Liam O’Brien

Diplomatic Courier (1952, Henry Hathaway)

Diplomatic Courier starts a lot stronger than it finishes. For the first half or so, it’s a post-war variation of a thirties Hitchcock–a lot of unexplained, strange incidents and a protagonist trying to unravel them. Then it changes gear, becoming a Hollywood attempt at The Third Man. It’s successful during the first part and it fails miserably during the second.

Part of the problem is the inexplicably fourth-billed Hildegard Knef (she easily should be second billed). I’m not sure how her performance would have been in her native German, but in English, she’s not good. Her performance, along with the endlessness of the last thirty minutes, capsizes Courier.

Tyrone Power does fine as the protagonist, though the film’s a lot more interesting when he’s out of his depth. A CID officer, played by Stephen McNally, sends him out on an espionage job he’s not qualified to undertake. When Power is out of his depth, it works (there’s a lot of that confusion during the first half); eventually he becomes the standard heroic leading man and the film’s a lot less compelling.

The supporting cast, especially Karl Malden, is decent. Patricia Neal is all right, but the material fails her. McNally makes very little impression. Plus, bit parts for Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin.

Courier breaks the rule of Chekhov’s gun. The film probably would have been a lot more exciting if it had fired.

It’d be an inoffensive time waster if it weren’t for the weak finale.



Directed by Henry Hathaway; screenplay by Casey Robinson and Liam O’Brien, based on a novel by Peter Cheyney; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by James B. Clark; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Robinson; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Tyrone Power (Mike Kells), Patricia Neal (Joan Ross), Stephen McNally (Col. Mark Cagle), Hildegard Knef (Janine Betki), Karl Malden (Sgt. Ernie Guelvada), James Millican (Sam F. Carew), Stefan Schnabel (Rasumny Platov), Herbert Berghof (Arnov) and Arthur Blake (Max Ralli).

Planet Hulk (2010, Sam Liu)

I think the only reason I liked this one is because it’s incredibly harsh (no pun). Not only do they have one character–while thirteen years old–killing her parents (after they’re turned into zombies) on screen, she then kills her little brother, now a zombie too (off screen), and later having a little kid die in her arms after a nuclear explosion. It’s horrifying.

Planet Hulk runs about seventy minutes (you know, so the producers can sell it to kids television and make three easily installments) and those scenes I mentioned above hit around the fifty minute mark. Maybe five minutes sooner. Well, maybe even more for the flashback, but they aren’t in the first arc. It basically doesn’t have a first act, instead it just starts (it’s adapted from a comic book and they leave off the first arc near as I can tell).

It’s low-grade and ugly. I guess Marvel teamed with Lionsgate to produce animated movies on the cheap–the no-name cast (apparently Canadian) doesn’t help. The worst performance is probably Rick D. Wasserman as the Hulk. They should have gotten Lou Ferrigno. The best are Kevin Michael Richardson and Sam Vincent.

It’s a big dumb sci-fi movie. At its worst, it reminds of a Star Wars prequel (the comic book source character, removed from that medium, really don’t make a difference here); at its best, it provides for a decent diversion. The writing’s nearly strong at times.

Terrible opening though, just awful.



Directed by Sam Liu; screenplay by Greg Johnson, based on a story by Johnson, Craig Kyle and Joshua Fine and on the Marvel comic book by Greg Pak and Carlo Pagulayan and the Marvel comic book character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; edited by George Rizkallah; music by Guy Michelmore; produced by Frank Paur; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Rick D. Wasserman (Hulk), Lisa Ann Beley (Caiera), Mark Hildreth (Red King), Liam O’Brien (Hiroim), Kevin Michael Richardson (Korg), Samuel Vincent (Miek), Advah Soudack (Elloe Kaifi), Michael Kopsa (Lavin Skee), Paul Dobson (Beta Ray Bill) and Marc Worden (Iron Man).

Chain Lightning (1950, Stuart Heisler)

Both critically and popularly, Chain Lightning gets classified as one of Bogart’s lesser, late 1940s films. While the film certainly is a star vehicle for Bogart, it’s only “lesser” if one compares it to Bogart’s stellar films (basically, the ones everyone remembers). On its own, Chain Lightning is far from perfect, but it’s a fine film. Director Stuart Heisler can direct some good scenes–since the film’s about a test pilot, there’s a lot of Bogart-only scenes, which Heisler handles (he has trouble when it’s a group scene). The special effects are quite good and they’re another thing Heisler incorporates well. I was about to say he didn’t do the romance scenes right, but there’s one scene between Bogart and Eleanor Parker where I can say I’ve never seen the shots before or since, so he does good on that aspect too.

The problems with Chain Lightning come from its lack of prestige. It’s about a test pilot, Bogart’s the only “star,” as Parker probably wouldn’t become a star for another year or two. (Apparently, Chain Lightning’s release was even held up for a year). The film’s got some really dynamic character relationships–between Bogart and Parker (he abandoned her in Europe during the war when he went home for no reason other than laziness), between Parker and Bogart’s rival Richard Whorf, and between Bogart and Whorf. Except none of the relationships are standard–Whorf, for instance, thinks the world of Bogart’s pilot, while never doubting Parker will choose him (even though, obviously, the audience knows different). Bogart gets to come across as petty and mercenary, to degrees I don’t think I’ve ever seen him go before (even in Casablanca, which is probably the best comparison). It’s just too short.

At ninety-five minutes, with multiple special effects sequences and a five or six year present action (some takes place during the war, then in 1950… sorry, 1949), it’s way too short. There’s not enough fat on the script to pad out the film, so it’s just the one straight gesture and the writers can’t quite make it work without hokey voiceovers and narration. For some of it, most of it in the middle, actually, I kept thinking it was so much better than I remembered it being (then the final act came around). Still, it’s certainly not a bad or even mediocre film. It has a lot going for it.



Directed by Stuart Heisler; written by Liam O’Brien and Vincent B. Evans, from a story by Lester Cole; director of photography, Ernest Haller; edited by Thomas Reilly; music by David Buttolph; produced by Anthony Veiller; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Humphrey Bogart (Matt Brennan), Eleanor Parker (Jo Holloway), Raymond Massey (Leland Willis), Richard Whorf (Carl Troxall), James Brown (Major Hinkle), Roy Roberts (Gen. Hewitt), Morris Ankrum (Ed Bostwick), Fay Baker (Mrs. Willis) and Fred E. Sherman (Jeb Farley).

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