Jack Holt in “Explosion”

October 23, 2012

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Future cowboy star Tim Holt passes a theater playing a film starring his father.  Still from “The Magnificent Ambersons.”

Question: is “Explosion” a real film and did Jack Holt star in it?  I can find no reference.  The other recognizable poster is for “The Bugler Of Battery B” (1912).

Lately, I’ve been watching some of the final films of my favorite b-western stars.  “The Yesterday Machine” is one of Tim Holt’s penultimate roles.  1963.  After this, there would only be a guest spot on “The Virginian” and a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick!!!

Holt plays Louisiana police detective Lt. Partane, a by-the-book public servant like the Naval Investigator that Holt plays in his previous film, “The Monster That Challenged The World.” But this hard-ass is folksier, and he has a big imagination.  With very little evidence to go on, he makes the connection between the disappearance of a local girl with the detritus of a strange-looking machine his patrol found in a German concentration camp.  These remaining elements of an evil Nazi plot lead him to decide that the whole thing involves time travel.  He relates the details of this bizarre moment of his military career in his drab office as if he were telling it for the thousandeth time, but without the baggage of one thousand incredulous reactions.  Perhaps he incites this incident during every investigation he oversees and just gets lucky this time.

Tim is heavy with Jackie Gleason eyes.  He affects a remarkably under-stated Louisianan accent for a boy born in Beverly Hills and raised, in part, near Fresno.

I’d be very interested to discover how Tim Holt found himself in “The Yesterday Machine” because this film has EVERYTHING!

A haunted house!

Confederate soldiers!

A skanky lounge singer!

A sexy time travel machine!

An evil Nazi Scientist!

An ancient Egyptian servant girl!

A physics lesson!

This goes on for nearly 10 minutes!

A leaf-camouflaged entrance to an underground Nazi lair!  Hey Scooby!

Yes, this film has everything AND a 44-year-old Tim Holt who goes pretty much ape-shit at the end of the film.

I’m gonna track down Tim Holt‘s final two appearances, so check back here soon, okay?

It’s hard to believe, but director Arnold Laven talked Tim Holt out of retirement to star in this thing.

Commander John Twillinger is a Naval Investigator, a real hard-ass who regularly says stuff like “that’s against regulations, sailor” and “young lady, you are not to discuss that with anyone, do you understand?”  The men call him an eager beaver and he is, always cutting people off mid-sentence and talking over them.

In a word, this former cowboy star and accomplished character actor, son of the great Jack Holt, plays a nerd.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more here:  Charles Starrett might be better remembered today if only for two factors, and they are inter-related.  1) if his films had ever shown on TV and 2) if he had continued acting instead of retiring in 1952 at the relatively young age of 49.

Or, like Tim Holt, he had played one really great role in one really great film.  This one:

Not this one:


“The Monster That Challenged The World” features another scion of a cowboy great, Jody McCrea, who plays Johnson, a sailor who gets 2 minutes of screen time and is the 2nd dude eaten by the monster.

In the opening scene of this 1947 film, news arrives by telegram at the Four Aces saloon — Marvin Hayden is coming back to Grass Valley.  This causes quite a stir.  The evil bossman wants to stop him.  The Jorth boys want to kill him.

Tim Holt is the man of the hour.  One year later, he would play his most memorable role, as Curtin in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”.

Here he is, a little less desperate, as Marvin Hayden.

But the real star of this film is Lone Pine, CA and the Alabama Hills that made it famous.  Even in this murky B&W print, the landscape is triumphant.

So many great films were shot in Lone Pine.

They have a great museum there.  And a great western film festival every October.

Oh, and back to “Thunder Mountain,” there is a kick-ass final shoot-out!