Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mrs. Miniver

Year 8, Day 184 - 7/2/16 - Movie #2,385

BEFORE: I've got about 2 1/2 weeks until Comic-Con, and I can't wait - not just because it means getting out of this hot, smelly city for a week (and traveling to a slightly-less hot, slightly-less smelly one) and having some fun (while working hard) and dining out every night (wait, I do that here, too...) but also because it will mean that my run of classic films from the first half of the last century will be over.  Right now I've still got about 10 days before I hit the 1980's again, and while I appreciate the older films, they do kind of wear on me after a while.  To fully enjoy them, I've got to put myself in the head-space of someone from the 1930's or the 1940's, and honestly I don't truly connect with that era, not like I do with the 1970's or 1980's.  Plus, after a while I come to realize that everyone I'm seeing on the screen is now dead, and that tends to get depressing.  So I'm anxious to get back to some more modern stuff.  

This weekend, I've got to start preparing for my trip, and that means getting my best t-shirts washed, making some lists of stuff I want to buy at the convention, and making sure that TCM doesn't run a bunch of movies I need while I'm away for a week.  Teresa Wright carries over from "The Best Years of Our Lives".

THE PLOT:   A British family struggles to survive the first months of World War II.

AFTER: I've never had the chance to visit the U.K., but I've been a fan of their culture for a long time.  Monty Python, The Beatles, Benny Hill, pub food - I would like to go there someday, maybe when this whole Brexit issue is settled and their economy is in the crapper, it might be the right time to do so.  I don't totally understand this whole European Union secession issue, especially when the country that invaded or colonized nearly every other country in the world at some point takes such a hard stance against immigration.  Go figure.  

But today let's focus on the famous British pluck, the "stiff upper lip" attitude that prevailed during World War II.  Because this attitude is relevant today, what kept Britons going while London was being bombed is a model for how we should all react when our airports or train stations or movie theaters come under attack.  If we stop going out and having fun the way we usually do, then the terrorists, or the Germans, win.  

Trouble is, part of me just isn't buying it.  The fact is, we DO change our habits, the bombings DO bother us, and those of us not directly affected try to think about how we would feel if someone close to us got blown up.  You can't tell me that people didn't think twice about watching the Boston Marathon live one year after the bombing there - sure, a few hardy souls probably got charged up to attend to make a point, but I'll wager that attendance was down overall the following year.  So for the Minivers to act like "You can bomb our town, you can kill members of our family, but we're still going to have our tea time," I'm going to say it's just putting up a brave front.

And to go ahead with the flower show?  The FLOWER SHOW?  I can't think of too many things less important - don't they know there's a war on?  Geez, at least after 9/11 we were concerned with getting back to important things, like baseball games.  And we didn't even have enemy airmen parachuting into our yards.

This is another form of blatant propaganda - just take a look at who doesn't survive the bombings.  Clearly the story was written, and the film went into production before the U.S. entered the war, and they couldn't have made a stronger case to try and secure American involvement.  And even so, we're shown a British family making the ultimate sacrifice, which is trying to make it through the war without their maid and their cook.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention tonight's connection to "It's a Wonderful Life" - it's actor Henry Travers, playing the bell-ringer in the church, but you probably know him better as Clarence, the reluctant angel who helps out George Bailey in that Christmas classic.

Also starring Greer Garson (last seen in "Julius Caesar"), Walter Pidgeon (last seen in "Dream Wife"), Dame May Whitty (last seen in "Gaslight"), Reginald Owen, Henry Travers (last seen in "Dark Victory"), Richard Ney, Henry Wilcoxon, John Abbott, Rhys Williams (also last seen in "Julius Caesar"), Helmut Dantine, with cameos from Billy Bevan, Peter Lawford (last seen in "Oceans 11"), Ian Wolfe. 

RATING: 5 out of 10 choirboys

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Best Years of Our Lives

Year 8, Day 183 - 7/1/6 - Movie #2,384

BEFORE: Myrna Loy carries over from "Song of the Thin Man" to this, the Best Picture Oscar winner for 1947.  I've avoided this one for quite some time, I think mostly because of the running time (nearly three hours), but screw it, it's a holiday weekend coming up, I think I can devote an extra hour to a movie.  

THE PLOT:  Three World War II veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.

AFTER: I get that this is an important film about a sensitive topic - and also significant for an all-too-real portrayal of veterans who were injured, either physically or psychologically, by the horrors of war, but I have to start off with a NITPICK POINT - what are the chances that three men would be leaving the armed forces on the same day, headed for the same small town in America on the same military plane that just HAPPENED to be taking them right where they wanted to go (for some reason, making a stop at a commercial airport rather than, say, a military base) - AND that these three men never knew each other from before the war, despite it being a very small town and all.  AND, what are the chances that these three men would represent three different classes of the U.S. social structure - lower, middle and upper-middle class?  

In other words, I smell a rat.  Or at least a whole ton of contrivances.  Which means this isn't a true-to-life story necessarily, it's someone's opinion about what smalltown America is like, and how it should act toward its veterans. But exactly whose political agenda is being furthered here?  The film won a bunch of Oscars, including Best Picture, so clearly it struck some chord with the audience - and a special honorary Oscar went to Harold Russell for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans - making him the only person to ever win two Oscars for the same performance.  So that means something, that this was perhaps a film that needed to be made, needed to be seen.  But was there really that much trouble that the veterans of World War II were facing on the homefront?  It's not like they were Vietnam veterans, after all - they won!  Weren't they heralded as heroes upon their return?  

Another odd thing is that there are some hints at propaganda regarding the atomic bomb and the devastation in Hiroshima + Nagasaki.  One character's teenage son (who, after this scene, oddly disappears from the rest of the film...) asks questions like "Gee, Dad, did you see any of the effects of radiation on the people of Hiroshima"?  It's very telling that this scene is included, someone seems to have had a vested interest in getting Americans to feel guilty for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan.  Probably there was no question in 1945 about this, the war needed to end right away to save the maximum number of lives (U.S. soldiers' lives, that is...) but at what cost?  Two years later, was the American public still gloating over the victory, or starting to show some remorse over bombing civilians to end the war? 

Late in the film, a guy is seen in the drugstore, spouting some very mysterious political messages.  Was he a Communist?  A World War II "Truther"?   Did they have those back then?  Someone who claimed to "really know" what was going on regarding the war - what the heck was this all about?  

Then there's a different sort of propaganda, regarding relationships in post-war America.  Obviously something changed while men were fighting overseas - women became more independent, some took jobs formerly held by men, and feminism got a boost.  But then what was supposed to happen when the soldiers came home?  Things couldn't go back to the way they were, with the men the de facto leader of every household.  You can see the effects here on the various relationships portrayed in this film - Fred's wife became a nightclub singer, moved out of her in-laws' house, got her own apartment.  Al's wife got used to him not being there, running the house and raising two children by herself.  

While separated, with the soldiers overseas, the women were expected to remain faithful - "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me..." and so forth.  To do otherwise would be unpatriotic, disrepectful to their husbands who were fighting and dying in Europe and the Pacific.  But if those husbands were to stray while in France or the Philippines, well, don't they deserve that while fighting for their country?  What a double-standard...

I understand that this depicts a singular moment in time, a turning point in U.S. history, feminist history, cultural history - the tail end of the generation that believed that everyone's goal in life should be to get married, and then once married, to stay married at all costs, even if they were unhappy.  But the following generation would believe differently, that they didn't need to get married, and if they did, that divorce didn't carry the social stigma that it did before.  You can see this in the story of Fred Derry, who got married just before shipping out to the war, and returned home after years apart, to try and make it work.  Although his wife is happy to see him, the film falls JUST short of suggesting that she might have married him just for his soldier's pension, or death benefits if he should die in Europe.  After returning home and burning through his soldier's pay, she finds herself unhappy trying to live on the meager salary he earns after going back to work as a soda jerk at the drugstore.  

So it's quite daring for a film in 1947 to suggest that a man might be married to the wrong woman, or more correctly, married for the wrong reasons.  When he falls for the young Peggy, who can see the problems in his marriage very clearly, she at first pursues him, but backs off for fear of being labeled as a "homewrecker".  This was the 1940's equivalent of slut-shaming, it seems.  And her parents, when consoling her, acknowledge that their marriage had survived tough times and doubts - they even found it hard to count how many times they had nearly "called it quits".  But that's the older generation for you - stay married, no matter what.  

I ended up sort of scratching my head over this one - I can't help but wonder if this film really had the best interests of America's veterans in mind, or if this represented someone else's political leanings, in an attempt to influence the populace to act a certain way.  

Also starring Fredric March, Dana Andrews (last seen in "Airport 1975"), Harold Russell, Teresa Wright (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Virginia Mayo (last seen in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"), Cathy O'Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael (last seen in "To Have and Have Not"), Gladys George (last seen in "The Maltese Falcon"), Roman Bohnen, Ray Collins (last seen in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"), Walter Baldwin, Minna Gombell (last seen in "The Thin Man"), Steve Cochran, Dorothy Adams (last seen in "Penny Serenade"), Don Beddoe, Ray Teal, Erskine Sanford, Michael Hall, with cameos from Sidney Clute (last seen in "Sam Whiskey"), Tennessee Ernie Ford, Blake Edwards. 

RATING: 6 out of 10 piano lessons 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Song of the Thin Man

Year 8, Day 182 - 6/30/16 - Movie #2,383

BEFORE: William Powell and Myrna Loy carry over for the last time as Nick and Nora Charles, this film series is running out for me concurrently with the last day of June.  Tomorrow it will be July, the start of the big holiday weekend, and the focus will be on World War 2 again, and Myrna Loy will be sticking around.  The classic movie chain's going to continue with a couple of Oscar winners for Best Picture in the next week, some Gary Cooper films, a couple of Jimmy Stewarts, a block of Abbott & Costello, the last couple of Marx Brothers films, and that leads me to Cheech & Chong, believe it or not.  (As long as I'm doing comedy teams...)  

After that, three Richard Dreyfuss films get me to the Comic-Con break, and by the time I get back, there will be less than a week left in July.  I've got an idea about how I want to fill those last days of the month, but who knows, things could change.

THE PLOT:  Nick, Nora, and Nick Jr. investigate the murder of a band leader in New York.

AFTER: Even though they broke the pattern of alternating between coasts - so only the 2nd and 4th films in the series were set in San Francisco - there are still a few things you can rely on in a "Thin Man" picture.  There will be at least one murder, and a family member or friend of the Charleses will be either the victim or accused of the crime, Nick will be able to reach conclusions that no one else can, and there will be a big scene at the end when all the suspects are gathered together.  And there will be at least one trip to a restaurant (tonight it's a jazz club) where there will probably be some kind of brawl, or at least a kerfuffle.  Plus there will probably be one actor you know from "It's a Wonderful Life", tonight it's Gloria Grahame, who later played Violet in that classic Christmas film.  

(I hate to spoil anyone's fun, but they replaced the dog who played Asta for the 5th film, turns out that terriers don't live as long as you'd think.  And most dogs of that same breed tend to look alike.)

The focus here is on jazz - and like Marge in a recently-watched episode of "The Simpsons" from April, I have to admit that I don't "get" jazz.  Oh, I get that it exists, and I understand it had its place and time, but why is it STILL a thing?  We have newer, better forms of music now (and OK, some are worse) - I mean, we don't avoid eating oysters in months without the letter "R" in them, because we have modern refrigeration now, we don't dance the Charleston any more, or drive Model T cars, why do people still perform Jazz?  Musically, it should be like speaking Latin - it should be a dead language by now, why isn't it?  

But we do learn that jazz musicians talk funny, that is they use a lot of slang.  (They were like the hipsters of modern times, except that they actually had gigs.)  And we learn that there were a lot of people who had motive to kill a bandleader - but which one actually did?  Plus we get the bonus of seeing that Dean Stockwell's been an actor longer than anyone realized - he played Nicky Jr. in this film (that kid grew up so fast!)

I think, like jazz, that the "Thin Man" movies had their place and time, but they just didn't make it to the 1950's - it feels like the idea well was running out by this point, the director of the first four films. W.S. Van Dyke, had died in 1943, and the usual writing team didn't work on this one either.  It's sad when a franchise runs out of steam, but even to this day, movie studios make more franchise films than anything else, because they've already got audience recognition.  Take the new "Tarzan" film, for example, it just opened so poorly that it's already considered a failure, but it got made because someone felt the need (or was contractually obligated) to keep a franchise going.

Also starring Keenan Wynn (last seen in "Best Friends"), Dean Stockwell (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Phillip Reed, Patricia Morison, Leon Ames (also carrying over from "The Thin Man Goes Home"), Gloria Grahame (last seen in "Melvin and Howard"), Jayne Meadows (last seen in "The Story of Us"), Ralph Morgan, Don Taylor, Bess Flowers, William Bishop, Marie Windsor (last seen in "Support Your Local Gunfighter").

RATING: 5 out of 10 hams on white (hold the piccalilli!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Thin Man Goes Home

Year 8, Day 181 - 6/29/16 - Movie #2,382

BEFORE: Nearly done with this series, just one more film to go with William Powell and Myrna Loy before I turn the programming topic over to World War II for the holiday weekend. 

THE PLOT:  Nick and Nora head to Nick's hometown of Sycamore Springs to spend some time with his parents, and end up involved in a murder.

AFTER: Again, the makers of this film series have responded to my criticism quite well - which is amazing, considering that these films were made over 70 years ago.  I don't know how they do it.  Maybe people at the time complained about the inability of children to act with conviction, because Little Nicky is nowhere to be seen this time around.  Nick and Nora didn't want to pull him out of kindergarten - but I guess it's still OK for them to go on extended holiday, back in New York, of course, and leave their son in San Francisco all alone.  (OK, with the maid, but still...)

The films so far had focused on Nora's family, and Nick's associates in the crime world.  But what about Nick's family?  Ah hah, surely there must be a story there.  So the Charleses travel by train up to Sycamore Springs to fill in the missing pieces of the family puzzle.  I think they also sort of ran out of family friends of Nora's to bump off - we don't want to repeat ourselves, now, do we? 

Wouldn't you know, a murder turns up on Nick Charles' parents doorstep.  Literally, the guy rings the bell and then collapses when they open the door.  What could be the reason, and how is it connected to Nick's family and his birthday present?  Will Nick get a chance to show off his detective skills and finally, finally win the approval of his career choice from his father?  How many times can Nora relate the story of the Stinky Davis case before Mr. Charles (senior) realizes that his work is important?   

I liked how everyone in this small town was up in arms, convinced that if a famous detective came to town, surely he must be working on a case.  Also once again, the notion is proposed that murders seem to follow this guy around - so perhaps he's either committing them, or he somehow brings bad luck to town with him.  

But they messed with one of the things that makes the "Thin Man" series stand out - Nick and Nora's prodigious consumption of alcohol.  Behind the scenes, this was due to rationing of liquor during World War II, but they worked it into the plot by suggesting that Nick needed to be sober when he visited his parents.  Which is strange, because I know a lot of people who prefer to be drunk when dealing with their parents.   

Speaking of the war effort, the longer-than-usual gap between "Thin Man" films was due to the fact that Myrna Loy had moved to New York to work for the Red Cross, and to marry John Hertz, Jr., heir to the car rental fortune.  (Yes, that Hertz)  They nearly replaced her with Irene Dunne, and movie fans would have had an absolute fit.  

I was beginning to think this was the only "Thin Man" movie with no connection to "It's a Wonderful Life", but I finally found it - an actress named Jean Acker, who had the (obviously) memorable role in that Frank Capra film of "Townsperson".  And tonight she's listed in the credits as "Tart".  Hey, a role is a role, whatever you have to do to keep that SAG card.   

Also starring Lucile Watson (last seen in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"), Harry Davenport (last seen in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"), Gloria DeHaven (last seen in "Modern Times"), Anne Revere, Helen Vinson (last seen in "In Name Only"), Leon Ames, Donald Meek (last seen in "My Little Chickadee"), Edward Brophy (last seen in "The Thin Man"), Lloyd Corrigan (last seen in "The Manchurian Candidate"), Anita Sharp-Bolster, Ralph Brooke, Donald MacBride, with cameos from Oliver Blake (also carrying over from "Shadow of the Thin Man"), Tom Dugan, Mike Mazurki. 

RATING: 6 out of 10 ducks in a crate

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shadow of the Thin Man

Year 8, Day 180 - 6/28/16 - Movie #2,381

BEFORE: Here it is, the dreaded tipping point I knew was coming - I've got 119 films left on the watchlist, and 119 slots left in the year.  And new films are still being added to the list, I have not been able to maintain the philosophy of adding one for every two watched.  Hey, I started 2016 with 160 films on the list, so I've definitely made progress this year, but decreasing the list by 41 films when I've watched 181 this year, well, that's just not good enough.  Maybe if I'm lucky and I work hard and I draw the hard line somewhere, I can get the list down to 100 before the end of 2016.  Of course, since I usually take 2 months off, that number could balloon up to 130 again by January 1.  Maybe it's true that I'll be doing this for the rest of my days. 

William Powell, Myrna Loy and Skippy carry over again for their fourth film as Nick, Nora and Asta.

THE PLOT:  Nick and Nora investigate murder and racketeering at a local race-track.

AFTER: Little Nicky Charles starts to get some lines in this film, the fourth in the series, and who was it who said to never work with animals or small children?  I think maybe it was W.C. Fields.  OK, you can work with dogs, but kids are usually horrible at acting.  This kid's delivery was way off, I always felt like he was reading a line instead of just saying the words normally.  

This one's set in San Francisco, the film series seems to alternate between the coasts.  How grand it must be to just move from city to city, taking up long-term residences in some of the country's finest hotels.  But this is a little confusing, why aren't they living in the house that we saw in "After the Thin Man"?  Did it get trashed during that wild New Year's party?  

I mean, sure he might have a nationwide reputation for solving tough crimes, but that doesn't explain how many friends he already seems to have in a new city.  Maybe I'm overthinking it.  Anyway, the last film fell just short of pointing out that wherever Nick and Nora go, a murder seems to take place, and a case involves beautiful women.  Of course, it could just be a coincidence, but then again, how many weird murders can take place among a family and their friends?  Didn't someone once suggest that Jessica Fletcher from "Murder, She Wrote" could be a serial killer, which would explain why so many murders took place around her small town in Maine?  

So maybe that's why they took a different tack with this one - the murdered man is a jockey, not connected to Nick + Nora in any way, other than the fact they were looking forward to a quiet day at the racetrack.  Nick doesn't want to get involved at first, but the police desperately need his help, and who has more friends in low places than Nick Charles?  Plus, he's the only guy who seems able to "read" the murder scene, and this is decades before CSI was even a thing!

Tonight's restaurant is a nautical-themed seafood restaurant, where Nick tries to order lobster, but the waiter keeps pushing the sea bass.  I didn't know that they had sea bass back in the 1940's, considering that the "Chilean sea bass" was an attempt from the 1990's to re-brand the unpopular Patagonian toothfish.  Nick certainly has the right idea to hold out for lobster, as futile as that may be, but lobster didn't always have its reputation as an elegant dining choice - up until the mid-1800's it was considered a trash fish, barely worth serving to prison convicts.  It didn't really get popular among the upper crust until the 1950's or so.  It doesn't take much to start a brawl in this seafood restaurant, maybe all of the customers were just tired of eating sea bass.

Nick also introduces his young son to the racing form, rides on a merry-go-round, and is forced to drink a glass of milk as a good example.  Once again, the movie is spot-on, not just because Nick usually drinks things that are more alcoholic, but I've read that nutritionally, adults shouldn't drink much milk - once again, Nick Charles is ahead of the curve by five or six decades.

Tonight's future cast member of "It's a Wonderful Life" is a young Donna Reed - I have a feeling nearly the whole cast of that Christmas classic will be turning up over the next week.

NITPICK POINT: Nick suspects that two murders were caused by the same person, he even bets the police lieutenant on it, he's so sure.  But then when they figure out the details of the first murder, this seems to contradict Nick's theory - yet he acts like he was right all along, when he wasn't.  Is this a mistake, or just Nick not wanting to appear wrong about a cause of death?

Also starring Barry Nelson (last seen in "The Shining"), Donna Reed (last seen in "The Caddy"), Sam Levene (last seen in "After the Thin Man"), Alan Baxter, Henry O'Neill, Richard Hall, Stella Adler, Loring Smith (last seen in "Pat and Mike"), Joseph Anthony, Lou Lubin (last seen in "Saboteur"), Louise Beavers (last seen in "She Done Him Wrong"), with cameos from Oliver Blake (last seen in "The Stooge"), Ava Gardner (last seen in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"), Tor Johnson, Will Wright. 

RATING: 5 out of 10 shower stalls

Monday, June 27, 2016

Another Thin Man

Year 8, Day 179 - 6/27/16 - Movie #2,380

BEFORE: While I watch the antics of the trained dog Asta, who was apparently named to help out crossword puzzle designers everywhere, in the real world I'm continuing with my efforts to train a stray cat.  I've gone through this process, but usually with a cat under a year old - this one is about 2 1/2, so she's gotten a good deal of outdoor programming that we need to break through, if she's going to become an indoor cat.  This is not an exact science, and considering her age, it could take weeks or even months to domesticate her.  I'm using sort of a Pavlovian method, every time I bring her food or treats I make the same noise, in the hopes that she will come to anticipate the food each time she hears that noise.  And I've gotten her to the point where she will allow me to watch her eat, provided I'm in the next room in the basement.  But each night, I move her food dish a few inches closer to where I sit, so I'm slowly getting her comfortable with me being closer and closer.  Oh, and I'm calling her Oprah - not just because she's a black cat, but she's got big fluffy hair and a diva-like attitude.  

It's funny, when she lived in our backyard, I would come out and feed her and she started to become quite affectionate, rubbing on my hands and allowing me to pet her and rub her cheeks, but ever since bringing her inside, she hasn't allowed us to get close.  Obviously it's the change in environment, and it's going to take time for her to feel safe around us again.  But in a few weeks I'll be off to San Diego, and after I'll be gone for a week, I'm wondering if she'll forget me and I'll have to start from scratch again.  I guess we'll find out how good Oprah's memory is. 

William Powell, Myrna Loy, and "Skippy" the dog carry over.  (aha, Asta's not the dog's real name, after all!)

THE PLOT:  An explosives manufacturer suspects a young man is out to kill him. He calls in Nick and Nora (with new baby) to sort things out.

AFTER: When I was planning my schedule and going through the cast lists for linking purpsoses (obviously I wasn't going to put other films in the middle of the "Thin Man" series, but I still like to know who's coming up in these movies) I couldn't help but notice how much crossover there is with the cast of "It's a Wonderful Life".  There was James Stewart in "After the Thin Man", and tonight it's Sheldon Leonard, who played Nick, the bartender in that film.  ("Look, pal, we serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint AT-mosphere!")  And more players from that film are on the way - I'll try to point them all out.

Sure, I get it, if you watch a lot of films from the same era - 1930's and 1940's, for example - you're going to see a lot of the same actors, again and again.  There are a couple of (I assume) character actors named Franklin Farnum and Pat Flaherty, and they've got uncredited roles in just about every film from this time period.  I guess they just hung around the MGM studio and worked in every crowd scene there was, for like two decades.  Seriously, these guys have like 600 or 700 "uncredited" credits on IMDB - where a star like Myrna Loy, by comparison, only had about 139 movie + TV roles.  William Powell, only 96!  Of course, they had bigger roles, they're bigger stars, but let's hear it for the contract players who showed up for every film, every crowd scene - those guys put in the time, and now hardly anyone remembers them.  Umm, except for me.

But let's get back to the "Thin Man" series.  I've had better luck staying conscious for these films since I decided to stop drinking along with Nick Charles.  Seriously, don't try this, matching Nick and Nora drink for drink is not a good drinking game, you'll be passed out before you reach the middle of the film.  

Tonight Mr. + Mrs. Charles are back in New York, out to Long Island to visit a family friend, Colonel MacFay.  Oh, their baby, Nicky, looks to be about six months old (I think, I'm so awful at guessing a baby's age...), so at least some time has passed since the last picture, released three years prior.  The Colonel's been getting weird threats from a neighbor (who talks like a gangster, so he must be one), Phil Church, claiming that he has "dreamed" about the death of the Colonel, and anything he dreams about three times always comes true.  Nick, a former detective, sees this as a shakedown of sorts, and when he goes to see Phil, he receives threats of his own, and a knife gets thrown at him.  

Soon MacFay is killed, and Church is the obvious suspect, and is nowhere to be found (another missing man, I spot a theme!) but Nick thinks something much more elaborate is going on.  Once again, there's no shortage of suspects, really, it's an embarrassment of riches in these films, just about anybody and everybody could have done it, but who really did?  Meanwhile, a bunch of the criminals and lowlifes who Nick arrested over the years, guys with names like "Creeps" and "Wacky", are thrilled to see that he's back in town, and they all bring their kids over (and maybe even somebody else's kids...) to have a playdate.  Seriously, there's a bunch of ex-cons in this film throwing a party with their babies - I don't know if that's humanizing, adorable, or just really odd. 

And this time, Nick and Nora don't go to a Chinese-themed nightclub, they go to a Cuban-themed nightclub.  Totally different, OK?  They probably drink Cuba Libres in this one (that's rum and Coke, I think.)  or maybe Mojitos, that's rum, sugar, lime juice, crushed mint and sparkling water.  I think maybe I missed my calling, I'm very envious of those new movie theaters that serve food and drinks, often themed to go along with whatever movie they're screening.  A movie series like this is just begging to be shown in a revival house that will serve the appropriate cocktail with each film - and if one doesn't exist, just make one up, call it the "Gin Man" or something.  

I didn't really get the explanation at the end about the trick with the gun - in fact I'm very confused as to how it played into the murder at all.  I don't want to say too much here, but I'm going to look it up online to see exactly what it was all about. 

Also starring Virginia Grey, C. Aubrey Smith (last seen in "Rebecca"), Otto Kruger (last seen in "Cover Girl"), Ruth Hussey (last seen in "The Philadelphia Story"), Nat Pendleton (last seen in "The Thin Man"), Patric Knowles, Tom Neal, Sheldon Leonard, Don Costello, Harry Bellaver (last seen in "The Old Man and the Sea"), Abner Biberman (last seen in "His Girl Friday"), Muriel Hutchison, Marjorie Main, with cameos from Doodles Weaver (last seen in "The Ladies Man") and Shemp Howard.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 rap sheets