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post #1831 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 07:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Josh Z View Post
Arch Oboler, writer/director of Bwana Devil and The Bubble? Based on those two, it's hard to imagine he'd be capable of making a movie interesting for something other than gimmicky 3D effects.
I haven't seen any of his other films. Apparently his best work was in radio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_Oboler

Douglas Brode:

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Arch Oboler was the Orson Welles of Poverty Row. Whereas Welles came to fame with his cataclysmic War of the Worlds broadcast, which terrified the citizenry thanks to a convincingly suggestive portrayal of a Martian invasion, Oboler managed on a weekly basis to scare the wits out of practically everybody with his eerie Lights Out...
-Bill
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post #1832 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 08:05 AM
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I am old enough to remember Arch Oboler's creepy radio dramas from the '40s when I was a child. There was a lot of talent doing that kind of radio in those years. I remember particularly the wonderful Mercedes McCambridge who appeared in a lot of radio dramas. Orson Welles called her "the greatest old time radio actress." McCambridge later won an Oscar, for All the King's Men (1949) and was nominated for another, Giant (1956).
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post #1833 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 08:12 AM - Thread Starter
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You've got seniority over me: I missed the radio drama era.

I was just looking at the plot summaries and cast lists of Lights Out. There is a remarkable continuity between radio and TV anthology series a decade later. Same sort of plots, same actors. Burgess Meredith must have felt he was doing that work forever.

You can download free Lights Out audio files: https://archive.org/details/LightsOutoldTimeRadio

-Bill
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post #1834 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
I haven't seen any of his other films. Apparently his best work was in radio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_Oboler
The Bubble is a fun movie if viewed in 3D. It is not a good movie. I can't imagine sitting through it in 2D. Aside from the 3D, which is quite technically accomplished and has tons of stuff jutting out from the screen into your face, the movie is fairly incompetent on all other levels, from scripting to production values to acting.

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post #1835 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 08:18 AM
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I remember particularly the wonderful Mercedes McCambridge who appeared in a lot of radio dramas. Orson Welles called her "the greatest old time radio actress." McCambridge later won an Oscar, for All the King's Men (1949) and was nominated for another, Giant (1956).
And voiced the demon in The Exorcist!

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post #1836 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 08:40 AM
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And voiced the demon in The Exorcist!
That's right! Mercedes McCambridge's rich, rather low pitched, voice was unmistakable. She was an interesting figure. McCambridge struggled with alcohol abuse for years but finally learned to control her demons and lived to be almost 88 years old.

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post #1837 of 1856 Old 05-11-2017, 09:47 AM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

Quote:
Originally Posted by gwsat View Post
… I remember particularly the wonderful Mercedes McCambridge who appeared in a lot of radio dramas. Orson Welles called her "the greatest old time radio actress." McCambridge later won an Oscar, for All the King's Men (1949) and was nominated for another, Giant (1956).
And of course, voiced the incredible demon character coming out of sweet Linda Blair's mouth in The Exorcist. She had that unmistakeable voice, after seeing some of her films I can no longer hear Pazzuzu but Ms. McCambridge in those scenes.
_______

Sorry, you already discussed.

The Bubble is on Amazon Prime Video. Not as entertaining in 2D than it was when I saw it at the Rialto 4 Berkeley (CA) in two-strip (?) 3D in the 1970s. But it has some interesting plot points IMHO.
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post #1838 of 1856 Old 05-12-2017, 05:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), directed by Robert Wise.

The survivor of a concentration camp switches identity with her best friend, now dead, and finds her way to San Francisco where she now has wealth and even a child sent away before the war. She marries the lawyer who has been taking care of things. But wait: who's conning who? That husband is acting sinister... or is it just her imagination?

It's pretty slow moving, but picks up in the second half. I review this one not because it is a great film, but because of the talent involved: Robert Wise directing, Sol Kaplan score, Lucien Ballard photography.

The leads were not major stars:


On the DVD commentary track, author Eddie Muller points out that this often appears on film noir lists, but is actually in the "women in peril" genre, like Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), both of which it quotes pretty freely.

He praises Robert Wise's editing and the art design and he likes the actors. A San Francisco native, he loves the rich location shooting, sites specifically chosen not to be the familiar post card and travel poster views. He says that's real furniture in the mansion, not studio props.

He also gives valuable notes on how the movie could have been improved. The screenplay needs firming up in many respects.

Finally, he makes this critique of Robert Wise: the director could extract maximum value from any script he had, but in terms of bringing additional heat or passion to the project, he always erred on the side of caution.

Wise did not care much for the story, but enjoyed working with Cortese. As did Basehart: they were married shortly after.



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post #1839 of 1856 Old 05-12-2017, 09:01 AM
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Bill -- I agree that any Robert Wise film automatically has something going for it. I thought Wise's The Sand Pebbles and the performance of his star in it, Steve McQueen, were works of genius.

I remember The House on Telegraph Hill fondly. Richard Basehart never achieved superstar status but was a wonderful actor, nonetheless.
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post #1840 of 1856 Old 05-14-2017, 11:40 AM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

I can't remember if I saw this or only remember wanting to see it. Is this the one with the son she sent ahead to America not trusting her, or running away from her or something? Seem to remember a great music score, too.

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post #1841 of 1856 Old 05-14-2017, 12:49 PM - Thread Starter
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I can't remember if I saw this or only remember wanting to see it. Is this the one with the son she sent ahead to America not trusting her, or running away from her or something? Seem to remember a great music score, too.
It's been a while (I have a couple dozen reviewed stacked up, waiting to post) but I don't recall the child having a large role.

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post #1842 of 1856 Old 05-15-2017, 09:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Young Bess (1953), directed by George Sidney.

A much fictionalized account of Queen Elizabeth I from her birth to accession to the throne at age 25, being the last surviving child of Henry VIII.

It's mostly a costume and romance piece, a "talking" rather than a "moving" picture. No action or swashbuckling.

The only reason to see it would be if you are a fan of the cast. We have two lovely and talented women: Jean Simmons and Deborah Kerr, plus Charles Laughton doing Henry VIII for the second time. Stewart Granger provides somewhat younger manliness -- and a love interest for both women -- but without swordplay there isn't much need for him.

I like the young Edward VI who became king at age 9, complaining about his guardians: "They won't give me enough pocket money to bribe my own servants!"

It's pointless to complain too much about bad history in this sort of picture, but I wish they wouldn't pretend that King Henry executed each of his six wives. Memorize this:

Quote:
divorced, beheaded, died
divorced, beheaded, survived
...and you will know more history than many screenwriters. Also:

  • Royal women were not beheaded with an axe on a block then, but while sitting up and with a sword.
  • Wife #3 died from childbirth complications.
  • We have a "fade to castle exterior" moment in one romantic scene: does this mean Bess was not really a virgin queen?

Kerr was originally going to play Bess several years earlier. Simmons and Granger were married at this time.

Miklós Rózsa score, more mainstream sounding than much of his film music.

Available on Warner Archive DVD. Technicolor, but it needs restoration.



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post #1843 of 1856 Old 05-15-2017, 09:50 AM - Thread Starter
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The End of the Affair (1955), directed by Edward Dmytryk.

I did not see this until after watching Neil Jordan's wonderful version, The End of the Affair (1999). Jordan thought the earlier picture was poor, but we must try to see it with new eyes and judge it fairly.

Its first handicap is the sexual standards in movies of the period, more generous in the UK than in the US, but still having to obey the necessary conventions. The plot shows us a married woman having a passionate affair with the American writer, and once we see a rumpled bed in the background, but otherwise we just have to understand and imagine.

The second problem is how to think about Van Johnson's performance. He honestly seems out of place in this ensemble, although he is sometimes good at the silent pain and confusion of his character. His voice is bland and I found his narration objectionable, although when Deborah Kerr narrates from her point of view in the second half I didn't mind it at all. Jordan also had narration from both characters in his version.

Kerr is always wonderful. Here and in many of her roles she does something I don't remember seeing from any other actress of that era: intelligent and proper and posh as necessary, but clear-eyed and unsqueamish in sexual matters.

The supporting cast is great: Peter Cushing as the civil servant husband, dull but hurting, and John Mills as the seedy but likable working class detective.

Both movies use quite a lot of the same dialogue from the book. This version has more explicit discussion of the miracle. A great moment is when Kerr studies Johnson with shocked awe after the explosion: "He's trying to remember what it was like to be dead".

It is a serious film and treats its source well.

Lovely lush score by Benjamin Frankel.

Available on DVD, a flipper with anamorphic widescreen on one side and a 4:3 cropped image on the other.



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post #1844 of 1856 Old 05-16-2017, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Shack Out on 101 (1955), directed by Edward Dein.

A mostly ridiculous "thriller" with dialogue verging on the hysterical. Written by the director and his wife.

The reason to see it is for fourth-billed Lee Marvin, who dominates every scene as "Slob", a short-order cook who steals atomic secrets on the side. Vulgar lecher, comical body builder, dangerous Mr Big: he can do it all. He has an absurd friends-and-enemies buddy routine with Keenan Wynn: they're going to Muscle Beach to impress the girls but don't want to bulk up too much.

Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films.



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post #1845 of 1856 Old 05-16-2017, 09:13 AM
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On the plus side … Terry Moore. Lovely.
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post #1846 of 1856 Old 05-18-2017, 11:33 AM - Thread Starter
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Matango (1963), directed by Ishirō Honda.

Aka Attack of the Mushroom People (which gives it away).

When a disparate group on a pleasure cruise encounter a sudden storm, their yacht is disabled and they drift for days into strange, fog-bound southern latitudes. After an encounter with a mysterious ghost ship (was it a dream?) they make landfall on a deserted (?) island. The rotted hulk of a research vessel is encrusted with lurid fungus and -- oddly enough -- all the mirrors have been removed... We all hope they don't eat those mushrooms.

And the movie still has an hour left!

It's pretty downbeat. Even apart from the sinister fungoid horror the group has no cohesion and their survival story is grim.

It is a compelling presentation of the desire to submit that is so important in this type of film, to cross over and accept your awful fate. Maybe it won't be so bad once you've been bitten by the vampire and are damned and immortal, or have become a ravening werewolf unbound by any constraints. Even zombies are worry-free and have plenty of company.

This time the motivating excuse is hunger, which everyone can understand. Either starve or eat the mushrooms and become fungoid horror. Everyone else is doing it.

Director Honda and the cast and crew mostly did giant monster films, although we last saw Yoshio Tsuchiya as the fierce farmer Rikichi in The Seven Samurai (1954).

As a further oddity this is based on a short story by little-known English author William Hope Hodgson, who died in the trenches during WW1. His weird books The House on the Borderland and the epic The Night Land are flawed but intensely interesting. I think all Sargasso Sea plots come from his work.

Available on an early anamorphic DVD with just fair image quality. It has both the original Japanese audio, English dub tracks (both mono and 5.1), subtitles, and a Japanese commentary track with English subtitles.

The aspect ratio is 2.55:1.



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post #1847 of 1856 Old 05-18-2017, 11:50 AM
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I remember it being really atmospheric and creepy, something I hadn't seen in Japanese cinema before. (My parents didn't take me to Onibaba or Kuroneko or Kwaiden.)

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post #1848 of 1856 Old 05-18-2017, 03:20 PM
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Shack Out on 101 (1955), directed by Edward Dein.

A mostly ridiculous "thriller" with dialogue verging on the hysterical.
You're a better man than I, Bill. I'd never seen it and so purchased the BD expecting some campy fun. After about 15 minutes of torture I pulled the plug.

Hopefully some lucky Goodwill buyer will enjoy it more than I.
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post #1849 of 1856 Old 05-19-2017, 05:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Compulsion (1959), directed by Richard Fleischer.

Like Hitchcock's Rope (1948), this is a fictionalization of the Leopold and Loeb case, going all the way to the trial, where the "Clarence Darrow" lawyer -- played by Orson Welles -- admits their guilt but makes an impassioned plea against the death penalty. Which, in history, worked: the men were not executed. One was killed in prison and the other eventually paroled.

Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman are expertly detestable as arrogantly immoral intellectuals (and, we suppose, lovers) who kill one of their friends for the thrill of it. Both look young but are actually 10 or 15 years too old to be college students. It's possible their affair is unconsummated; it is their fear and frustration that drives them to violence.

It plays into the "amoral youth out of control" paranoia of the 1950s. Often in these films you have an unwilling sympathy for the criminal, hoping they'll get away with it. I didn't feel that so much this time, but still: you can't help squirming when the authorities close in on them.

Orson Welles is a natural at this sort of role: he has the gravity and seriousness, but also the weariness of a showman who has seen too much human evil, but will give one last performance against capital punishment.

I first read of this movie in Douglas Brode's Lost Films of the Fifties.

Photographed by William C. Mellor.

A Blu-ray appeared from Kino in 2017: "new 4K restoration" and audio commentary. My thumbnails are from the DVD.



-Bill
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post #1850 of 1856 Old 05-21-2017, 05:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Across the Pacific (1942), directed by John Huston

Just before WW2, Humphrey Bogart is a disgraced Army artillery captain off to be a soldier of fortune. Maybe he can sell secrets to Japanese sympathizer Sydney Greenstreet? Mysterious fellow ship passenger Mary Astor: what's her game, and where will she land when all the deceptions are revealed?

A The Maltese Falcon (1941) reunion with the director and three big stars. Not as deft as Huston's other work with Bogart. The final action segment was directed by Vincent Sherman, doing as well as he could: Huston took the script with him when he joined the Army Signal Corps. It plays like Warner wartime entertainment, although in the last scene Mary Astor is strangely unconcerned that her father was just murdered.

Bogart doesn't look quite right in uniform. We're relieved when he dons trenchcoat and fedora. He was "Rick" twice in one year.

Despite the title they never get to the Pacific. This was originally about a plot to bomb Pearl Harbor, but when that actually happened they changed the target to the Panama Canal, which was plausible.

The Japanese are definitely the enemy here but the race angle is not hit as hard as it will be later in the war. Several Asian-American actors would have long careers: Richard Loo, and Keye Luke and Philip Ahn, both of who would star in the original Kung Fu TV series.

Available on DVD.



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post #1851 of 1856 Old 05-21-2017, 05:24 AM - Thread Starter
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In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray.

The story doesn't go where we expect. Bitter, dangerous screenwriter Humphrey Bogart is suspected of murder, but finding the real killer doesn't interest him, or us. When mysterious, self-contained neighbor Gloria Grahame gives him an unexpected alibi, we know they will become an item, but can't foresee that she will come to regret it.

This is sometimes described as another tale of Hollywood alienation, like Sunset Blvd. (1950), but I don't see it that way. A romance embedded in the thriller is still a romance, even if a tragic one.

Bogart -- as in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The Desperate Hours (1955) -- again shows that he is unafraid of playing unlikable characters. Here he is resentful and jealous and has murderous rages. Sometimes he tries to repair the damage. Women like him for some reason.

This an excellent role for Grahame: strong-minded failed actress who becomes afraid of her lover. She sleeps naked: when did that start in film? Marilyn Monroe was doing it in Niagara (1953) a few years later.

She's also regularly worked over by a muscular woman, which must mean she is both sensual and sophisticated.

I remember thinking the score was syrupy and intrusive, but wasn't bothered by it in the most recent viewing.

Nicholas Ray and Gloria Grahame were married at this time but breaking up, which he kept secret so as not to alarm the studio. One never knows the causes of marital difficulty but it is said that Ray caught her in bed with his 13-year-old son, which must have caused some stress. She later married the boy.

Criterion Blu-ray. The commentary track does rapid-fire academic speak where everything is a declaration, no questions or uncertainty.



-Bill
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post #1852 of 1856 Old Yesterday, 05:34 AM - Thread Starter
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The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), directed by Richard Thorpe.

This remake of The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) has large boots to fill. Even with Technicolor and stars I revere -- Deborah Kerr and James Mason -- it can't keep up with the original. Not bad, but not great. If they'd waited another couple of years it might have been a widescreen spectacle.

I have nothing against Stewart Granger and they make good use of his swashbuckling prowess to give an extended sword-fighting sequence at the climax, but there is just no substitute for Ronald Colman. His wry intelligence and sad soulful depth: that doesn't come along in every generation.

They use the same Alfred Newman score and the same shooting script as the original and the camera angles and scene setups are often very similar. Which do you like better:



Deborah Kerr has such a strong personality that it is hard to believe her when she is overwhelmed by love or passion.

James Mason's haircut is distracting; it looks like the Prussian style from The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951). He can play the charming psycho.

It is startling to see Jane Greer in costume; we are used to her modern look in Out of the Past (1947) and The Big Steal (1949).

Available on DVD, both films on one disc.



-Bill
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Films of director John Brahm

I would like to do a week of director John Brahm reviews, one a day. I saw The Brasher Doubloon (1947) years ago, but did not make any special note of the director. Recently I've seen more of his work and he always seemed to produce films a notch above the genre average. Notably, he worked with good cinematographers.

I don't know much about him otherwise. He left Germany when the nazis came to power, had a good Hollywood career but never became a famous A-list director. He did not seem to mind doing noir and thriller genre pictures. Like so many, he wound up doing television.



-Bill

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The Undying Monster (1942), directed by John Brahm.

An old mansion on the cliffs by the sea, an ancient family curse, the unnerving howling of some creature in the night, bodies savaged when the nights are frosty. When her brother is attacked the plucky daughter of the house decides to get to the bottom of it and brings in a comical sleuthing couple: he a scientific rationalist, she more intuitive and occult minded but still with a line of snappy patter.

All in 63 minutes!

Isn't that a great title? Adapted from a book described as just plain terrible: "Once you put it down you can't pick it up again".

The good: it looks just outstanding with lovely composition, lighting and photography by Lucien Ballard. Skilled director John Brahm did not mind genre pictures and he does what he can.

The bad: clumsy, erratic plot, too much feeble humor from the sleuthing couple. Stupid ending, one of those summings up that explain away and contradict what we have just seen.

Fox was a prestige studio that disdained horror films, but they could hold out only so long. They didn't want to admit they were copying Universal's The Wolf Man (1941) and in fact this film most closely resembles Fox's own The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), with the excellent soundstage moors and craggy rocks, and another ancient family curse of a creature that bays in the night.

George Sanders was supposed to be in this (probably as the Scotland Yard inspector) but refused because he needed a break, having done something like seven films in the previous few months. The studio fined him.

First film for tough guy Charles McGraw, age 28, uncredited.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Writer Tom Weaver assembles two non-stop commentary tracks and provides most of the text, sometimes erupting in uncensored yelling at the movie. It's actually only one track but the film is so short he had to break it into two parts.

He thinks this might have been intended as the start of a series for the sleuthing couple, but it was not to be.



-Bill

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post #1855 of 1856 Old Today, 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
[url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035489/]George Sanders was supposed to be in this (probably as the Scotland Yard inspector) but refused because he needed a break, having done something like seven films in the previous few months. The studio fined him.
Bill, ever reviewed any of Sanders' Saint or Falcon films? They're a guilty pleasure of mine, as are Warren Williams' Perry Masons.
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Bill, ever reviewed any of Sanders' Saint or Falcon films? They're a guilty pleasure of mine, as are Warren Williams' Perry Masons.
No, I don't remember seeing any of those. I'll keep a look out for them.

Sanders will be in the next two Brahm reviews.

-Bill

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