Paul Frees

Suddenly (1954, Lewis Allen)

I’m sure there’s got to be some examples of well-written “Red Scare” screenplays, but Suddenly isn’t one of them. Writer Richard Sale’s got a lot of opinion about the dirty Commies, he just never gets the opportunity to have any one character fully blather it out. They’re too busy blathering out patriotic platitudes while being held hostage.

Suddenly’s about Frank Sinatra trying to assassination the President for half a million dollars. He’s got a couple sidekicks with him, but they’re not too bright. Sinatra’s character should’ve been a war hero but he just liked killing Germans too much. Sale has a lot of dialogue about Sinatra’s backstory because most of Suddenly takes place in the house he’s holding hostage. It’s either Sinatra alluding to his past or second-billed Sterling Hayden figuring it all out and lecturing him and making Sinatra lose his cool. Sinatra’s performance is good. Hayden’s isn’t. Neither of them have good writing, neither of them have good direction (though Sinatra gets better direction).

There are a handful of notable costars–James Gleason as the homeowner, Nancy Gates as Gleason’s widowed daughter-in-law, Kim Charney as the annoying kid. Gleason ought to be fine but Allen’s coverage is awful. It seems like Gleason doesn’t even know where the camera’s pointed at times. So he’s not good. He’s not awful (Charney is awful), but he’s not good. Gates would maybe be better if she didn’t have a lousy part. Women don’t understand much about men; Sale’s script isn’t deep. Gates’s part in the first act is mostly to be harassed about not wanting to marry Hayden, who courts her with the charm of a wrecking ball.

David Raskin’s music is outstanding. John F. Schreyer’s editing is weak–again, Allen didn’t shot the coverage the film needed–and Charles G. Clarke’s photography is mediocre. There aren’t really any good shots in the film, so it doesn’t matter. But there are some where Sinatra gets to go wild and those work out, even if the composition isn’t strong. Sinatra’s awesome.

Suddenly’s a chore of seventy-five minutes. Not even Sinatra can keep it interesting through some of the longer stretches. Sale’s script is just too weak and Allen’s direct is just too disinterested.



Directed by Lewis Allen; written by Richard Sale; director of photography, Charles G. Clarke; edited by John F. Schreyer; music by David Raskin; produced by Robert Bassler; released by United Artists.

Starring Frank Sinatra (John Baron), Sterling Hayden (Sheriff Tod Shaw), James Gleason (Pop Benson), Nancy Gates (Ellen Benson), Kim Charney (Pidge Benson), Paul Frees (Benny Conklin), Christopher Dark (Bart Wheeler), James O’Hara (Jud Hobson) and Willis Bouchey (Dan Carney).

Social Lion (1954, Jack Kinney)

Social Lion is such a truly awful cartoon, one would need to sit with pencil and paper to make notes on every moronic detail in its six minutes.

Director Jack Kinney–brother to co-writer Dick Kinney, who, with Milt Schaffer, writes a lousy story–doesn’t have bad ideas, particularly during the Africa scenes. The animation is bad, but Kinney’s direction shows some promise. Sadly, once the story moves–along with the titular captive Lion–to New York City, Kinney gets wrapped up in the moronic social commentary.

Writer Kinney and his co-culprit Schaffer come up with a plot too heady for kids and too stupid for adults. They also can’t figure out how to put any action in a cartoon about a lion being loose in New York City. They’re inept.

Actually, Lion‘s only adept feature is the uncredited narrator. Sure, the writing’s bad, but the performance isn’t.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Jack Kinney; written by Milt Schaffer and Dick Kinney; animated by Norman Ferguson; music by Oliver Wallace; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Paul Frees (Lions Club President / Drunks / Clothing salesman).

Goliath II (1960, Wolfgang Reitherman)

Instead of padding Goliath II out to an exhausting fifteen minutes, director Reitherman and writer Bill Peet should have concentrated on making it a good seven minute cartoon. Worse, there are animation problems every few frames in Goliath, like whoever photographed the cells didn’t know how to focus; at seven minutes, it might not look like such a mishmash.

The story involves a mouse-sized elephant and the problems he causes for his herd. From the first few seconds, it’s clear the story will either resolve with him growing to regular size or using his pint-size to the betterment of the herd.

I won’t spoil it, but it’s painfully obvious during the cartoon.

Reitherman does have some nice sequences–particularly a jungle at night one–but Goliath‘s mostly a waste of time in terms of animation.

It almost feels like a failed feature project, given the ballooned plot.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman; written by Bill Peet; music by George Bruns; produced by Walt Disney; released by Buena Vista Distribution Company.

Starring Kevin Corcoran (Goliath II), Barbara Jo Allen (Goliath II’s Mother), Paul Frees (The Mouse), Verna Felton (Eloise) and J. Pat O’Malley (Goliath I); narrated by Sterling Holloway.

Hardware Wars (1978, Ernie Fosselius)

The best thing about Hardware Wars, in terms of actual quality and imaginative creative impulse, is recasting Chewbacca as a brown version of the Cookie Monster (except here it’s the Wookie Monster). Director Fosselius introduces it sort of as a gag, but then develops it. The puppet gives costar Bob Knickerbocker (as the Han Solo stand-in) his best scene. The puppet looks great and it’s hilarious.

In terms of most interesting aspect of the short… well, in one scene, Fosselius has more women in Hardware Wars than Lucas fit into all of Star Wars.

Fosselius sets up the short like a trailer for itself, moving through the big (and recognizable) scenes of Star Wars. He borrows dialogue, he makes observations about the film out of context….

It’s competent, but pointless. Hardware Wars is diverting as an absurdist exercise, Fosselius doesn’t have any interesting observations about Lucas or Star Wars.

1/3Not Recommended


Written and directed by Ernie Fosselius; directors of photography, John V. Fante and Michael Wiese; production designer, Fosselius; produced by Fosselius and Wiese; released by Pyramid Films.

Starring Frank Robertson (4-Q-2), Scott Mathews (Fluke Starbucker), Jeff Hale (Augie ‘Ben’ Doggie), Cindy Furgatch (Princess Anne-Droid), Bob Knickerbocker (Ham Salad) and narrated by Paul Frees.

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