First Features Collection – 10 Movie Set

| September 14, 2015

This is the second 10 movie set from Mill Creek Entertainment this week that I requested to review.  You can find my review for their Director’s collection on this site, and I highly recommend picking that up because it has a lot of good stuff in it from what I’ve seen.  The premise of this set is that it features 10 actors appearing in their first major part.  In order to review this set, I chose a couple of movies at random that sounded interesting from their description on the back of the case and it may be a coincidence but the movies I chose were both pretty bad.

I started with The Yin and Yang of Mr. Go, starring Jeff Bridges and James Mason.  I’m a huge fan of both of these actors, and even as a young performer, Bridges is trying his best to salvage something from this nightmare of a film.  I don’t mean it’s necessarily all bad so much as it’s like watching a literal nightmare.  The description summarizes the film as “An evil gentleman (Mason) with plans for world domination rescues a U.S. weapons expert from a plane crash in Communist China in order to extract necessary information from him.”  That sounded pretty good to me – an espionage thriller with some real acting talent.  What I got instead was a structural disaster in which extremely English actor portrays a Chinese super villain.  I honestly can’t tell if it’s more insulting that he doesn’t attempt a Chinese accent here than if he would have just tried to play the character as Chinese.  Either way it’s pretty bad and the role should have gone to a legitimate Chinese actor.  Bridges’ character arc made no sense to me and was hard to follow.  He’s not playing the aforementioned weapons expert, but is instead a novelist descended from James Joyce and works in a brothel.  Mason uses him to seduce the weapons expert so he can record it and blackmail him, but why he’s a part of the rest of the film is a mystery to me.  The craziest thing about the film is the idea that the Buddha is a conscious, immortal being, who uses his influence to manipulate people’s personalities whenever he feels like it.  I’m not so against this as an idea to be put on film, but I am extremely opposed to the very literal deus ex machina it creates when the Buddha turns Mason’s evil villain character into the co-hero of the movie on a whim.  It’s bonkers.

The other film I chose from the set was an old western called The Painted Desert and starring William Boyd and Clark Gable, though having Gable second billed is ludicrous since his part in the film is very small.  I’ve never been the biggest western fan, but actually I think there’s starting to be a resurgence in the genre lately that is churning out some interesting entries.  Old westerns like this and John Wayne’s collected works don’t interest me at all.  In this case, the film felt like it was dragging its 75 minute runtime on for hours.  I couldn’t follow who any of the characters were or what they wanted.  Also, I couldn’t decipher a coherent narrative arc from amidst the chaos.

There are still movies in the set I’m interested in checking out, including Dennis Quaid’s The Seniors and Keanu Reeves’ Dream to Believe.  No telling if those will be any better than the movies I did choose, but I figure there has to be something worth owning here.  Call me an optimist.

I’ve been working on a movie challenge this year, to watch 365 new movies in 365 days.  I’m doing pretty well with it, but this set was a little frustrating in what it classifies as “movies.”  The one rule of the challenge is that a movie isn’t feature length unless it’s at least 75 minutes, which excludes 3 of the 10 movies in this set unfortunately.  These 3 include Marilyn Monroe’s first big featured role in Home Town Story, which I do hope to check out soon because like a lot of the movies, the description sounds intriguing.

Available on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment on September 15.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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