Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Sinners' Holiday (1930) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

James Cagney made his film debut in SINNERS' HOLIDAY (1930), released this month by the Warner Archive.

SINNER'S HOLIDAY was also one of the very first films in Joan Blondell's filmography. Both actors had starred on Broadway in the short-lived PENNY ARCADE in the spring of 1930, then came to Hollywood to reprise their roles in the film version, retitled SINNER'S HOLIDAY and released in October of that year.

This rough-edged depiction of carnival life would make an interesting double bill paired with the carnival film NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) -- particularly as both films starred Blondell, filmed 17 years apart.

The rather nasty Ma Delano (Lucille LaVerne) runs a penny arcade. Her son Harry (Cagney) gets mixed up with Mitch (Warren Hymer), who runs an illegal booze business, and late one night Harry kills Mitch.

Harry persuades his girlfriend Myrtle (Blondell) to provide an alibi, and he and his mother, who knows the truth, are happy to see carny worker Angel (Grant Withers) arrested for the murder. The only problem in their plan is that Harry's sweet sister Jennie (Evalyn Knapp) loves Angel -- and she saw Harry commit the murder.

The movie, directed by John G. Adolfi, is only moderately entertaining, but it successfully conveys a rough carnival atmosphere, and Cagney and Blondell's charisma wakes the film up in fits and starts. It's only 60 minutes long so the plot moves along quickly enough to keep it reasonably interesting. Fans of Cagney and Blondell will want to check it out in view of its significant place in their long careers.

Aside from foreshadowing Blondell's later role in the more intense carnival film NIGHTMARE ALLEY, SINNERS' HOLIDAY is also the first film in which Cagney is strangely obsessed with his mother, as he famously was in WHITE HEAT (1949).

An interesting footnote regarding leading man Grant Withers is that early in 1930, the year this film was made, he eloped with 17-year-old Loretta Young. Their marriage was annulled soon after.

The print on the Warner Archive DVD looks on the "old" side, only in the sense it's not a razor-sharp, shimmering print. It's a film from 1930, and it looks like it. The picture and sound are otherwise in fine shape. The DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...Turner Classic Movies officially announced Jennifer Dorian as the channel's new GM, as well as the promotion of Genevieve McGillicuddy. Will McKinley offers analysis at Cinematically Insane.

...It's been a busy few days at TCM, where it was also announced that Oscar-winning actress Sally Field will cohost the next season of the Saturday evening "Essentials" franchise. Here's more from USA Today.

...A previously "lost" film starring Harry Houdini, THE GRIM GAME (1919), has been added to the lineup of this spring's TCM Classic Film Festival.

...Please visit ClassicFlix for my latest column, a tribute to actress Claudette Colbert.

...Kristina's got terrific photo galleries of Joan Taylor and Randolph Scott at Speakeasy.

...Also at Speakeasy: Kristina collaborates with Mike from Mike's Take on the Movies for a new video, "Film Books We Rely On, Volume 3." This series is really fun, and I always end up searching Amazon for used books after watching their latest installment!

...Here's a fun post by Phoebe Green at Shadowplay showing that the same style of water glass was used in half a dozen scenes in 42ND STREET (1933).

...New at the Film Noir Foundation's video archives, an interview with Barbara Hale filmed in 2014. I haven't had time to watch it yet and really look forward to it.

...Speaking of the Film Noir Foundation, Kim has a report at I See a Dark Theater on attending part of last week's Noir City San Francisco Festival.

...FORCE OF ARMS (1951), starring William Holden and Nancy Olson, was one of the top runners-up to make my list of Favorite Discoveries of 2014. Watching this lovely tribute video to the movie, I wonder if it should have made the top 12! What a wonderful movie.

...Coming from the Criterion Collection this April, a new Eclipse set, "Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas."

...Ozu's AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962) is coming out on Blu-ray from Criterion next month. DVD Beaver has a review. I bought this one on DVD not long ago and really look forward to watching it.

...Here's another great "Favorite Discoveries" list at Rupert Pupkin Speaks, this time from The Nitrate Diva.

...If you're snowed in this week, how about making Nigella Lawson's vanilla fudge? Looks amazing...

...THE DAWN OF TECHNICOLOR 1915-1935, by James Layton and David Pierce, sounds like a fascinating history. Carley Johnson has an advance review at The Black Maria.

...Greenbriar Picture Shows has terrific stills from the Robert Taylor film THE POWER AND THE PRIZE (1956).

...The South Dakota State Historical Society Press can't keep up with orders for the annotated edition of the Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography PIONEER GIRL, published last month. The editor is Pamela Smith Hill. I have an older edition. (Update: Actually, I was reminded today that the older PIONEER GIRL is a biography...but I did read the PIONEER GIRL manuscript over two decades ago. I'm fuzzy now on exactly how I obtained it!)

...For those who live in or plan to visit North Carolina, an exhibit of DOWNTON ABBEY costumes, "Dressing Downton," will run at the Biltmore House from February 5 to May 25, 2015.

...Attention Southern Californians: This Friday at the Aero, a 75th Anniversary screening of FANTASIA (1940). It's also the Aero's 75th anniversary year.

...Notable Passings: Assistant director and production manager Richard McWhorter has passed away at the age of 100. He worked on many notable productions...Actor-Editor Frank Mazzola, who appeared onscreen in two James Dean films, has died at 79...Rush Limbaugh's longtime "Chief of Staff," nicknamed H.R., has passed away at the age of 57. Christopher "Kit" Carson had battled brain cancer for four years...The great baseball player Ernie Banks has died a week short of turning 84. His joyous "Let's play two!" is one of the great lines of all baseball history.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Dynamite (1929) at UCLA

The second film on tonight's double bill in UCLA's Cecil B. DeMille series was DYNAMITE (1929), a pre-Code melodrama.

Like the first film of the evening, MADAM SATAN (1930), DYNAMITE was directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Both of these MGM films starred Kay Johnson, were partly written by Jeanie Macpherson and Gladys Unger, had costumes by Adrian, and sets designed by Cedric Gibbons and Mitchell Leisen, with Leisen also serving as assistant director.

DYNAMITE is a sprawling tale which begins by telling two completely separate stories. We're first introduced to Hagon Derk (Charles Bickford), who has been unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to die. His little sister Katie (Muriel McCormac) sobs as they are parted, and the viewer rightly guesses that a man with such feelings for a child is unlikely to be a murderer.

The story then completely changes gears and we meet Cynthia Crothers (Johnson), a seemingly shallow society belle who must marry by her 23rd birthday in order to inherit her grandfather's millions. Cynthia is engaged to Roger (Conrad Nagel) -- the only problem being that Roger is already married! Roger's wife Marcia (Julia Faye) has a boy toy (Joel McCrea) on the side, but she's holding out for big bucks before she's willing to give Roger a divorce.

After Cynthia's story went on for quite a while I suddenly realized I'd momentarily forgotten how the movie started -- what would the man in jail have to do with Cynthia?

The stories intersect when Cynthia reads that Hagon is looking for a way to raise funds to support his sister after his death. Cynthia arranges a jailhouse wedding to Hagon; he gets $10,000 to keep his sister out of an orphanage, and she receives access to her inheritance so she can buy off Marcia and marry Roger after her new husband's death on the gallows.

Fate deals Hagon and Cynthia a surprise when his name is cleared at the last minute. Cynthia, learning she must actually be living with her husband in order to collect her millions, leaves her fabulous digs to move in temporarily with Hagon and Katie. Hagon and Cynthia are as different as can be, with Hagon earning a rough living as a coal miner, but Cynthia gradually grows to respect her "in name only" husband.

Cynthia and Hagon's feelings for one another continue to grow, thwarted at times by misunderstandings. And then comes the fateful day when Roger arrives to take Cynthia away. Roger insists that they first find Hagon at work in the coal mine to tell him face to face that Cynthia is leaving with Roger. And then the mine begins to collapse...

This film was completely enjoyable, if improbable at times, with memorable visuals -- would could forget the women racing while spinning in circles at the country club field day or Hagon's reaction to Cynthia's dazzling bathroom and big bowl of bath salts?!

DYNAMITE packs a lot of story into its 126 minutes, yet it left me wanting even more; I would have enjoyed seeing more of the gradual development of Cynthia and Hagon's feelings, especially as their communication was hampered by his brusque nature. Like many good films, it leaves you mulling over the characters; could two people from such disparate backgrounds really make a go of a marriage, and which lifestyle would they choose?

I really enjoyed both actors, even if I desperately wished that Bickford -- in one of his very first films -- had been given a haircut! It was a nice chance to see an actor who had so many great character roles as a leading man.

Nagel has the chance to play a complex character who is a bit deeper than your average playboy. His final line, "That's that," packed a wallop (pun intended, for those who have seen the film).

DeMille's former paperboy, Joel McCrea, is gorgeous in a small role as Marcia's boyfriend. He'd played small roles beginning in 1927 and wasn't yet much of an actor; his first line sounds quite awkward, but young McCrea would learn very quickly!

Look for Russ Columbo as the prisoner singing during the jailhouse wedding.

DYNAMITE was filmed in black and white by J. Peverell Marley.

It's worth nothing that both of this evening's films were on the lengthy side, with MADAM SATAN running 116 minutes, but neither film lagged or wore out its welcome. It was a long evening, especially as it started off with a 12-minute promotional short for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, but the late night in Westwood was well worth it. I had a terrific time.

Previous DeMille films seen on a big screen: MADAM SATAN (1930), CLEOPATRA (1934), THE CRUSADES (1935), THE BUCCANEER (1938), and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956).

Tonight's Movie: Madam Satan (1930) at UCLA

Tonight I returned to UCLA for another evening in the ongoing Cecil B. DeMille series, a wonderful MGM pre-Code double bill consisting of MADAM SATAN (1930) and DYNAMITE (1929).

I first heard of MADAM SATAN a while back from Raquel at Out of the Past. Although I picked up the remastered DVD from the Warner Archive, I hadn't watched it yet, and I jumped at the chance to see this Cecil B. DeMille film on a big screen.

MADAM SATAN is one of the most deliriously crazy things I've ever seen, and I loved every minute. I watched much of it with my jaw dropped and all of it with a smile on my face.

The movie doesn't know quite what it wants to be; it's part bedroom farce, part musical, and part disaster movie, yet it all comes together in its insane way to work as a whole. The only other film I can think of which is such a successful hybrid of multiple genres is HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937).

Our heroine is Angela (Kay Johnson) -- note her name has "Angel" in it, the opposite of the film's title. The reserved Angela is dismayed to realize her husband Bob (Reginald Denny) is not being true to her; Bob seems to be bored with marriage and feels Angela is less of a "pal" and more of a "wife" since their marriage.

Angela eventually figures out Bob is seeing the very un-genteel Trixie (Lillian Roth), though Bob's best friend Jimmy (Roland Young) tries to pass Trixie off to Angela as his own wife. This leads to some very funny moments with doors opening and closing when all four people end up at Trixie's apartment. Angela vows to Trixie that she's going to win back her husband.

Next comes the centerpiece of the film, a wild masked ball Jimmy throws aboard a zeppelin! The exterior and interior shots of the zeppelin are mind-blowing; the art directors were Cedric Gibbons and future director Mitchell Leisen, who also served as DeMille's assistant director. The fantastic designs are up there with the sets of FEMALE (1933) and FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) for sheer awesomeness.

The party gets underway with a musical ode to "Electricity" that had me watching in stunned, er, shock. What the heck? It was delightfully crazy, with some of the shots looking as though they must have inspired the elaborate production numbers Busby Berkeley would choreograph just a couple years later. The originality and creativity were something else.

And the Adrian costumes! Some of the actresses are billed by their costumes: "Fish Girl," "Miss Conning Tower," "Call of the Wild," and "Spider Girl." Mary Carlisle was "Little Bo Peep"; I wish I'd seen her appearance at this film at the Egyptian Theatre last year. She had just turned 100 years old, and a friend Tweets that Mary stayed to watch the entire 126-minute movie!

Into this wild gathering comes the dazzling, French-accented Madam Satan, who immediately lures Bob away from Trixie. Bob is enthralled by Madam Satan and promptly manages to be alone with her; things are getting white hot indeed when they're interrupted by Jimmy. Little does Bob know this seductive woman is his own previously very demure wife!

Act 3 comes when a violent storm causes the dirigible to become unmoored and the revelers must abandon ship; the design for the emergency parachute system for the guests is, once more, something else! I couldn't help thinking how cold it must have been for the party-goers to fly through the air in such flimsy costumes. The special effects here are pretty good even though some of it is a bit primitive.

The lead actors are all excellent, with Roland Young especially amusing as the much-put-upon best pal. The cast also includes Martha Peterson as Angela's singing maid. Boyd Irwin is the captain of the dirigible. Also look for Allan "Rocky" Lane on the dirigible, and Katherine DeMille's in there somewhere too.

An interesting side note, leading lady Kay Johnson was married to director John Cromwell and was the mother of Oscar-nominated actor James Cromwell.

MADAM SATAN was beautifully shot in black and white by Harold Rosson. (I read at one site that the costume party was originally filmed in early color and hope to learn more about that.) Like other notable DeMille films, it must be seen to be believed, and if possible on a giant screen!

I enjoyed this film tremendously, and although it's only January, I suspect this film may end up on my "Favorite Discoveries of 2015" list.

Previous DeMille films seen on a big screen: CLEOPATRA (1934), THE CRUSADES (1935), THE BUCCANEER (1938), and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956).

Tonight's Movie: Bombardier (1943)

Note: This post on Randolph Scott's WWII film BOMBARDIER (1943) is part of this weekend's blogathon celebrating the birthday of everyone's favorite Western hero, Randolph Scott. The blogathon is being hosted by Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s; please visit his site here for lots of great links! My other blogathon post is on Scott's lesser-known Western SUGARFOOT (1951).

BOMBARDIER is a patriotic World War II film which was released by RKO in May 1943.

The film, which begins prior to the U.S. entry into the war, is initially set at a New Mexico flight school owned by Burton Hughes (Anne Shirley) which has been converted to train bombardiers. Major Chick Davis (Pat O'Brien) and Captain Buck Oliver (Randolph Scott) work to train a group of recruits, including young men played by Robert Ryan, Eddie Albert, Walter Reed, and Richard Martin.

Davis and Oliver are both interested in the lovely Miss Hughes, but she falls for Jim Carter (Reed).

After Pearl Harbor the men go to combat in the Pacific, and many of them won't come back.

BOMBARDIER is almost two movies in one, part dry docudrama and part brutal combat film. In the first half of the film there is debate over the relative merits of dive bombing to drop bombs at close range versus bombing from 20,000 feet, and there's extensive time depicting the arduous training process in order to make the grade as a bombardier.

The tenor of the film begins to change with a training accident in which the oxygen is accidentally cut off to pilot Oliver (Scott), resulting in the horrific death of one of the young men on the plane.

Then one Sunday morning Robert Ryan's character rushes into church to say that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, and in short order the men are off to the Pacific to put their training to work.

The war section of the film is very dark, with many of the characters the audience has come to know shot down or captured in enemy territory. As with some other films from the early years of the war, when victory was uncertain -- including MANILA CALLING (1942), which I recently reviewed for ClassicFlix -- the film attempts to inspire viewers by depicting a cruel enemy and the "never say die" American spirit.

I found the movie as a whole uneven; I like docudramas but this one started out on the dull side, then tipped a little too far in the other direction, with a series of fairly shocking scenes. Talk about a movie with a schizophrenic personality!

That said, Randolph Scott's character is key to the movie's ultimate impact; while his character is initially not very deeply sketched, he is part of the film's two most significant action sequences. While I'll hold back the details, viewers won't forget his heroic actions in the face of certain death, and thus Scott and the film provided a memorable contribution to Hollywood's wartime morale-boosting efforts.

Those who love Scott's later Westerns will be interested to note that his main romantic competition in BOMBARDIER comes from Walter Reed, who would play Gail Russell's husband in the classic Scott Western SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956) over a dozen years later.

Western fans will also take interest in the very first appearance on film of Chito Rafferty, Tim Holt's genial girl-chasing sidekick from so many postwar Westerns. It's a bit mind-blowing watching the Chito persona in modern dress as a WWII bombardier! He's still girl crazy, though he's got his eye on just one girl, played by lovely WWII pinup Margie Stewart.

It's also worth noting that cast members Robert Ryan and Eddie Albert would shortly disappear from the screen for years of WWII service.

This 99-minute film was directed by Richard Wallace, with aerial sequences directed by the uncredited Lambert Hillyer. It was filmed by Nicholas Musuraca and the uncredited Joseph Biroc. The editor was future Oscar-winning director Robert Wise.

BOMBARDIER was released on VHS in the RKO Collection and is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Sugarfoot (1951)

Note: This post on the Randolph Scott Western SUGARFOOT (1951) is part of this weekend's blogathon celebrating the birthday of everyone's favorite Western hero, Randolph Scott. The blogathon is being hosted by Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s; please visit his site here for lots of great links!

SUGARFOOT (1951) is a Randolph Scott Western released by Warner Bros. The movie, which has nothing to do with the 1957 Warner Bros. TV Western starring Will Hutchins, has been much harder for Scott fans to see than his other Westerns, and it's to be hoped that it will appear on DVD at some point in the future. It's not one of Scott's very best Westerns, but it's still plenty entertaining.

Scott plays Jackson Redan, a Southerner who goes West after the Civil War. He's soon nicknamed "Sugarfoot" due to his courtly manners and his status as a tenderfoot who has much to learn about the West.

Sugarfoot learns a great deal -- including how to properly wear a gun belt for a duel -- from dependable Fly-Up-the-Creek Jones (Arthur Hunnicutt). He'll need that wisdom as from the time he arrives in Arizona he knocks heads with Jacob Stint (Raymond Massey). Stint robs Sugarfoot and tries to injure or kill him multiple times, and most importantly the two men tangle over lovely Reva (Adele Jergens), singer at The Diana saloon.

SUGARFOOT starts out rather slowly, setting up Jackson Redan's relationships with various characters, who also include S.Z. Sakall (as the improbably named Don Miguel), Robert Warwick, Hugh Sanders, Hope Landin, and Hank Worden (in a nice role as "Johnny-Behind-the-Stove"). Hunnicutt's excellent sidekick and Jergens' initially icy singer help perk things up considerably, and the film picks up speed as it goes.

Other than the fact that his character has to learn a certain amount "on the job," so to speak, it's your typical Scott role: a courtly man who may face tough odds at times, but his intelligence, resourcefulness, and integrity pull him through, with his loyal friends by his side. Of course, "typical Scott" is a very good thing, and he is as enjoyable as always.

The courtship with Reva is particularly well done, with Reva not a stock character but a woman who wants to pull her own financial weight in the life she and Sugarfoot begin to plan together.

Reva also threatens to kill one of Sugarfoot's enemies if Sugarfoot doesn't return safely from a trip, and when Sugarfoot questions her she makes clear she's as genuinely tough about protecting him as he would be about her. Scott's amazed grin as he turns away from her at the end of their conversation is delightful. This is one fiery woman!  I would have enjoyed it if the movie had run a few minutes longer and devoted even more time to developing their romantic relationship.

Laura Wagner wrote about Adele Jergens for Films of the Golden Age, and here's more by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation.

SUGARFOOT was directed by frequent Scott collaborator Edward L. Marin and shot in Technicolor by Wilfred M. Cline. The film is nicely scored by Max Steiner.

The script by Russell Hughes based on a novel by Clarence Budington Kelland. The film runs 80 minutes.

Sincere thanks to my fellow Westerns fan Jerry Entract for making it possible for me to see this hard-to-find film.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Today at Disneyland: Snow Queens: Art of Ice

There was beautiful weather for today's trip to the Disneyland Resort.

First off, a visit to California Adventure, where the Condor Flats Airfield is being rethemed; it's now going to be part of the Grizzly Peak area.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this advertisement for the new FROZEN activities which are located in Hollywood Land. This sign, situated in the area recently occupied by the park's Christmas tree, looks a bit like a popsicle, with a big white stick in front:

After breakfast and some rides it was time to head over to Disneyland for the new exhibit "Snow Queens: Art of Ice."

The exhibit combines design ideas for FROZEN (2013) with older art by legendary Disney Imagineer Marc Davis for The Enchanted Snow Palace, a boat ride inspired by THE SNOW QUEEN.   The Enchanted Snow Palace was planned for Florida's Magic Kingdom in the '70s; alas, it was never built.

Some of the FROZEN art:

The Enchanted Snow Palace by Marc Davis:

A couple of years ago Jim Hill Media posted an article with more information on the abandoned project.

I love to collect Disney theme park mugs and was happy this week to learn about a brand-new line of "You Are Here" Starbucks mugs sold at the two parks. I came home with both of them!

A cast member told me they are selling very quickly, and indeed, I saw the shelves being restocked in both parks while I was shopping.

As lovely as the day was, I'm glad to see there's some possible rain in next week's forecast; California needs it!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Flame of the Islands (1956)

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS (1956) is one of those oddball movies which may not be very good, but it's an awful lot of fun.

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS is a meandering mash-up of soap opera and crime film, awkwardly acted, filmed in glorious Trucolor on location in the Bahamas. I had a good time watching it, even though at times I couldn't help shaking my head at the latest strangely staged plot twist. One suspects that some of the cast may have signed up for this Republic film just for a vacation in the Bahamas! And who could blame them?

Yvonne DeCarlo plays Rosalind Dee, who receives the unexpected gift of $100,000 from Evelyn Hammond (Frieda Inescort), who erroneously believes Rosalind was her recently deceased husband's mistress. (No, that doesn't make much sense.) Rosalind and her pal Wade (an underused Zachary Scott) take a trip to the Bahamas, where they invest in a resort with Cyril Mace (Kurt Kasznar). Little do they know that Cyril also has a bunch of mobsters as partners off the books!

One day Doug Duryea comes back into Rosalind's life; Doug is played by Howard Duff, DeCarlo's costar from CALAMITY JANE AND SAM BASS (1949). It transpires that Rosalind's real name is Linda Darcy, and when she was 15 Doug fathered her stillborn child. Doug doesn't even recognize Linda at first (!) but soon they are engaged, to the distress of his mother Charmaine (Barbara O'Neil). Charmaine, you see, doesn't want Doug to marry -- because she wants her son to herself!

And by the way, it was actually Charmaine who was the mistress of Evelyn's husband. Evelyn, as it happens, is Doug's godmother, and when she coincidentally shows up in the Bahamas she can't wait to tell Doug what an awful person his new/old love is, not knowing it was Doug's mother who had the affair with her husband. What a tangled web we weave.

But wait, there's more! (I think this review may set a record for exclamation marks.) There's this tall, handsome preacher fellow (James Arness), a really good guy who teaches Rosalind deep sea fishing, bucks up her spirits when Doug waffles on their relationship, and rescues her from the mobsters.

All this, and Christmas too...some of the movie's Christmas decor is eye-popping.

Where will it all end? I did not see the romantic resolution coming and burst out laughing, but I turned off the TV satisfied, even while chuckling "Well, okay then!" I think I'll enjoy the craziness even more a second time, when I know where it all ends up.

Yvonne gives the part her all, including a couple of musical numbers, but everyone else seems to wander onto the set from their Bahamas vacations from time to time and not really know much of what's going on. The acting seems to fall into two categories: distant and uninvolved (Duff and Scott), or overly melodramatic (O'Neil and Kasznar). One wonders why they even paid Scott, as he's just around the edges of the film with little to do. Duff has been much more appealing in other films; here he's a lovestruck mama's boy.

Arness comes off pretty well, playing one of the only really nice characters in the film, although I wondered for much of the movie why he was even part of the story. That becomes more apparent in the last third of the film.

The movie's brightly hued Trucolor look is one of its virtues, with lots of reds, greens, and blues. It's a bit garish but fun to look at, especially in the Christmas scenes.  I also enjoyed the '50s decor, including the big TV set in Rosalind's bungalow.

It was filmed by Bud Thackery and directed by Edward Ludwig.

The opening credits were nicely scored, and it was a fun surprise to find that Nelson Riddle was the film's composer.

Adele Comandini, who wrote the story which was the basis for the Bruce Manning screenplay, has some interesting credits in her background, including Deanna Durbin's THREE SMART GIRLS (1946), the Christmas films BEYOND TOMORROW (1940) and CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945), the very good crime drama DANGER SIGNAL (1945), which also starred Zachary Scott, and the delightful Evelyn Keyes-Glenn Ford romantic comedy THE MATING OF MILLIE (1948).

Screenwriter Bruce Manning had himself worked on several Deanna Durbin films, including THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), FIRST LOVE (1939), and SPRING PARADE (1940), and at the time of this film he had recently written the screenplay for Republic's filming of the Gwen Bristow novel JUBILEE TRAIL (1954).

This film doesn't measure up to the writers' best work, and I suppose one might say it's for fans of the cast only, yet any film fan with an appreciation for absurdity will probably end up enjoying this movie if approached in the right spirit. For me it fell in the "some of this is so bad it's good" category, and I'd definitely watch it again.

FLAME OF THE ISLANDS can be streamed on Amazon Instant Video.