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Movie Monday: To Hell and Back 1955

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To Hell and Back Image One
Image Credit: IMDB & Amazon

Sixty-five years ago, today, the war film To Hell and Back was released, originally in San Antonio. Directed by Jesse Hibbs and based on the book of the same name, it starred Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Gregg Palmer, Paul Picerni, David Janssen, Denver Pyle, Brett Halsey (Admiral’s great-nephew) and Gordon Gebert as a young Audie.

IMDB Summary:

Biopic of the wartime exploits of Audie Murphy (played by himself), the most decorated US soldier in World War II. Starting with his boyhood in Texas, where he became the head of his family at a young age, the story follows his enrollment in [the] Army where he was assigned to the 3rd Division. He fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, before landing in southern France and, eventually, fighting in Germany. A Medal of Honor recipient, he also received battle honors from the French and Belgian government.

Rotten Tomatoes Summary:

The highly variable Audie Murphy delivers his best screen performance as “himself” in Universal‘s To Hell and Back. Based on the star’s autobiography, this is the story of how Murphy became America’s most-decorated soldier during WW II. After dwelling a bit on Murphy’s hard-scrabble Texas upbringing, the story moves ahead to 1942, when, as a teenager, Audie joined the army. Within a year, he was a member of the 7th Army, serving in North Africa, Italy, France and, ultimately, Germany and Austria. One by one, the members of Murphy’s Company B are killed in the war, until only three men from the original company are left. [The] others appear at the finale as ghostly images […]. The bulk of the film is given over to Murphy’s conspicuous acts of combat bravery and his killing of 240 enemy soldiers. Highlighted by excellent battle sequences, To Hell and Back is a serviceable tribute to a most complex individual.

Audie Murphy Image Two
Date: 1948
Photo Author: Fort Detrick
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Trivia Bits:
Filmed at Fort Lewis, WA, Yakima River, WA, Oak Creek Wildlife Area, WA and Universal Studios.
♦ Audie Murphy originally declined the opportunity to portray himself in the movie, not wanting people to think that he was attempting to cash in on his role as a war hero. Murphy initially suggested his friend Tony Curtis to play him.
♦ Audie Murphy’s war buddy Onclo Airheart was slated to play himself, but he declined due to the fact that the movie was to be shot during planting season.
♦ [Author] David Morell [sic] cites Audie Murphy as the inspiration for the character of John Rambo.
♦ In the movie, […] Murphy does his one-man standoff on top of a medium M-4 Sherman tank. [In] real life it happened on top of an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer.
♦ Audie Murphy’s feats of heroism and his much decorated status have been compared to those of his counterpart during World War I, Sgt. Alvin C. York […].

Murphy […] wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died on May 28, 1971, when the private airplane in which he was riding crashed.

Additional Reading:
To Hell and Back (American Film Institute)
To Hell and Back (Turner Classic Movies)
Alvin York (Wikipedia)
Audie Murphy (Wikipedia)

TV Tuesday: Mister Jerico 1970

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Mister Jerico Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com & media-amazon.com

Fifty years ago, today, the British crime-comedy, made-for-tv movie Mister Jerico aired on ABC. Directed by Sidney Hayers, it starred Patrick Macnee, Connie Stevens, Herbert Lom, Marty Allen and Bruce Boa.

Summaries:

Smooth con man Dudley Jerico sets out to rob corrupt millionaire Victor Rosso [sic] of his legendary Gemini diamond.

A conman hatches a plan to swindle a corrupt millionaire out of his treasured priceless diamond by claiming to have discovered its twin. However, his plot is disrupted by a rival hustler who comes up with the same idea and, the two crooks must each convince their suspicious target that they can be trusted and the other is lying.

Reviews:

This disappointing comedy caper evidently got the green light due to the popularity of Patrick Macnee‘s dapper superspy John Steed in The Avengers. Unfortunately, this attempt to turn Macnee into an equally charismatic jewel thief just can’t compete with its bigger budgeted competition, despite the catchy title track from Lulu and the star’s stunning array of flowery shirts. Herbert Lom is good value as the object of Macnee’s felonious attentions (in a role similar to the one he played in the Michael Caine caper Gambit three years before) but, this lacklustre yarn, ultimately, can’t cut it in the excitement or suspense stakes.

Jeremy Aspinall of RadioTimes

Mister Jerico Image Two
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Mister Jerico is one of those charming and fluffy capers that the 1960s did well, quite similar to the higher-budgeted Gambit or How to Steal a Million. The palette is sun-soaked, the plot buoyant and just this side of ridiculous. The second half of the film, in particular, moves along at a nice pace, complicating matters without making anything seem too serious. If you think too deeply about the story, it will all appear very nonsensical but, this is a stylized caper film not intended for deeper scrutiny. It’s a surface film and as such it’s quite enjoyable.

Lauren Humphries of Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out… Blog

A fun film with a very Avengers feel to it, which should be obvious given the cast and crew. Allen is a little out of place but, Macnee and Lom are great, as is Laurie Johnson‘s score. I’ll even admit, against that, Lulu‘s theme song is catchy. Apparently [it was] intended as a pilot for a Macnee series to follow The Avengers but, instead, [was] released theatrically (though, in the US, it only ended up as a TV movie of the week).

Dave W. of Actors Compendium

Trivia Bits:
Filmed in Malta and Associated British Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.
♦ The lead role was originally offered to Robert Wagner but, he was not available.

Additional Reading & Sources:
Rotten Tomatoes
RadioTimes
Cinedelica
Cult TV Blog
Allmovie Overview
Mubi

Video Link: (Late Update)
YouTube Link (Video will not embed as the owner of the account disabled embedding.)

Movie Monday: The Wrecking Crew 1969

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The Wrecking Crew Image One
Image Credit: imdb.com

Fifty years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was The Wrecking Crew, a comedy Spy-Fi starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate (Polanski), Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise and Chuck Norris, making his film début. Opening in the U.S. (NYC) on February 5, it was directed by Phil Karlson, produced by Irving Allen, written by (screenplay) William P. McGivern with music by Hugo Montenegro and Dean Martin serving as Executive Producer, uncredited. Bruce Lee was listed as the ‘Karate Advisor’, choreographing the fight scenes.

The movie was based on Donald Hamilton’s novel of the same name, his second spy thriller about Matt Helm, a fictional U.S. Agent & assassin. Martin played Helm in three previous films and this movie was the last of the series despite the announcement at the end of the film of a fifth installment. Hamilton has written 27 Helm novels spanning 1960 to 1993 with #28 still unpublished, though, finished in the late 1990s.

This was the second to the last movie Sharon Tate (Polanski) made before her murder on August 9, 1969 and the last one released before her death. The Thirteen Chairs was released two months afterwards.

Sharon Tate Polanski Image Two
Photo Credit: imdb.com

Summary from Rotten Tomatoes:

Secret agent Matt Helm is called on to stop a plan to steal over one billion dollars in gold. With the help of the fumbling female [British] agent Freya, the two race against time to stop the devious plan of Count Contini and his henchmen. The Count is aided by a bevy of beauties who attempt to throw the world economy into chaos with the heist. Helm is constantly interrupted just before his amorous adventures can be set in motion by the overzealous […] Freya.

Trivia Bits:
♦ The working title of the film was House of 7 Joys.
♦ Dean Martin was so distraught over the murder of his co-star and friend, Sharon Tate, that he abandoned the next, already announced, “Matt Helm” motion picture series installment (to be titled “The Ravagers”) and, never played the character again. This is contrary to the post that the series ended due to poor ratings.
♦ Bruce Lee was the martial arts adviser for this film. He also was brought in to train and teach Sharon Tate with her martial arts scenes.
♦ Karate champion Mike Stone was Dean Martin’s fight double. Stone was Priscilla Presley’s boyfriend after she left Elvis.

I can’t find an actual trailer for this movie but, I did find some snippets.