THE LAST DRAGON (1985) is an absurdly goofy movie that I loved on first viewing and enjoyed rewatching. Leroy “Bruce Leroy” Green (Taimak), a young man in Harlem obsessed with martial arts, both in movies and in real life, to the point he wears a Chinese robe and eats popcorn with chopsticks. Having attained the “last dragon” token from his sensei, he’s ready to move on to the ultimate level, which requires funding the ultimate master (I guessed who it was before Leroy did, but that didn’t spoil the fun). To complicate the quest, we have rival martial artist Sho’nuff (Julius Carry) who wants to prove himself the greater fighter; Arkadian (Chris Murney) a crazy crime boss; and Laura (Vanity), a VJ currently in Arkadian’s gunsights for not promoting his girlfriend’s music videos. She needs a bodyguard, and my, would she like Leroy to guard her body …
Along with the martial arts action, two charming leads and Carry’s villain (Murney’s nowhere near as memorable), this has many oddball touches, such as a group of Chinese men trying desperately to be hip and black, played off against Leroy who’s decidedly not hip. The supporting cast includes Ernie Reyes Jr. as a kid martial artist and Keshia Knight Pulliam in a brief cameo. “You’re holding a fortune cookie with no fortune, written by a master who does not exist.”
TOPPER (1937) stars Constance Bennett and Cary Grant as idle sophisticates whose drink-to-drink lifestyle ends in a car crash; stranded on Earth as ghosts, they realize they need to do something good before they can move on. And what could be better than helping their stuffy banker, Cosmo Topper (Roland Young), a man drowning in his own respectability, find a little fun in his life? Topper is less than thrilled to have two ghosts trying to rearrange his life, and as the “fun” mounts up, his wife (Billie Burke) is even more horrified. This is a delightful film and a spot-on adaptation of Thorne Smith’s same-name novel. It generated two sequels (I’ll be getting to them next month) and I highly, highly recommend it. With Alan Mowbray as the Toppers’ stuffy butler and Eugene Pallette as a baffled hotel detective. “No, only a fallen woman would wear a thing like — like that!”
SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN (1929) is a much, much worse adaptation of A. Merritt’s thriller about an explorer pitted against a criminal genius. This mostly-silent adaptation (coming out post-Jazz Singer the studio tacked on some sound) has as its hero a wannabe explorer planning a trip to Africa for adventure. Suddenly he and his girlfriend are kidnapped to a spooky old house where they meet a variety of freakish looking weirdos, all warning them about their master, Satan! It turns out (I pegged this about 45 minutes before the reveal) that this is just an elaborate ruse to convince the protagonist adventure is not really his forté. Stock and silly, and Merritt deserves better. “Beware the man who walks with crutches!”
That film is still more interesting than ANOTHER TIME (2018) in which a businessman tries to go back in time and win his colleague’s heart before she found the man she’s currently engaged to. Like Little Miss Sunshine and I‘ll Follow You Down the film uses time travel as the basis for the character conflicts rather than an end in itself, but it’s fatal flaw is the bland lead — I honestly had no interest in watching him — and the stock office conflicts before the time-travel plot gets going.
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