Two British comedies with gap-toothed comedian Terry-Thomas are now available on demand from Warner Archive. There’s not much to say about Kill or Cure, a whimsical whodunit with large doses of slapstick, except that it’s amusing. Our hero plays a detective who goes undercover at a health spa and subjects himself to various indignities before bumbling to the solution of his client’s murder. It’s not a masterpiece of hilarity, but it gets the job done, with help from Eric Sykes, Dennis Price, Moira Redmond, Lionel Jeffries and Ronnie Barker.
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The Cossacks is allegedly based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel, but Frances Marion’s adaptation is pure Hollywood. The Cossacks are described as “simple as children”, a society where the men go off to fight Turks and come home to carouse while women work the fields. The chief, called the Ataman (Ernest Torrence), is ashamed to have a “woman man” for a son. Lukashka (John Gilbert) lounges at home with his shirt open, helps his mother lift heavy burdens, and doesn’t bother going to war. It’s just a phase. When his manhood is humiliated sufficiently by the whole village, he proves himself in the latest skirmish by killing ten Turks and discovering blood isn’t so bad.
“Aren’t you overdoing the local color bit?” asks a pretty woman of the French reporter as he poses a mute housekeeper in picturesque Spanish peasant garb before a log on the beach. The answer is “yes”, but you work with what you’ve got, and this American-Spanish co-production had four things to its credit.
RaroVideo has released excellent discs of two very different types of Italian horror: the ‘60s black and white period gothic melodrama of The Long Hair of Death and the gaudy, contemporary ‘70s giallo Slaughter Hotel. Both are excellent examples of their types, and they’re united by a vision of how women are victimized by men in powerful institutions—royalty, the church, the medical establishment. The former is explicitly about the rage and revenge of women against these power systems.
Abby Abbott (Loretta Young) is a chic widow on New York’s Fifth Avenue, beyond the means of her dividend checks. So that she can continue to pay bills, including her 17 year old daughter’s college tuition, Abby decides to take advantage of a $3,000 scholarship endowed to the college by her own grandmother for students called Abigail Fortitude, Abby’s maiden name. Having married at 16, Abby hadn’t taken up the chance, and neither had her mother, who married at 17. Now her grandmother’s desire to provide for her female descendants’ education will finally bear fruit, if only for temporary financial reasons.