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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Rome Express ( 1932 )

"Romance and Adventure Roaring Through the Night!"

A valuable Van Dyck painting has been stolen from an art museum in Paris and the thief ( Conrad Veidt ) is onboard the Rome Express heading to Italy. This sinister criminal is in search of a Mr. Poole ( Donald Calthrop, Blackmail ) who snatched the painting from him in an attempt to double-cross him. 

There is also a motley band of characters onboard the train whose lives will all intertwine with this criminal during the course of their journey to Rome. There is Asta Marvelle ( Esther Ralston ) a beautiful American movie star; Alistair McBain ( Cedric Hardwicke ) a millionaire philanthropist who is traveling with his secretary Mills ( Eliot Makeham ); a pair of adulterous lovers ( Harold Huth and Joan Barry ); a golfing bore ( Gordon Harker ); and a beetle-hunting police chief ( Frank Vosper ). 

Rome Express was one of the very first thrillers set on a train and it inspired a number of similarly themed films, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes ( 1935 ). Walter Forde beautifully directed this taut little picture and utilized a number of innovative filming tricks including long panning shots and fast cuts between scenes, but what makes it truly stand out is its snappy dialogue by Frank Vosper and Sidney Gilliat who, not surprisingly, also penned the scripts to The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich ( 1940 ).
Rome Express speeds along at a fast pace and is never tiresome. The ending could have been tied up a little more snugly but on the whole, it is good entertainment. The interactions between the various characters, most of whom are strangers to one another, drive the story forward and in this respect, Rome Express is similar to The Ghost Train ( 1931 ), which, not surprisingly, was also directed by Walter Forde. 

Cedric Hardwicke is especially entertaining to watch as the penny-pinching philanthropist who delights in being demeaning to his secretary Mills. And Conrad Veidt, who was making his English-speaking debut, is devilishly charming as the villain. Also in the cast is Hugh Williams and Finlay Currie.
Rome Express is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray through Network Distributing. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

A man, a gate, and a fountain.....put your thinking caps on for this one because we think this is a really challenging round of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game. Stay tuned later this month, for on Halloween we are going to have a special edition of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game with some spooky-ooky prizes.

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


Congratulations to Vienna for correctly identifying this screenshot from "The Seventh Cross" ( 1944 ) starring Spencer Tracy and Hume Cronyn. In this scene, Konstantin Shayne is following Spencer Tracy into a walled garden to discuss their plans for escape from the Gestapo. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Spoils of Poynton ( 1970 )

Adele Gereth ( Pauline Jameson ) has amassed antique treasures that she and her late husband collected from around the world. She stores all of these in her Jacobian estate "Poynton". She hopes to pass Poynton and its furnishings to her son Owen ( Ian Ogilvy ) and the woman he chooses as a bride, but when she meets his choice, Mona ( Diane Fletcher ), she is sorely disappointed and refuses to part with the possessions. Mona, who had not the slightest interest in the antiquities, now feels rebuffed and is angry towards Owen for not taking her side and waging a legal war against his mother.
Witnessing this family squabble - and unwittingly taking part in it -  is Fleda Vetch ( Gemma Jones ), a minister's daughter whom Adele has taken under her wing. Adele wants to see Fleda become mistress of Poynton in place of Mona, and things begin to go her way until Fleda complicates matters when she lets pride rule over love. 

Henry James' novel "The Spoils of Poynton" first appeared in print in 1896 when it was published in serial format in The Atlantic Monthly under the title "The Old Things". Henry James' most famous works are three novels that have been frequently adapted to film and television: "The Turn of the Screw" ( filmed as The Innocents in 1963 ), "Washington Square" ( better known as The Heiress to film fans ), and "The Aspern Papers". He wrote many many fine stories in addition to these that were also adapted into films, including The Wings of the Dove, The Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl, and The Bostonians. 
The Spoils of Poynton is an excellent adaptation featuring some top-notch performances from Ian Ogilvy ( The Saint ) and Gemma Jones ( The Duchess of Duke Street ). The BBC made a number of really rich television productions in the 1970s and this one is truly a gem. It was like capturing a fine performance of a great play on film that can be enjoyed over and over again. 
Pauline Jameson is excellent as Adele Gareth. Her character is haughty, terribly houseproud and materialistic and yet Pauline makes her endearing to watch. Young Fleda takes a liking to her instantly and they share a bond in their love of beautiful objects. Fleda would make an ideal match to Adele's son Gareth and Adele well knows this. She hopes that love will blossom between the two and, to her good fortune, it does. 

Fleda Vetch is such a darling character but one cannot help feel that she muddles up matters too much out of her sense of righteousness and decency. She loves Owen dearly and he loves her, too, yet she insists that he return to Mona to patch things up properly and therefore smashes to pieces her future, Owen's future, Adele's happiness and Poynton's legacy. 
The Spoils of Poynton can be difficult to watch because it is hard to see people wrestle over material objects with such passion. Foolish Mona has no interest in the household treasures whatsoever and yet she allows her relationship with Owen to be ruined in an argument over who will get possession of them. It's quite a fascinating story. And interwoven through it is this growing romance between Owen and Fleda that spurs the story onward. The materials themselves act only as a catalyst to all the events that happen to the four main characters. 

BBC made a number of film adaptations of Henry James novels and if this one interests you, then be sure to check out the equally engrossing mini-series The Golden Bowl ( 1972 ) starring Daniel Massey and Jill Townsend.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Character Jugs ( 1955 )

If you love arts and crafts, then today's British Pathe newsreel is truly fascinating.....we are given a quick tour of the Royal Doulton factory to watch how Toby character jugs are being made. The earliest of these Toby jugs date back to the mid-1700s and the process of how they are made has changed little since then. 

At first, the artist creates the clay mold and then it is fired in a kiln. Artists paint the colors on the busts and they are then coated in a white glaze. This part is interesting because, even though they look like they have been coated in white paint, once they go through the second trip in the kiln they come out in brilliant color. In the short, you can see the busts of Dick Turpin and General Bernard Montgomery coming out of the oven along with Long John Silver, who was a new addition to the Doulton collection.

Today, you can buy these jugs for $5-50 on eBay, Etsy, or at antique shops across the country. One American collector loved these little jugs so much that he collected 8,000 of them and created the American Toby Jug Museum to showcase the tiny treasures. They also can be seen in the background in numerous films, usually sitting on fireplace mantles, desks, or on a shelf in a pub.

Ready to watch Character Jugs ( 1955 )? Just click here! 

Similarly themed British Pathe shorts:

Toy Fair ( 1958 ) - 3:01 sec

The Making of Wedgewood ( 1958 ) - 19:19 sec

Miniature Ceramics ( 1961 ) - 2:38 sec

Monday, September 23, 2019

Catacombs ( 1965 )

"Their plan was murder.....their reward was terror!"

Ellen Garth ( Georgiana Cookson ) is a wealthy and astute British businesswoman whose money and power have been used to buy herself a husband to help care for her. Raymond ( Gary Merrill ) is charming and devoted to helping her but has no love for the domineering woman. When her teenage niece Alice ( Jane Merrow ) arrives in London, Raymond falls in love with her and begins to plot to murder his wife. 

Catacombs is a good little thriller with a clever twist at the end. It was released in the United States as The Woman Who Wouldn't Die which is probably a better title for the picture because that's exactly what seems to be happening to Raymond's wife....she keeps popping up in his life even after he thinks she is dead and buried. 

Gordon Hessler, who was the story editor and later associate producer of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, made his feature film directorial debut with Catacombs and, not surprisingly, it plays out like an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Most of the action is confined to two main areas, Ellen's London apartment and the honeymoon cottage that she shared with Raymond. Since it was a budget film, there are only 5-6 actors in the entire picture, but this does not hinder its entertainment value in any way. On the contrary, some of the best films had casts of less than eight people.
Gary Merrill gives a strong performance as the middle-aged Raymond. He obviously married Ellen for her money but you have to give him credit for being such a devoted husband in spite of that solitary reason. Georgina Cookson also gives a good - and frightening - performance as Ellen. Her character suffers from muscular pain and, when it especially hurts, she uses hypnosis to put herself into a trance to be free of the pain. Later, this becomes a key point in the plot because Raymond has doubts about whether he actually did kill Ellen or whether she was in one of her trances and he simply thought he killed her. Also in the cast is Neil McCallum ( Vendetta ) who plays Ellen's business secretary. 
Catacombs is available on DVD through Network Distributing who did an excellent transfer from "original film elements". If you like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, William Castle movies, and budget horror films, then you will certainly want to check out this entertaining thriller. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Keep a sharp lookout, mate! Do you think something may fall from the sky or are you examining the clouds? 

This screenshot comes from a movie that you may have seen. If you can name the film it is from, you've won this round of the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game....but you'll never know unless you guess, so give us your best shot down below in the comment box. 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

From the Archives: The House of Seven Hawks ( 1959 )

"Just what does this paper mean?" Robert Taylor seems to be asking. It is obviously written in Dutch and he thinks the Frenchwoman Nicole Mauray would know Dutch....and he is correct, in "The House of Seven Hawks" ( 1959 ) she does! This film was one of Robert Taylor's lesser-known pictures, but it is a good mystery with some nice on-location filming in Holland. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :