordon family member whose actress gave a solid performance was Roberta Weiss! Even though her character, Laura, appeared in the movie for a limited amount of time, Roberta brought emotionality to her role. When Laura meets with Della after her father’s death, Laura can be seen bursting into tears. Similar to Holland’s portrayal of Paula, Roberta’s performance felt genuine! Like I’ve said in the introduction, I have seen some Perry Mason films, with most of them coming from the TV film series. One thing I have noticed about Barbara Hale’s portrayal of Della Street is how consistent it is. Della has a charming personality, with enough emotion to carry her from scene to scene. This is especially the case in Perry Mason Returns, where she is accused of a crime she didn’t commit. These factors make Barbara’s performance enjoyable to watch! They also make Della a likeable character!

The set design: There was some impressive set design in Perry Mason Returns! The Gordon family’s house boasts interior designs that effectively reflect a wealthier background. Two rooms that were shown on screen were the living room and Arthur Gordon’s office. They were both spacious, with their own distinct styles being presented. Wood played a consistent role throughout the office, from the hardwood floor to the wall’s paneling. Crème with touches of brown was the signature color scheme of the living room. At one point in the film, a beach house appears in the story. This location had a chic, up-scale design, with the black-and-white checkerboard floor nicely complementing the white pillars separating the living room and kitchen. Della’s house also contained photogenic set design! The kitchen featured a wrap-around window that paired well with a breakfast nook area. This space was not only charming, but inviting as well!

References to the television show: While I’ve seen some Perry Mason movies, I have never seen the original television show. Despite this, I liked the references that were included in the script! They were subtle enough not to alienate viewers like me who are not familiar with the show, but not too subtle for viewers to miss. In one scene, an assistant is talking to a judge about Perry’s decision to defend Della. She calls him ‘rusty’ and assumes he’s making a mistake. This is a reference to Raymond Burr returning to the titular role 19 years after the show ended.

Detective work image created by Photoroyalty at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/investigation-background-design_1041877.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Revealing the killer too early: Every murder mystery story sets aside time to reveal who killed the murder victim. However, this usually takes place toward the end of the story. In Perry Mason Returns, the murder victim’s killer was revealed within the movie’s first fifteen minutes. While this didn’t completely spoil the mystery, it would have been more surprising had this information been presented later in the film.

Perry Mason’s belated introduction: As the title of this movie suggests, the story of Perry Mason Returns revolves around Perry Mason. Even though the titular character appears in the majority of the film, Perry himself wasn’t introduced until about thirty minutes into the movie. The beginning of the story was reserved for exposition and the mystery’s set-up. But I still feel Perry should have been introduced sooner.

Paul’s missteps: I know that having Perry’s younger assistant make mistakes yet help save the day is an essential part of this particular character. Whenever Paul, Perry’s assistant in Perry Mason Returns, made a mistake, they seemed like choices most people could anticipate making. In one scene, Paul comes across a piece of evidence he can’t physically take with him. His decision to not take a picture of the evidence with a small, portable camera is one I found baffling. Samantha Kinsey, from the Mystery Woman series, brings a camera with her anytime she looks for clues and evidence. The time period Perry Mason Returns takes place in can’t be used as an excuse either, as smaller cameras existed in 1985.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Prior to writing this review, I have seen some Perry Mason movies, with most of them coming from the made-for-TV film collection. Out of those movies, I feel Perry Mason Returns is one of the series’ stronger entries! The story did seem like a first chapter for this particular narrative. Despite this, I was invested in the overall project from start to finish! Even when the murder victim’s killer was revealed during the film’s first fifteen minutes, there was enough interest to keep the story going. The subtle references allowed the movie to connect with the pre-existing source material. Solid acting performances and appealing set design helped make the film engaging. Perry Mason Returns is a good introduction to the series, an enjoyable film whether or not you watched the original show. Before I end this review, I want to thank each of 18 Cinema Lane’s followers! I’m grateful for the success this blog has reached so far!

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you watched the original Perry Mason television show? Are there any mystery films from this series you’d like to see me write about? Please tell me 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

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: 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

Take 3: Cry Wolf Review (Clean Movie Month #4)

When I joined Pale Writer’s Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon, I had never seen any of Barbara’s movies. Despite this, I had heard good things about her as an actress. For my submission, I knew I wanted to review one of Barbara’s films from the Breen Code Era. Because I signed up for this blogathon and the Clean Movie Month Blogathon, which both take place in July, I figured it’d be the best of both worlds! After searching through her filmography and seeing the choices of the other participants, I chose the 1947 picture Cry Wolf! It’s no secret that mysteries are a staple on 18 Cinema Lane. In fact, the most popular review on my blog is for Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill, which has over a thousand views! When I read the synopsis for Cry Wolf, I knew I had to select it for the blogathons. It sounded like a mysterious retelling of Frankenstein, which would be an interesting concept to explore during the Breen Code Era. What did I think of this film? That mystery will be solved when you read this review!

Cry Wolf poster created by Warner Bros. and Thomson Production. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crywolf1947.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I had never seen any of Barbara’s films prior to Pale Writer’s blogathon. Therefore, I didn’t really know what to expect from her performance in Cry Wolf. What stood out in Barbara’s portrayal of Sandra was how confident she appeared! In every scene, she seemed sure of herself, never letting doubt stand in her way. When Sandra interacted with Julie, she took charge of the situation and displayed a sense of leadership. Speaking of Julie, I enjoyed seeing Geraldine Brooks’ portrayal of this character! It reminded me of the performances of Judy Garland, where she is presented as acting like her age with a dose of innocence. This can be seen when Julie meets Sandra for the first time. Errol Flynn’s performance was consistent throughout the film! His portrayal of Mark always had a sinister undertone, giving away the impression he was always enveloped in a cloud of suspicion. This character fit within the nature of the project because of what Errol brought, talent-wise, to the role.

The atmosphere: Because Cry Wolf is classified as a mystery film, the overall atmosphere is going to be darker in tone. It should also be noted that the atmosphere was consistent throughout the project. This was accomplished through a collection of film-making techniques. One of them is the use of shadows. In scenes that were more mysterious, shadows could be seen on the walls. The scene where Sandra and Julie make their initial trek to the lab is a great example of this, as the audience can see Sandra’s shadow on the wall in the hallway. Another technique involves music. Scenes with sinister undertones featured orchestral tunes that sounded ominous. It really matched the tone the movie’s creative team was striving for!

The interior design: The majority of this story takes place inside the Caldwell-Demarest family home, with the interior design effectively matching the wealth of the family. A noticeable design choice was the wrap around balcony overlooking the foyer. Some homes feature one balcony section that looks down on a particular room. The fact that the balcony in Cry Wolf was larger than one section showcases how expansive this space is. Wood was a prominent material found in the interior design. It not only served as wall paneling; it was also used as detailed crown molding in the library. Even though the kitchen was only in one scene, the detailed art on the walls made it a memorable space. The overall design within this location enhanced the visual appeal of the house!

The Queen of Sass: Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon banner created by Pale Writer from Pale Writer. https://palewriter2.home.blog/2020/06/20/announcing-the-queen-of-sass-barbara-stanwyck-blogathon/

What I didn’t like about the film:

Julie’s relationship with Ronnie: One of the components of Julie’s subplot involved a secret relationship with a young man named Ronnie. This part of her story was meant to correlate with her feelings of isolation and entrapment. However, it seemed like it was there for the sake of being there. The relationship didn’t lead anywhere and Ronnie was never mentioned again after Julie’s interaction with him while horse-riding. It makes wonder why it was included in the story at all?

Mark’s attempts to charm Sandra: There were a few moments in Cry Wolf where Mark attempts to charm Sandra. To me, these attempts felt out of character for him. Throughout the film, Mark uses influence and control to gain power. When it comes to Sandra, however, he ends up overstepping boundaries. During one conversation, Mark kisses Sandra. She responds appropriately by expressing displeasure and slapping him in the face. It’s as if he completely forgot that Sandra was still mourning her husband.

An unclear resolution: I’m not going to spoil Cry Wolf if you haven’t seen it. But I will say I found the mystery’s resolution to be unclear. The film presents one idea of what happened. Several scenes later, an unreliable source shares another idea of the mystery’s outcome. As the film wraps up, the resolution is not given any explanations. However, I’m not sure if this creative decision was intentional.

Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/cleanmoviemonth2020-is-here/.

My overall impression:

I’m glad I chose Cry Wolf as my introduction to Barbara Stanwyck’s filmography! It was a good film that allowed me to stay invested from start to finish! This was helped by the inclusion of solid acting performances, a consistent atmosphere, and great interior design. While these are components that strengthened the project, the movie also had flaws that held it back from being better. One of these flaws is an unclear resolution, which was unexplained by the end of the film. But, as I said in my review, this choice might have been intentional. Like I said about Goodbye, Mr. Chips and The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf is a Breen Code friendly film. However, there was one aspect I was surprised to see. In one scene, a deceased body was shown on screen. As I said in my review of The Wife of Monte Cristo, a death would usually be implied.

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Barbara Stanwyck’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Audrey Rose Review

For June’s Genre Grandeur, the chosen theme is “New York Films of the 70’s”. After searching through a list on Wikipedia, I selected Audrey Rose as my submission! This is a film I have heard about in passing, but have never seen. What caught my attention is how the movie was classified as a horror film. I don’t always review movies in this genre, as a portion of them are too dark for my liking. However, I do try to go out of my comfort zone every so often. The synopsis also intrigued me, as I wondered where the story would go. Mysteries are a staple on this blog, so I was looking forward to helping the characters solve the case. Is Audrey Rose worthy of being included in Genre Grandeur? Keep reading my review so you can solve the mystery too!

Audrey Rose poster created by Sterobcar Productions and United Artists. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Audrey_Rose_movie_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: One of Anthony Hopkins’ most iconic roles is Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. Through his performance, he brought to life a character that was eerie and unsettling. In Audrey Rose, Anthony’s portrayal of Elliot Hoover was also unsettling, but for different reasons. During the events of the film, Elliot seemed to have power over the situation. This is because he had the answers Ivy’s parents were desperately looking for. Unlike Hannibal, Elliot was never meant to come across as scary. Anthony’s facial expressions, body language, and the way his character interacted with others supports this claim. When it comes to stories focusing on young characters, it’s important for a creative team to cast a young actor or actress who can carry a character’s emotional weight. Despite appearing in the film for a limited amount of time, Susan Swift impressed me with her portrayal of Ivy Templeton! It was heartbreaking to watch Ivy experience one of her nightmarish episodes, as Susan’s performance was that believable. However, that level of emotionality added to the captivation of this character.

The Templeton family’s apartment: I’ve seen a variety of apartments in television and film. But the Templeton family’s apartment in Audrey Rose is one of the best! An aspect that immediately caught my eye was the grand, wood staircase. This design feature is usually found in on-screen homes from the suburbs or wealthier neighborhoods. So, seeing this staircase in an apartment was unique. Speaking of woodwork, the fireplace in the living room was adorned with fine detailing. It shows how the apartment’s woodwork can compliment the space’s interior design. The showstopper of this living environment was the paintings on the ceiling! Exquisite is the word I would use to describe the art itself. I would be willing to guess that pictures and videos would not do it justice. Whoever created the apartment’s interior design should be commended for their work!

Elemental consistency: Throughout this movie, there were two elements that had a consistent presence. When Elliot first enters the Templeton family’s lives, the weather is very rainy. This is also the case when Ivy is experiencing nightmarish episodes. The incorporation of rain reminded me of The Crow, as this element served as symbolism in Audrey Rose. Not only did rain highlight sadness, it also showed how some situations should run their course. Fire is the other element that was consistently featured in the story. This was present during a tragic event and it emphasized how ignoring some situations only allows them to manifest. These elements created visual interest as well provide depth to the narrative.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Not a horror film: On Wikipedia and IMDB, Audrey Rose is classified as a “horror” film. Even the film’s poster gives the impression that someone is coming back from the dead, which is a classic horror movie concept. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Two traits that have defined the horror genre are stories where characters get away from or get rid of something bad. None of these traits are found in Audrey Rose. The primary focus of this movie surrounded the idea of reincarnation. This idea is presented in a positive way, as a course that needs to run on its own term. While horrifying things happen to Ivy, in the form of nightmarish episodes, it was caused by fearing the unknown. Even though this aspect can be found in horror films, it can also be found in other genres. Audrey Rose is a film that I, personally, did not find scary.

A drawn-out story: Like I already said, the story of Audrey Rose revolves around the idea of reincarnation. While this provides the overall narrative with an interesting debate, the majority of the story focuses on whether reincarnation is legitimate. A solution to the Templeton family’s problem wasn’t found until the last thirty minutes of the film. This drawn-out story was the result of an almost two-hour run-time. Had about twenty or thirty minutes been shaved off of this production, the story would have gotten straight to the point sooner.

Scenes that felt like padding: Because Audrey Rose has a run-time of an hour and fifty-three minutes, there were a few scenes that felt like padding. One example is when Ivy is trying to talk to Audrey Rose through a mirror. This scene didn’t have a strong need to exist within the story. It also didn’t fit the overall flow of the film. If anything, this particular scene felt like a weak attempt at making the movie feel like it belonged in the horror genre.

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My overall impression:

Horror movies are not often found on 18 Cinema Lane. This is the reason why I chose Audrey Rose for June’s Genre Grandeur, as I try to explore various genres. Unfortunately, this was not the horror film I expected it to be. The project itself was interesting, exploring a topic in the form of a debate. But classifying it in a genre where it doesn’t belong is misleading. I can describe Audrey Rose in two ways. The first is a medical/spiritual mystery, similar to Lorenzo’s Oil. The second is a debate presented in the form of a movie, like Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Sweet Nothing in My Ear. The idea behind this film makes it worth watching. However, don’t go into this movie expecting a story with spooky atmospheres and sinister tones.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen any ’70s films set in New York? Which movies do you think are incorrectly classified? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Great Mouse Detective Review

I will admit that before I signed up for the Suave Swordsman: Basil Rathbone Blogathon, I wasn’t familiar with Basil as an actor. However, I didn’t let this stop me from participating! While looking through his filmography, I discovered Basil had a role in the 1986 film, The Great Mouse Detective. Because I hadn’t seen this movie before and because I knew I’d likely be one of the few people to discuss an animated film, I selected The Great Mouse Detective as my submission! If you’ve visited my blog before, you’d see that mysteries have a consistent presence on the site. I have set aside time to talk about the films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Some episodes of Murder, She Wrote has been reviewed. I even participated in the Murder, She Wrote Cookalong! Despite the abundance of mystery related content on 18 Cinema Lane, The Great Mouse Detective is only the second animated mystery movie to be featured on my blog. However, at least this review will bring something new to the table!

The Great Mouse Detective poster created by Buena Vista Distribution, Silver Screen Partners II, Walt Disney Feature Animation, and Walt Disney Pictures. ©Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://movies.disney.com/the-great-mouse-detective.

Things I liked about the film:

The animation: Animated films from Disney’s library usually contain quality visuals and art styles. The Great Mouse Detective continues this pattern of animation excellence! Throughout the film, the backgrounds were presented in softer frames with lighter colors, while close-up images were given sharper lines and brighter colors. One example is when Basil, Olivia, and Dr. David are exploring a toy store. The contrasts within the animation made it easier to focus on the characters and their involvement in the story. This art design reminded me of films such as The Aristocats, 101 Dalmatians, and Lady and the Tramp. Similar to what I said in my From Up on Poppy Hill review, all of the characters were expressive! Their facial expressions and body language were fluid when reacting to different scenarios. A perfect example is when Olivia and Dr. David meet Basil. The Great Mouse Detective’s claim to fame is how it was the first project from Disney to feature computer-generated animation. This creative choice is seen in the climax, when Basil and Ratigan fight in the Big Ben Tower. While it might not seem like a big deal now, this scene was ahead of its time in the mid to late ‘80s. The scene itself has aged well, while also containing gravitas and depth. It reminded me of the bells from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The use of shadows: The Great Mouse Detective has a primarily darker tone. To emphasize this aspect of the story, shadows were used in various scenes. Toward the beginning of the film, Hiram Flaversham, Olivia’s father, and Fidget, Ratigan’s henchman, are fighting at Hiram’s toy store. In this scene, shadows of the fight are projected over Olivia’s hiding place. Because Hiram and Fidget are not shown on screen, their shadows helped bring an element of suspense and mystery. The shadows also left me wondering what would happen next.

The humor: Despite the film’s darker tone, there were some light-hearted moments that prevented the movie from being too dark. Some of these moments even contained humor. One scene involved Basil ruining a group of pillows in an attempt to solve a mystery. What made this scene funny was the reaction of Basil’s maid over the mess. Another funny moment was when Ratigan called his cat “honey bunny”. What I like about these hilarious scenes is how well written they were. It also helps that there weren’t too many of them, as it would have made the overall picture seem too silly.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

The musical numbers: A large number of Disney’s animated films are musicals, with their musical numbers feeling like they belong in that production. Because musicals have become a staple in Disney’s animated filmography, it allows their audience to know what to expect. But The Great Mouse Detective was not a musical movie, especially compared to pictures like Oliver & Company or any of the Disney Renaissance films. The Great Mouse Detective also had a primarily darker tone, with some light-hearted moments. These aspects made the musical numbers seem out of place. The two most notable musical scenes were “Let Me Be Good to You” and “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind”, which had entertainment value. While “Let Me Be Good to You” had some reason for its existence, “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” was randomly placed in the film. It was a light-hearted and upbeat song that came right after a darker scene, featuring Basil explaining the wrong-doings of Professor Ratigan. “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” was a combination of “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast and “Mine, Mine, Mine” from Pocahontas. However, what makes “Gaston” and “Mine, Mine, Mine” work is how they fit within their respective productions.

The oversharing of the mystery: When I talked about The Mystery Cruise in my list of the Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time, I shared how I didn’t like the film’s mystery being revealed after the mystery was introduced. The Great Mouse Detective makes a similar mistake with their mystery narrative. Within the first half of the movie, the details of Hiram Flaversham’s kidnapping are shown in a series of scenes that share a timeline with the events surrounding Basil. These scenes show the whodunit, howtheydunit, and whytheydunit of the mystery. Because these pieces of information are revealed early in the movie, the audience knows more than the characters in the story. This prevents them from solving or experiencing the mystery alongside the characters.

The subplot of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: One of the subplots in The Great Mouse Detective revolved around the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This wasn’t a bad idea, but it was very under-utilized. In fact, I forgot this event was taking place within the story until the film’s climax arrived. Because the premise of this movie was basic and straight-forward, this subplot felt like it was there for the sake of being there. If the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee had been removed from the film, it wouldn’t make a huge difference.

The Suave Swordsman: Basil Rathbone Blogathon banner created by Pale Writer from Pale Writer. Image found at https://palewriter2.home.blog/2020/02/01/announcing-the-suave-swordsman-basil-rathbone-blogathon/.

My overall impression:

Two years ago, I reviewed Oliver & Company. In that review, I said the movie was the pioneer for what a Disney animated film could and should be at the time of its release. The Great Mouse Detective gave me a similar feeling. Within this film, there were elements that laid the foundation for animated Disney films that came after it. The climax at the Big Ben Tower is one example, with the scenes utilizing computers to bring them to life. Also, in my Oliver & Company review, I said the movie was fine and that there were animated Disney films that are stronger than it. The Great Mouse Detective made me feel this way as well. While watching this film, there were scenes that reminded me of scenes from other Disney projects that were executed better. Some scenes in The Great Mouse Detective felt rushed, making me wonder if Disney was trying to meet a deadline or wanted to take advantage of a busy box office year. Even with everything I just said, this film is worth bringing up in the conversation of animated films. It may get overshadowed, but I think it serves as an important part of animation history.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen The Great Mouse Detective? What are some of your favorite mystery films? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek Review

It’s no secret that my Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content is some of the most popular on 18 Cinema Lane. My review of Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill has acquired over 1,000 views, making it the most popular movie I’ve ever written about! In recent days, my Aurora Teagarden reviews have garnered a large number of views. Because I was planning on talking about the newest film from this series, these viewership numbers gave me a greater reason to review Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek! In a Word on the Street story from two months ago, I discussed the likelihood of this film being removed from Hallmark’s schedule due to unfinished post-production work. While this work was eventually completed, the film moved from its original release date in April to May 17th. Despite this date change, I’m thankful this movie was able to premiere at all. Because the Coronavirus has prevented Hallmark from creating new content, I appreciate the network’s attempts to adapt to the current situation.

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries -- Heist and Seek poster
Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=143&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=307&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Aurora+Teagarden+Mysteries+Heist+and+Seek.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: A consistent strength I’ve noticed in the series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is the quality of the acting performances! Specifically in the Aurora Teagarden series, the acting has always been a highlight! Because most of the starring cast has appeared in more than one film, it allows the actors and actresses to become comfortable in that role and help their character adapt to a particular story. One of these actors is Dylan Sloane, who portrays Aurora’s relative, Phillip. Whenever he appeared on screen, Dylan always seemed at ease in his role. With a believable performance, Dylan’s portrayal made it easier for the audience to focus on how Phillip would contribute to the mystery. Newer additions to the cast also gave memorable performances, as two standouts came from Oliver Rice and Brendon Zub! I recognize Oliver from Chesapeake Shores. Since he has had a recurring presence on that show, his role as James gave him the opportunity to adapt to a variety of situations. After seeing his performance in this film, it makes me wish Hallmark would give him a lead role. As for Brendon, I liked what he brought to his role! His character, Eric, had a good persona and fit in well with the pre-established cast of characters. I’d like to see Brendon appear in more Hallmark films!

 

The inclusion of history: When it comes to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ films, history is not often included in the story. This is because most of the stories focus on the current situations going on in a specific location. Since Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek incorporated Elizabethan history into their script, a unique identity was given to that film. It also made the project somewhat educational. Personally, I know a limited amount of information on the Elizabethan era. After hearing the explanation behind “Leicester’s Gift”, I feel like I gained more knowledge about Queen Elizabeth. While this movie doesn’t replace a history lesson, it at least starts the conversation.

 

The absence of the “don’t-get-involved” cliché: There have been times in the Aurora Teagarden series where Aurora is told to not get involved in a case. She is even told this after she had successfully solved more than one mystery. In the series’ thirteenth movie, I’m glad the creative team chose to not include the “don’t-get-involved” cliché! While Lynn tells her not to get in the police’s way, Aurora is never told not to solve the mystery. In fact, there is one scene where Aurora encourages her mom to continue being the voice of reason in her life. This was such a great subversion of expectations, as it gives Aurora freedom to solve the mystery but has someone in her corner to hold her accountable. This creative choice allowed Aurora to be recognized as the intelligent yet imperfect woman that she is!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Nick’s engagement proposal: In the trailers for this movie, Nick’s attempts of proposing to Aurora were heavily emphasized. This part of the story, in the film’s marketing, was highlighted more than the plot. Personally, I think this was a creative mistake. It didn’t play as large of a role in the story as I expected. But, because it was shown in the advertising, Nick’s proposal attempts felt predictable. As soon as it was introduced in the film, I correctly predicted the outcome. The proposal’s resolution also felt predictable.

 

A limited amount of suspense: Suspense has a consistent presence in the mystery series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. However, some movies contain less suspense than others. This is certainly the case for Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek. While watching the movie, I noticed how the suspense was used sparingly. In my opinion, I like seeing a healthy amount of suspense in a mystery film. It helps the film maintain a good pace and it creates higher stakes for the story. Since this installment of the Aurora Teagarden series adopted less suspense, it almost gave the story lower stakes than usual. It also felt like the overall level of urgency was on the lower end of the spectrum.

 

Under-utilized clues: In my review of Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, I talked about how the clues were found in the spoken dialogue of the suspects. This was a unique creative choice that worked for that film. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek chose to incorporate physical clues as well as the perspectives of the suspects. Unfortunately, the script provided an imbalance between these perspectives and the clues. This caused the suspects’ perspectives to be given more attention than the clues. The majority of the clues consisted of paper, which created a lack of variety to the types of clues that were found. If the creative team knew how the clues were being under-utilized, they should have placed the clues within the dialogue like Mystery 101: An Education in Murder.

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My overall impression:

As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, the Aurora Teagarden series is one of the strongest movie series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. There are movies in this series that are better than others, but I have yet to see a movie that is bad. Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek was a likable addition to the series. The inclusion of history gave the project its own identity and the story subverted expectations from a familiar cliché. However, I feel there are movies that are stronger than this one. This chapter in the Aurora Teagarden story was not as suspenseful as other installments. Even though Nick proposing to Aurora progresses the overarching plot forward, it ended up being predictable because of the marketing campaign. Based on the title for the next movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Reunited and It Feels So Deadly, I’m wondering if Yannick Bisson’s character, Martin, makes an appearance? If Martin returns, that would provide an interesting dynamic as Aurora plans her wedding.

 

Overall score: 7.3-7.4 out of 10

 

Have you seen the newest Aurora Teagarden movie? What do you think the next film will be about? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen