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Monday, Dec 15, 2014
Hands of a Stranger never works as suspense or horror, but it is odd in its own way, particularly for those fixated on hands.

This uncredited remake of Maurice Renard’s oft-filmed novel The Hands of Orlac takes an entirely psychological approach to the story of a man who has a killer’s hands grafted onto his wrists after an accident and finds the original owner’s murderous impulses taking over. In fact, we never learn the identity of the hand-donor who gets murdered in the opening sequence, and therefore we never know if he’s a killer.


Sensitive concert pianist Vernon Paris (James Stapleton, aka James Noah) is a beautiful fellow of delicate cheekbones. “I like music and I don’t think I’m a sissy,” he smiles. Even before the operation, he’s established as a putative neurotic who may be too close to his doting sister (Joan Harvey) and overcompensating with his shallow girlfriend (Irish McCalla). When he’s accidentally responsible for a couple of deaths—including one of the quickest and most unconvincing in cinema, comparable to the absurd defenestration in The Man with X-Ray Eyes—he blames the hands, the cursed hands!


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Thursday, Dec 11, 2014
This trip through the sands of Technicolor is more pretty than it is anything else.

Sigmung Romberg’s operetta The Desert Song has been filmed thrice. This 1943 version is the middle one, updated to 1939 on the eve of WWII. After being in limbo over rights issues, it’s now available in beautifully restored Technicolor from Warner Archives. Like its romantic couple, it’s both pretty and dull.


In the French colony of Morocco, some tribes are revolting. They’re willing to declare their loyalty to France for justice, but they’re being exploited by a local bigwig (Victor Francen) who’s forcing their labor to build a railroad in a secret deal with the Nazis. It’s not clear how their labor issues will be resolved after the French government takes over the railroad project (maybe they’ll be paid), but the movie ends before that. Meanwhile, the leader of one tribe, who calls himself El Khobar (Dennis Morgan), has a secret identity as an American piano player in a nightclub. A visiting French songstress (Irene Manning) falls for the way he sets her politics straight.


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Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014
Gonzo yet muffled, Under the Bubble is more interesting for its breakthrough in 3D filmmaking than its dramatic bona fides.

Arch Oboler, an important figure in the history of radio drama, is most remembered for shaping the Lights Out horror series, a clear inspiration to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. As far as his forays into cinema are concerned, he’s most famous for his innovations in the stereoscopic process known as 3D.


Although 3D experiments had been around for decades, Oboler took a chance on creating America’s first commercially released 3D feature (and in color), 1952’s Bwana Devil, which became a hit that kicked off the ‘50s craze. Over a decade later, he created the first film in a revised 3D process (billed as Space Vision) that used a single camera to shoot two images on one filmstrip for a projector with a special lens, as opposed to the more cumbersone process of two cameras and projectors. This became the standard 3D process for the next 30 years.


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Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014
With Paramount announcing Roberto Orci's replacement as director of the upcoming Star Trek 3, we look back at ten other times when studios and suits played musical chairs with their filmmakers.

Over the weekend, in a low key announcement it hoped would fly way under the PR radar, producing studio Paramount announced that Roberto Orci, the director responsible for handling the third film in the newly rebooted Star Trek franchise, had been relieved of his duties. For some, this was expected. Orci is a famed screenwriter, and he’s at least partially responsible (with former writing partner Alex Kurtzman and filmmaker J.J. Abrams) for invigorating the beloved sci-fi series’ stalled fortunes.


On the other hand, he had never directed a feature film before. Also, Orci provoked the anger of Trek Nation by browbeating the fanbase over the affection (or lack thereof) for 2013’s Khan-oriented Into Darkness. It was a gamble. While he said all the right things during the original honeymoon media phase, apparently he was not prepared for an assignment of this magnitude.


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Monday, Dec 8, 2014
Wicked, Wicked is a legendarily obscure title that is liable to remain obscure.

Wicked, Wicked is a mundane slasher item about a nervous mama’s boy (Randy Roberts) who, while working as an electrician at a hotel, puts on a mask and waiter’s uniform to stab pretty blonde guests because of his traumatic childhood flashbacks. His latest target is a singer (Tiffany Bolling), who happens to be the ex-wife of the house detective (David Bailey, later on soaps) who’s tracking him down. Even by the standards of numerous psycho knock-offs in the ‘70s, the script is uninspired.


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