Ian Wolfe

The Brighton Strangler (1945, Max Nosseck)

While a lot of The Brighton Strangler meanders, there are some rather effective moments in the film. It's a B picture, with John Loder as an actor suffering from amnesia who imagines himself his latest role–a murderer. The film's set in London, with blackouts and air raids–not to mention service people–all part of the setting and story.

Loder has a difficult part; he needs to be both menacing and sympathetic. Unfortunately, the film doesn't really want to deal with the question of responsibility and hurries through the third act to get the film to a nicely tied conclusion. Also unfortunately… this nicely tied conclusion ties to the inept opening. So the film opens and closes on its weakest points.

The middle section of the film has amnesiac Loder inserting himself into servicewoman June Duprez's life, with only her beau–an earnest but bland Michael St. Angel–suspecting.

Director Nosseck occasionally does wonders even on the low budget. The entire London bombing sequence is phenomenal and clearly the most expensive thing in the film. Except it's only a few minutes and the film really could have used some expense during Loder's vacation in Brighton. He goes from hotel to house to street–the street scenes aren't terrible, but Nosseck doesn't use establishing shots; there's no sense of scale.

Duprez is appealing, Miles Mander and Gilbert Emery are both good in small parts. Loder goes overboard, but it's the script. It doesn't know how to handle him.

Strangler's occasionally boring, but it's got its moments.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Max Nosseck; written by Nosseck, Arnold Phillips and Hugh Gray; director of photography, J. Roy Hunt; edited by Les Millbrook; music by Leigh Harline; produced by Herman Schlom; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring John Loder (Reginald Parker), June Duprez (April Manby Carson), Michael St. Angel (Lt. Bob Carson), Miles Mander (Chief Inspector W.R. Allison), Rose Hobart (Dorothy Kent), Gilbert Emery (Dr. Manby), Rex Evans (Leslie Shelton), Matthew Boulton (Inspector Graham), Olaf Hytten (Banks, the valet), Lydia Bilbrook (Mrs. Manby) and Ian Wolfe (Lord Mayor Herman Brandon R. Clive).


Bedlam (1946, Mark Robson)

Bedlam is about a third of a good picture. It’s like writers Val Lewton and (director too) Robson didn’t quite know how to make it work, what with having to have Boris Karloff in it. Karloff’s the villain, the head of a mental institute in the eighteenth century. Karloff’s so evil–and surrounded by so many bad people (the aristocracy has inmates perform for them)–the film’s always unpleasant.

But Karloff’s not the lead; the lead’s pretty Anna Lee and she learns being rich and comfortable is nothing compared to caring for one’s fellow man. She’s even got a Quaker love interest (Richard Fraser) who helps her find the right path.

Maybe half the film is Lee figuring out she should do something to help the people in the institution. Then the second half is after Karloff institutionalizes her.

During that second half, the film shines. Lee discovers she is capable of actively helping her fellow man instead of just advocating for his or her help. She’s got a great narrative arc, but Lewton and Robson have no idea how to write it. They give her awful patron–Billy House in a weak performance–way too much screen time.

As for Robson’s direction, he’s disappointing. Most of the film either takes place in House’s house (sorry) or the institution. The budget doesn’t exactly show, not until one realizes how unimaginative it gets.

Maybe if Lee were better. She’s okay, nothing more. And Karloff’s a caricature.

Bedlam is an unpleasant disappointment.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by Val Lewton and Robson, suggested by a painting by William Hogarth; director of photography, Nicholas Musuraca; edited by Lyle Boyer; music by Roy Webb; produced by Lewton; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Anna Lee (Nell Bowen), Richard Fraser (Hannay), Boris Karloff (Master George Sims), Billy House (Lord Mortimer), Ian Wolfe (Sidney Long), Jason Robards Sr. (Oliver Todd), Leyland Hodgson (Wilkes), Joan Newton (Dorothea the Dove), Robert Clarke (Dan the Dog), Elizabeth Russell (Mistress Sims), Vic Holbrook (Tom the Tiger) and Skelton Knaggs (Varney).


Captain Kidd’s Treasure (1938, Leslie Fenton)

Captain Kidd’s Treasure runs into a problem I’m unfamiliar with for a docudrama. Its fictive license posits itself as fact, which makes entire short puzzling.

There’s a brief recount of Captain Kidd, his execution and his treasure island. I think I’ve heard the name before, but I didn’t know the Kidd story. These MGM “Historical Mysteries” are almost more interesting as historical items–as indicators of what was popular in the the late thirties.

Anyway, there’s this modern day expedition headed out with what the short shows to be Kidd’s actual map. Only the expedition is just a narrative device to show the differing opinions of Kidd’s culpability. It’s very confusing.

Fenton’s a limp action director, but he’s not terrible. His narration has a little more energy.

The acting’s weak, especially Stanley Andrews as Kidd. Ian Wolfe is okay though.

Treasure did get me curious about Kidd, which is something….

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Leslie Fenton; written by Herman Boxer; director of photography, Robert Pittack; music by David Snell; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stanley Andrews (Capt. William Kidd), Charles Irwin (First Mate Palmer), Wade Boteler (Captain of Modern-Day Expedition), Edward LeSaint (Member of Modern-Day Expedition) and Ian Wolfe (Skeptical Member of Modern-Day Expedition). Narrated by Leslie Fenton.


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