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Hollywood Movie Memories » universal pictures

Posts Tagged ‘universal pictures’

Brute Force

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Brute Force (The Criterion Collection)

Tagline – HUMAN DYNAMITE! Told the Raw, Ruthless “KILLERS” way!

Starring – Burt Lancaster (Joe Collins), Hume Cronyn (Capt. Munsey), Charles Bickford (Gallagher), Yvonne De Carlo (Gina Ferrara), Ann Blyth (Ruth), Ella Raines (Cora Lister).

Released – June, 1947

Directed By – Jules Dassin

Produced By – Mark Hellinger Productions, Universal International Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – It’s a dark and rainy morning at Westgate prison when convict Joe Collins completes his term in solitary confinement. Angry, and with a heart full of hate, Joe talks of escape. They all do, though the ambition seems as hopeless as their existence.

The hate Joe feels is channeled toward one individual in particular, Chief of Prison Security, Captain Munsey. Munsey is a sadistic dictator who manipulates prisoners, forcing them to inform on others so that he can bask in his joy of punishment.

The whole prison is on the brink of exploding, Warden Barnes is under pressure to bring things back under control, and the prison doctor, usually drunk, disapproves of Captain Munsey’s approach to controlling the prisoners and wants more understanding regarding prisoner rehabilitation from government officials.

A visit from Joe’s attorney informs him that his wife has refused a necessary medical operation for cancer unless Joe can be with her. The frustration of these circumstances for Joe cause him to take it out on fellow inmate Wilson, who conspired with Captain Munsy to plant a weapon in Joe’s belongings that resulted in Joe’s term in solitary.

Wilson will pay with his life while Joe has a perfect alibi. At the time of the killing he was talking with the prison doctor in the doctor’s office.

Being able to think of nothing but escape, Joe asks inmate Gallagher to help with the escape. However, Gallagher, having a good job in the prison newspaper and having been promised a parole by Munsey, refuses.

After Munsey instigates an inmate suicide all prole hearings are cancelled. Feeling betrayed, Gallagher agrees to help Joe with his escape plan. When Munsey places Joe and his cell-mates on the dreaded drain pipe detail, an opportunity to escape begins to take shape.

The plan seems flawless, that is until Captain Munsey beats information out of an informant and learns the details of the escape. With this knowledge, Munsey can now stop the plan dead in its tracks. But, that would not be good enough for Munsey.

The stage is now set for an escape attempt that seems to offer nothing but a violent and bloody end.

NOTABLE: Brute Force was one of several successful films noir directed by Jules Dassin. Other include The Naked City, Thieves Highway, and Night and the City.

It is the belief that the desperate and violent escape attempt was inspired by the 1946 incident referred to as The Battle of Alcatraz.

Brute Force provided the film debut of actor Howard Duff.


Buck Privates Come Home

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Buck Privates Come Home

Tagline – They’re Out of the Army!

Starring – Bud Abbott (Slicker Smith), Lou Costello (Herbie Brown), Tom Brown (Bill Gregory), Joan Shawlee (Sylvia Hunter), Nat Pendleton (Sgt. Michael Collins), Beverly Simmons (Yvonne ‘Evie’ LeBrec).

Released – March, 1947

Directed By – Charles Barton

Produced  By – Universal International Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

The Cat and the Canary

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

The Cat and the Canary (1927) (The Photoplay Restoration)

Tagline – The play that startled the world!

Starring – Laura La Plante (Annabelle West), Creighton Hale (Paul Jones), Forrest Stanley (Charles Wilder), Tully Marshall (Roger Crosby).

Released – September, 1927

Directed By – Paul Leni

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – Millionaire Cyrus West is near death as he lay in his decaying old mansion. His family is there with him, but without the usual sense of impending loss. In fact, their only interest is in just how each of them will fare in regard to an inheritance.

Their display of greed has not escaped the notice of Cyrus who decries that his will remain locked in a safe to be read only on the 20th anniversary of his death. Also in the safe is a second will, that has mysteriously appeared, which may only be opened should the terms of the first will not be met.

How did this second will get into the safe? According to the belief of Mammy Pleasant, the mansion’s caretaker, it was put there by the ghost of Cyrus West.

Twenty years have passed and West’s greedy relatives arrive for a midnight reading of the will. The group include nephews Harry Blythe, Charlie Wilder, and Paul Jones, along with Paul’s sister Susan and her daughter Cecily. Also there for the reading is Cyrus’s niece Annabelle West.

The will is read and the fortune, including a collection of diamonds, has been left to the only relative remaining with the last name of West. That would be Annabelle. However, there is a catch. Annabelle must be judged sane by a doctor, if not, the fortune will go to the unnamed heir in the second will.

That evening, as Annabelle and the disappointed relatives prepare for dinner, a guard barges in to announce that a lunatic, called the Cat, has escaped from confinement and is on the mansions grounds, or already in the house. The guard tells the group that the Cat is a maniac who believes he is a cat and tears his victims apart like they were canaries.

Cyrus West’s lawyer Roger Crosby, who read the will, is afraid that a family member may try to hurt Annabelle. He decides to tell her the name of the second will’s heir. But, before he can speak the name, a hairy hand with long fingernails reaches out from behind a bookcase and pulls him in. Annabelle is terrified and when she informs the family of what happened they believe her to be insane.

Later the same evening, while trying to sleep and wearing a diamond necklace, the hand again emerges from the wall behind her bed and grabs the necklace. Again the terrified Annabelle informs the family of what has happened, and again they believe her claim to be proof of her insanity.

However, a search of her room reveals a hidden passage in the wall. Behind the passage is found the body of Roger Crosby.

Who is responsible for the apparent murder and is the lunatic known as the Cat in the house, or perhaps the killer is a member of the family?

NOTABLE: The Cat and the Canary enjoyed a great deal of success on Broadway, opening February, 1922 in New York and running for 148 performances.

Director Paul Leni and Charles D. Hall designed and fabricated the Gothic sets. Hall would later design both the sets for Dracula and Frankenstein.

Though not itself a horror film, The Cat and the Canary had a profound effect on the horror genre and was even cited as an influencing the work of Alfred Hitchcock.



The Man Who Knew Too Much

Friday, March 30th, 2012

The Man Who Knew Too Much [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!

Starring – James Stewart (Dr. Benjamin McKenna), Doris Day (Josephine Conway McKenna), Brenda De Banzie (Lucy Drayton), Bernard Miles (Edward Drayton), Ralph Truman (Inspector Buchanan).

Released – June, 1956

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Paramount Pictures, Filwite Productions

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Dr. Benjamin McKenna, his wife Jo, and their son Hank are on vacation in Morocco. While traveling from Casablanca to Marrakesh, by bus, they meet Frenchman Louis Bernard.

Bernard seems quite friendly, but Jo is a little uncomfortable with his many questions about them and his reluctance to answer questions about himself. She feels that he is hiding something. Bernard invites the family to dinner, but cancels after seeing a mysterious man who may be following him.

Later that evening, at dinner, the McKenna’s meet the Drayton’s who are from England. As they are speaking, they notice Bernard enter the restaurant, sit at another table, and ignore them. This behavior adds to Jo’s suspicions about him.

The next day the McKenna’s and the Drayton’s are shopping in a Marrakesh marketplace when they see a man in Arab clothing being chased. The man is stabbed in the back and staggers toward Dr. McKenna. It is Bernard in a disguise and, just before dying, he whispers to Ben that a foreign statesman will soon be murdered in London and the authorities must be told about “Ambrose Chappell.”

While being questioned by the authorities about the incident, Ben learns that Bernard was a French Intelligence Agent. At the police station during the interrogation Ben receives a phone call. Who would even know he was there and what could they possibly want?

The family’s dream vacation is about to turn into a nightmare.

The caller tells Ben that the McKenna’s son Hank has been taken and will not be harmed if they do not tell the police of Bernard’s last words. The McKenna’s travel to London and report all that they know, except Bernard’s last words, to Scotland Yard.

Inspector Buchanan tells them that Bernard was a spy and on an assignment to uncover an assassination plot. He instructs them to contact him as soon as they hear from the kidnappers.

The McKenna’s sense of urgency causes them to try and take matters into their own hands. They start with the only clue they have… Ambrose Chappell.

NOTABLE: The Man Who Knew Too Much won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (Que Sera, Sera).

This is a remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 film of the same name filmed in VistaVision and Technicolor. Generally considered superior to the original, Hitchcock himself preferred the 1934 version.

The Man Who Knew Too Much was unavailable for decades as director Alfred Hitchcock left the rights to the film, as part of his legacy, to his daughter. This picture along with Rear Window, Rope, The Trouble With Harry, and Vertigo were also part of the legacy and known as the “Five Lost Hitchcock’s.” They were re-released around 1984.

Initially, Doris Day had no interest in recording the song “Que, Sera, Sera” feeling that it was no more than “a forgettable children’s song.” Not only did the song win an Academy Award, but it also became her signature song and the biggest hit of her singing career.

Doris Day was a life-long advocate against animal abuse. It was during the filming of this picture, where she observed gross mistreatment of goats, camels, and other animals, that fueled her desire to help animals.

While in London to film her location scenes, Doris Day (who was extremely popular in England) was asked to leave her hotel because of the number of fans who gathered there in the hope of catching a glimpse of the star.


The Killers

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The Killers [Blu-ray]

Tagline – One Moment with Her… And He Gambled His LUCK… LOVE… and His LIFE!

Starring – Burt Lancaster (Ole ‘Swede’ Andreson), Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins), Edmond O’Brien (Jim Riordan), Albert Dekker (‘Big Jim’ Colfax), Sam Levene (Police Lt. Sam Lubinsky).

Released – August, 1946

Directed By – Robert Siodmak

Produced By – Mark Hellinger Productions, Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – The ‘Swede’ is expecting company. Two hit-men are coming to kill him… and they do.

It’s a curious murder, one that seems to provide no motive. Atlantic Casual life insurance investigator Jim Riordan is sent to investigate the murder and find the beneficiary of Swede’s policy.

Also investigating the killing is Police Lt. Sam Lubinsky, a close personal friend of the Swede. Interviewing town residents and friend’s of the Swede begins to reveal a string of crimes surprisingly connected to the Swede.

Swede had been a professional boxer who suffered an injury to his right-hand that cut his career short. His friend, Lt. Lubinsky, had suggested Swede join the police force, but he rejected this idea. It wasn’t long before Swede began associating with criminal ‘Big Jim’ Colfax that he started to have a change in his personality.

Swede dumps his girlfriend Lily, becoming more and more attracted to the beautiful and sultry Kitty Collins. So attracted that when Lt. Lubinsky finds Kitty in possession of stolen jewelry Swede takes the blame and ends up in prison for three years.

Upon his release from prison, and with no where else to go, Swede returns to ‘Big Jim’s’ gang. However, things have changed. Kitty is now ‘Big Jim’s’ girl.

Desperate for money, Swede accepts an offer to participate in a payroll robbery which nets the gang a cool $250,000. After the gang’s original meeting place burns down, all the gang members are told the location of the new meeting place… all except Swede.

Kitty informs Swede that he is being double crossed. Furious, Swede, at gunpoint, takes the money from the gang and heads to Atlantic City where Kitty is to meet him. She does meet Swede, but not for the reason he had hoped. Kitty takes off with the money leaving Swede with both the police and ‘Big Jim’ Colfax closing in on him.

The double crossing doesn’t end here, and neither does the bloodshed.

NOTABLE: The Killers received Oscar nominations for Best Director (Robert Siodmak), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

In 2008, The Killers was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Although he wasn’t the studio’s first choice, Burt Lancaster did a great job in his first major film role. Ava Gardner also received a lot of attention for her work in this film, having previously appeared in only a string of minor films.

The Killers is based, in part, on a short story by Ernest Hemingway and is the first film on his own works that Hemingway admired.

The opening of the film, at New York’s Wintergarden Theater, broke the venue’s record for any picture’s opening box office.

Personal Note: One of the top film noir of all time and a personal favorite. Great direction by Robert Siodmak, a musical score perfectly suited to the film, moody cinematography, and the effective use of flashbacks to tell the story make this great noir.

Noir fans will immediately recognize the faces of the two hit-men sent to kill the ‘Swede.’ Both Charles McGraw and William Conrad fit these roles perfectly.