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The Feathered Serpent (1948) / D: William Beaudine / 61m

Cast: Roland Winters, Keye Luke, Mantan Moreland, Victor Sen Yung, Carol Forman, Robert Livingston, Nils Asther, Beverly Jons, Martin Garralaga

Rating: 4/10 – while on vacation in Mexico, Charlie Chan finds himself drawn into a mystery involving murder and the search for an ancient Aztec temple; the penultimate Charlie Chan movie, The Feathered Serpent is as disappointing as the rest of the entries made by Monogram, but does at least see the return of Luke as Number One Son after eleven years, though even this can’t mitigate for the tired, recycled script (originally a Three Mesquiteers outing), and performances that aim for perfunctory – and almost achieve it.

The Black Camel (1931) / D: Hamilton MacFadden / 71m

Cast: Warner Oland, Sally Eilers, Bela Lugosi, Dorothy Revier, Victor Varconi, Murray Kinnell, William Post Jr, Robert Young, Violet Dunn, Otto Yamaoka, Dwight Frye

Rating: 6/10 – Charlie Chan investigates when an actress is found murdered, and discovers that her death relates to another murder that occurred three years previously; the second Charlie Chan movie proper, The Black Camel keeps the Oriental detective in Honolulu (where creator Earl Derr Biggers based him), and at the forefront of a murder mystery that has more twists and turns and suspects than usual, and which proves an enjoyable outing thanks to good supporting turns by Kinnell and Young (making his debut and irrepressible as ever), and a more relaxed performance by Lugosi than most people will be used to.

I Am Your Father (2015) / D: Toni Basterd, Marcos Cabotá / 82m

Narrator: Colm Meaney

With: David Prowse, Marcos Cabotá, Gary Kurtz, Robert Watts, Marcus Hearn, Jonathan Rigby, Robert Prowse, James Prowse

Rating: 7/10 – Spanish movie maker Marcos Cabotá hits on an idea to tell the story of the man behind the mask of Darth Vader, and to restage Vader’s death scene with Prowse finally acting the part as he’s always felt he should have done; a likeable documentary, I Am Your Father is a tribute to Prowse’s continued commitment to the role of Darth Vader, and along the way paints Lucasfilm in a very poor light for mistreating him during shooting of Episodes V and VI, and blackballing Prowse since 1983 (over his “revealing” Vader’s death in Return of the Jedi), but the movie is let down by a haphazard structure, and not being able to show the re-shot scene (no doubt thanks to Lucasfilm).

White Coffin (2016) / D: Daniel de la Vega / 71m

Original title: Ataúd Blanco: El Juego Diabólico

Cast: Julieta Cardinali, Eleonora Wexler, Rafael Ferro, Damián Dreizik, Fiorela Duranda, Verónica Intile

Rating: 5/10 – when a young girl (Duranda) is kidnapped by a mysterious cult, her mother (Cardinali) discovers that not even death is an obstacle to getting her back; five features in and Argentinian horror maestro de la Vega still can’t assemble a coherent script to accompany his homages to Seventies Euro horror, making White Coffin a frustrating viewing experience that offers too many moments of unrealised potential, and leaves its cast adrift in terms of meaningful or sympathetic characterisations.

Bad Santa 2 (2016) / D: Mark Waters / 92m

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jenny Zigrino, Jeff Skowron, Mike Starr, Octavia Spencer

Rating: 6/10 – against his better judgment, alcoholic ex-criminal Willie (Thornton) teams up with his old friend Marcus (Cox) to steal two million dollars from a charity at Xmas time, which means donning a Santa suit once more; more defiantly scurrilous and offensive than the original, Bad Santa 2 benefits from Thornton’s ambivalent attitude as Willie, a plethora of cruel yet hilarious one-liners, and a great turn by Bates as Willie’s mother, but it also fails to pull together a decent plot, contains too many scenes that fall flat, and can’t quite replicate the energy of its predecessor.

Baires (2015) / D: Marcelo Páez Cubells / 82m

Cast: Germán Palacios, Benjamín Vicuña, Sabrina Garciarena, Juana Viale, Carlos Belloso

Rating: 4/10 – gullible Spanish tourist Mateo (Vicuña) parties with the wrong crowd in Buenos Aires and finds his girlfriend, Trini (Garciarena), threatened with a sticky end unless he transports drugs back to Spain; a thick-ear thriller Argentinian-style, Baires is mercifully short but dreary in its set up and cumbersome in its “thump a villain every five minutes” approach to tracking down the chief villain(s), all of which leaves little room for sympathetic characters, a credible narrative, or anything more than flat-pack direction from Cubells.

Two Men in Manhattan (1959) / D: Jean-Pierre Melville / 84m

Original title: Deux hommes dans Manhattan

Cast: Pierre Grasset, Jean-Pierre Melville, Christiane Eudes, Ginger Hall, Glenda Leigh, Colette Fleury, Monique Hennessy, Jean Darcante, Jerry Mengo, Jean Lara

Rating: 6/10 – when the French UN delegate disappears in New York, the job of tracking him down is given to a reporter (Melville), and a photographer (Grasset) who has his own agenda; practically dismissed by French critics on its first release, Melville’s ode to New York and film noir, Two Men in Manhattan is a nimble yet forgettable movie that prompted the writer/director to move away from the Nouvelle Vague movement he’d helped to create, leaving this as an enjoyable if predictable drama that could have done without Melville’s awkward presence in front of the cameras.

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