The free digital over-the-air station, Comet, is featuring some bad sci-fi. Although a supernova plays no role in the movie, James Spader gives his all and shows why he’s probably better as a lawyer than a space medic in 2000’s Supernova.
Synopsis: Medical ship receives 9/11 call. 9/11 caller is a crazed lunatic made so by his contact with what looks like a cosmic sex toy. He has super heeling powers and kills almost everyone on the ship. While doing so, Peter Facinelli’s (as the villain) over-acting is splendid and on-key.
Angela Bassett (the stylish and professional medic), along with Spader, are the brains of the operation. The rest of the crew are there to be picked off one at a time, including Lou Diamond Phillips. Don’t ask me to make sense of all this. I’m not sure it does. But it’s good bad sci-fi and is entertaining in that vein.
This isn’t sci-fi but it was also included on Comet’s “Noir Sunday” catalog. Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell are carnies in 1947’s Nightmare Alley. One reviewer noted that both the writer and the director eventually committed suicide. There are indeed some dark themes to this.
But mostly this is a look inside some of the sideshow characters of a traveling carnival. Blondell and her alcoholic husband were once a big “mentalist” act on Vaudeville. But her partner, Pete (Ian Keith), turned to booze and it was back to the relative obscurity and degredation of the traveling carnival. None of this was unpredicted by Blondell’s fascination with tarot cards.
Stanton (Tyrone Power) is trying to still make his way up in the world. He knows that Blondell and Pete have a complex system whereby they can encode messages and thus make it seem as if they can read people’s minds.
Well, sin and misfortune (and the destiny of the tarot cards) bring Power and Blondell together as both love interests and a big act. She’s now got a reliable partner again whom she has taught the system, with the aid of the nubile Molly (Coleen Gray). Enter a scheming psychiatrist into the mix (her part ultimately a little unspecified and unresolved). And who need Blondell when you have the double-gorgeous Coleen Gray? Molly and Stanton break off on their own now that they have the code. What could go wrong?
They have great success as a fancy nightclub act playing in some posh joints to some posh people. Stanton’s long game isn’t this relative penny-ante mind-reading. He want’s some big scores. So he starts playing some extremely rich people, including convincing them that he can put them together again with parted loved-ones.
One rich lady is so convinced she hands Stanton an envelope with$150,00o in it….enough to start some quasi-religious tabernacle for his mentalist craft. Stanton merely stashes the envelope as get-away money as he then tries to land an even bigger fish. This one he also convinces that through Stanton he can talked to departed loved-ones. But before he opens his wallet, he demands to actually see his dearly departed daughter. Stanton agree.
What could go wrong? There are some more twists and turns and, of course, all does not turn out well for Stanton in the end as had been predicted by Blondell’s tarot reading. If there’s a theme in this film it’s probably “Don’t drink too much.” The movie is entertaining but often uneven. We get no sense for why Stanton isn’t satisfied with his relative successful and lucrative gig of mind reading in posh clubs. We don’t know what drives him.
And the introduction of the psychiatrist in this is not at all well integrated in the story….which makes some sense because apparently this character was not in the original book. This movie want to thrust forward wildly without sometimes laying the groundwork. The conflict between Blondell and Gray as Stanton’s love interest is barely touched on before we add this third element of the psychiatrist.
But ultimately this is one of Tyrone Power’s best roles. Some interesting background on this is given in the trivia section at IMDB:
Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck found this movie so generally distasteful that he eventually took it out of circulation; but it was theatrically re-released in 1956-1957, did good business, particularly in the drive-in circuit, and received wide distribution; after Power's premature death in 1958, widespread public demand for it on television resulted in its initial telecast in New York City Saturday 10 January 1959 . . . and soon spreading far and wide as a result of its extraordinarily high ratings. Its 2005 DVD release as part of the Twentieth Century Fox "noir" series brought "Nightmare Alley" back once again into even wider circulation.
This is a good con-man film very well acted throughout. It’s often dark but always entertaining.