With so many movies in my collection unwatched, if I were to do a Cinema Shame post for all of them, I’d never get anything else done. Also, to be really honest, not every film I watch is going to be worth a whole post to themselves. To that end, welcome to my first compilation post, where I’ll write smaller reviews of the movies I’ve watched.
The Train Robbers (1973)
This movie has been sitting in my collection for a while now as part of a 5-disc blu-ray collection of John Wayne westerns. What first attracted me to it was the cast, most notably Ann-Margret. It’s the story of a group of cowboys led by Lane (John Wayne), who are hired by a widow (Ann-Margret), to find a lost shipment of gold that her dead husband had buried after a train robbery. The gold has also attracted the attention of every gun in the territory, including Ricardo Montalban.
The Train Robbers has the look and feel of a low-budget movie, or as if John Wayne felt like going out to film a western for a couple of weeks. The cast consists entirely of Wayne’s crew and Montalban; no one else says or does anything significant. In fact, even Montalban doesn’t speak at all until the end of the film. The entire film consists of Wayne and his crew going out to get the gold, and coming back afterwards. Locations are used and reused again and again for the trip out and the trip back, further adding to the low budget feeling. I’d say it’s not really a bad movie; just a very lightweight, by-the-books movie. Entertaining, but hardly a classic of the genre.
Flaxy Martin (1949)
Next on my watch list was this noir from Warner Archive. Months before she was to play the long-suffering girlfriend of James Cagney in the outstanding White Heat, Virgina Mayo played the titular femme fatale here. Flaxy is the girlfriend of mob lawyer Walter Colby (Zachary Scott). Colby is tired of having to bail out the gunsels of mob boss Hap Richie (Douglas Kennedy), and tells him he’s quitting. Hap, however, has other ideas. When a case-fixing turns into blackmail, Hap, with the help of Flaxy, frames Colby for the murder of the blackmailer. Colby escapes from the train taking him to prison, and, with the help of a librarian (Dorothy Malone), heads back to the city to clear himself.
As the title character, Virginia Mayo is fantastic, very duplicitous and cold-blooded. There’s a scene where Flaxy is leaving a hotel room with a slight smile on her face, knowing a murder was about to be committed. It’s a great character moment, and it shows Mayo deserved her top billing here. Having said that, though, the movie being named after her seems rather strange. Though she is a central character to the plot, the bulk of the movie centers on Zachary Scott’s Walter Colby. This presents a problem because Colby is, quite possibly, one of the worst lawyer characters to ever appear anywhere. When Flaxy comes under suspicion in the murder of the blackmailer, Colby’s idea is to take the rap himself. Seriously. This is only one of the movie’s logical flaws. Colby as a character is simply not as interesting as Flaxy is, and watching him try to extricate himself from the drama is oddly hilarious, which is not something you normally want to see in your film noir. Still, it is a very watchable film, though perhaps not for the reasons the producers intended.
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
The last film I’m going to review today is yet another Warner Archive release. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a true classic from the 50s monster movie era, and its poster is certainly one of the most iconic movie posters ever. Allison Hayes is Nancy Archer, the richest woman in town, and also one of the most pitied. Recently released from a mental hospital and a noted drunk, she’s married to a sleazeball named Harry (William Hudson). Harry is having an affair with a local woman (Yvette Vickers), and flaunts her in front of everyone in town. One night, Nancy runs into a spaceship, but no one believes her. To prove she’s not crazy, she goes in search of the ship with Harry. When they find it, the giant creature from the ship goes after Nancy, and Harry abandons her. She later becomes the titular 50 Foot woman, and goes on a rampage.
It’s hard not to love this film. It’s as ‘B’ as a B-movie gets, and there are plot holes aplenty. Harry is certainly one of the worst characters to ever appear in any film. He’s a dick to everyone from his wife to her butler to the sheriff, and no one calls him on it. He keeps on plotting to murder his wife to get her money, to the point where he’s found in her room with a loaded syringe ready to administer an overdose to her, and yet it’s immediately forgotten. Granted, Nancy had suddenly developed into a giant, but you’d think *someone* would question why Harry was in her room in the dark. But alas, they don’t. He just keeps being a dick until the end of the movie. The movie’s climax is also nowhere near as impressive as the poster makes it out to be. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had with it, and I’m glad I finally got to watch this classic 50s monster movie.