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With nearly $384 million in the bank and another four weeks that it can more or less dominate the box office, it’s clear that Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise is a monster hit—and it shows no signs of stopping. What once was a paltry post-modern attempt to merge underground street racing with a police procedural has now turned into an ever-increasing exercise in action genre excess.

The main characters have gone from outlaws to semi-good guys, given a pass by the powers that be in order to prove their superhero like mantle both behind the wheel and outside a vehicle, and the core narratives have shifted from speed to espionage.

Robert Siodmak’s The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry might be confused in some minds with Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, because both are small-town crime stories about murder and uncles. The latter film features Uncle Charlie, an evil man visiting a small town from the big, sophisticated outside world. However, Siodmak’s film has an arguably more disturbing premise, as its moral rot is homegrown from the town’s oldest and most illustrious family.

It’s almost here. No, not the summer movie season; that’s still a good month and a highly anticipated Avengers sequel away. In this case, we are talking about the latest entry in the fluke franchise known as The Fast and the Furious. What started out as a celebration of all things racing, including an unnecessary diversion into “drifting”, has now become one of the biggest multi-cultural action series ever. We can thank the various creative forces behind the scenes for transporting said narrative away from the illegal street car challenges of the original movie to the dizzying heist drama of Fast Five and the international intrigue and spy games of Fast and Furious 6.

One useful aspect of on-demand and streaming titles from Warner Archive is the chance to see obscurities that sound halfway interesting, as well as to confirm that, in some cases, obscurity is merited.

Shot in Italy with a mostly Italian cast and crew (and obvious dubbing in certain scenes), Panic Button  offers several points of half-interest. Top-billed Maurice Chevalier spends the whole movie winking and shrugging and mugging as though paid by the tic, twice bursting into jaunty if unmemorable songs by George Garvarentz. It will also appeal to fans of Jayne Mansfield, who has a reasonable role showing off her assets, although this film is shot in a flat, unflattering black and white that devalues what should have been all its pleasing vistas.

All at Sea, called Barnacle Bill in England, is an Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness, but there’s a reason you never hear it mentioned in the same breath with Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, or The Lady Killers—except in the hopeful trailer, which claims it’s the best of them all. It’s a nice, modest, and pleasant little effort that clearly comes from the same sensibilities without being as inspired.

//Blogs

Why Novelist Richard Price Doesn't Need a Pseudonym

// Re:Print

"The language and dialogue in his latest novel, The Whites, gives away his identity -- and that's a good thing.

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