Showing posts with label 1930's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1930's. Show all posts

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Screwball Watch: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Watched:  07/19/2024
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  3rd of 4th
Director:  Howard Hawks

This is a movie that I liked the first time, but I feel like - the more time you see it, the more it works.  

I won't linger too long on this one other than to say, Howard Hawks was such a wildly talented director - it's unreal to scroll his filmography and think that eight years later he's doing The Big Sleep and ten years later, Red River.  And fifteen years later, he's doing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Pair that with a young Hepburn and Grant, a leopard and absolute pros who get how this works in stage comedies, and it's a bit of a delight.

It also features the greatest shoe-based joke in cinema.

Anyway, if you want to watch two pretty people be very funny, this is it.

I do think, with screwball, there's a YMMV aspect, but I don't think it's too hard to trace Susan from this movie to some of the wackier characters in, say, What's Up, Doc? or NBC's better comedies.*  But Hepburn is so sweet in this even as she's wreaking havoc, and seems *genuinely*, instantly in love, it's kind of adorable.  And who better to bounce off than Cary Grant?

*I'm a huge fan of Mo Collins' Joan Callamezzo character, for example.  Or Jane Krakowski on 30 Rock.  Just anyone who is work on a parallel plane.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fritz Lang Watch: M (1931)

Watched:  04/01/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Fritz Lang
Selection:  Me

I've been meaning to get to this one for at least fifteen years.  Maybe much longer.  And if I can keep my act together, I'll watch another Fritz Lang movie soon, Ministry of Fear.  

But M (1931) was priority as it's on a lot of "best movies ever" lists, and cited by academics as wildly important and influential - and I'd argue - as this is 1931 - so influential it's imprinted itself onto mass media to such a degree that tracing it back would be quite the cladogram.  

Also, it turns out: the universally praised movie is, in fact, shockingly good.

Essentially what delayed my viewing of the film was what I assumed the movie would be about, and any enjoyment would be largely academic.  And the movie is about the things I suspected, in part.  But stunned was I when the movie took a hard pivot and became about something far more nuanced and difficult to wrangle.

Here's what I knew:  M stars Peter Lorre in his breakout role.  In 1931 Berlin, someone is murdering children.  A frantic manhunt begins.

Those things are correct.  


Monday, March 25, 2024

Joanie Watch: Sadie McKee (1934)

Watched:  03/25/2024
Viewing:  First
Format:  Amazon
Director:  Clarence Brown
Selection:  oh, definitely me

In honor of Joan Crawford's birthday, I decided to take in one of her movies.  

This turned out to be slightly more of a chore than I thought.  I checked all of the services to see if anything was streaming as part of the cost of my service.  Honestly - I was kind of shocked that nothing was really out there.  And then, I remembered - Amazon bought the MGM catalog.  And Crawford was signed to MGM for the first phase of her career.  So, you can count on most of Crawford's pre-Mildred Pierce films to be at MGM where she was from 1925 to late 1943 (she was loaned out once or twice).  

Based on absolutely nothing - except that I hadn't seen it and that it comes up from time-to-time - I picked Sadie McKee (1934).  Listed as a "comedy" on Amazon, it's far more of a melodrama with some comedic elements, and has the spunk and fire in the Sadie McKee persona that female characters were given in movies starring a studio's best and brightest in the early sound era. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

HalloWatch: Werewolf of London (1935)

Watched:  10/29/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Stuart Walker

Every year, Jamie and I each carve a jack 'o lantern.  Usually we put on a movie something we've seen before, often a comedy or horror-comedy.  But this year I squeezed in one of my Halloween bucket movies for the year, but I can only say I *partially* watched this one, because I was also carving a pumpkin and then cleaning up the aftermath.

this year's effort.  Jamie's Dracula on the left, my ghoul on the right

I had just never gotten around to Werewolf of London (1935), which is a bit of a surprise even to me.  I am a fan of Lon Chaney's take on The Wolfman that would pop up 5 years later, but I never make it through the rest of the werewolf films in the box set.  I'm trying to get a picture of 1930's and 40's horror, one Halloween at a time, and have tried to watch offerings from Universal and RKO.  Also, I exist in the same world as Warren Zevon, so you'd think I'd eventually just be curious to see the damn movie.

The plot is nowhere near as tight as The Wolfman, and the performances not as punctuated.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't have anything to offer.  I liked the make-up, the transformation FX, and the general idea of the story.  

Scientists visit Tibet to find a flower they've heard only blooms in moonlight, and while securing the plant, are attacked by a werewolf.  Returned home, renowned biologist, Wilfred Glendon, begins acting anti-social and ignoring his wife (played by Bride of Frankenstein's Valerie Hobson), who just happens to have her childhood boyfriend show up at the same time.  A doctor Yogami appears and is also looking for the flower, which he says alleviates the symptoms of werewolfery.  

Anyway, mayhem ensues, the doctors both are werewolves, etc...

All in all, it's really not bad, but the lead - unlike most Universal films - doesn't really have a sympathetic motivation in the same way we see Larry Talbot - a victim of chance.  There's a dash more Jekyll and Hyde to the story than in the case of The Wolfman, but not enough to get hung up on thinking it's borrowing too heavily.   

In general, it's an okay movie.  I didn't dislike it, and will watch it again with my full attention.  A highlight was seeing Valerie Hobson in another movie shot at literally the same time as Bride of Frankenstein, but given far more to do.  She's good!  

But, yeah, I need to watch it again next year to say much more.  But I've 100% seen far worse.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

HalloWatch: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Watched:  10/28/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  James Whale

Some of my pals were over Saturday night, and I made them watch Bride of Frankenstein (1935).  It's no secret it's one of my favorite movies (easily top 10, perhaps top 5), and it was a delight to share it with folks who would otherwise likely never see it.  

Anyway, we kind of talked over the movie, so they missed some good lines and good moments, but it's a first viewing, and it was all excited chatter, so they were enjoying it, which is all that matters.  

Matt did wisely point out how the comedy worked within the movie much how Shakespeare inserts fun stuff into even his tragedies - Matt watched a bucket-ton of movies that I mostly do not ever see - and it was all a good talk.

Anyway, glad to get to this year's screening of the movie.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

PodCast 257: "The Invisible Man" (1933) - A Halloween 2023 PodCast w/ Jamie and Ryan

Watched:  10/21/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: Unknown/ First
Decade:  1930's
Director:  James Whale

Jamie and Ryan are transparent in their madness about this 1930's cinema classic! It's a ghostly good time as they get wrapped up in a conversation that makes it clear, you can see right through them when it comes to their enjoyment of this film.



Invisible Man Theme - Heinz Roemheld 
The Invisible Man - Queen, The Miracle 

Halloween 2023

All Halloween and Horror Playlist

HalloWatch: Frankenstein (1931)

Watched:  10/24/2023
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  James Whale

Every year during the spooky season I try to give Frankenstein (1931) a watch.  The past several years, I've double-billed Frankenstein with Bride of Frankenstein, usually the night before - or night of - Halloween.  

But this year I wanted to give the movie a bit more time to percolate and watch it as its own thing.  

It's a movie I've seen *a lot* and so I can spot the places where the dolly shot bounces on the tracks, and I can see the literal creasing in the backdrops used in the forest scenes.  I laugh with anticipation at the jokes and know which bits work best as scares.

I make a lot of notes about how Dracula movies don't match the novel, because there's usually some adherence to the book and seeing where and why they diverged is a curiosity.  But by the time you get from the publication of Mary Shelley's novel in 1818 to the play and the movie, this story was well over 100 years old, and folks were going to do their own thing.*  There's barely any of the novel left in this film.  Themes.  Some names.  Some settings.  A wedding.

So I tend to separate them and consider them their own thing, and it's usually in subsequent adaptations that I look for whether they're borrowing from this film or from the novel or doing something entirely new.  

Even if the film is nearing the century mark, it still plays.  The creatures' pathos is as real as the novel, if reduced to a child-like state of confusion rather than a sort of existential crisis of existence.  The performances are of their time but would absolutely put fire in a modern adaptation.  You simply won't beat Colin Clive going mad in the moments of success after the monster is lowered from the tower.  

The look is borrowed from German Expressionism, and between the Gothic horror of Dracula's settings and this film, we get a language for how the best sets and scenes should look in horror that will be endlessly copied, parodied, stolen from and refracted for the next 90 years.  That's not to say this was the final word, but the starting line and the thing to which everything else can draw comparison.

Further, the themes of "who is the real monster?" would echo throughout horror and science fiction, and are often the best part to chew on in a film (and something zombie movies picked up and ran with).  But I think this movie does the best job of bringing a Dr. Frankenstein to life who really thinks he shut the door behind himself and his experiments, only to have it come roaring back.

I'm now curious to read the play upon which the movie is based.  Curiously, next year sees the publication of the script for what I believe to be the first time.  

Some time I will write a much longer bit on this movie, it's sequel and the novel and why I keep coming back to them, but not today, kids!

But for the best Halloween spookiness for the whole family, I humbly submit this classic.

*worth noting, this film will be 100 in just 8 years

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Hallo-Watch: Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

Watched:  10/09/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Robert Florey

I'd heard Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) mentioned a lot as part of Universal's early offerings in their Dracula and Frankenstein adjacent period.  It's considered part of that first wave and thus foundational as horror was being created on the fly for talkies.  Lugosi had turned down the part of the monster in Frankenstein and was looking for actory roles, and up popped this adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe tale.

Carl Laemmle, who ran Universal at the time, didn't actually think much of horror, so basing his movies on known literature probably eased his conscience a bit.

Poe's original short story is credited as the first modern detective story.  The lead, Dupin, uses logic and reason to deduce what occurred, not something common to the literary world in most stories of the time.  This form of detective fiction would quickly become mastered by others, and you get Sherlock Holmes and how we think of a *lot* of modern fiction - pretty much anything with a central mystery.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Pre-Code Watch: Thirteen Women (1932)

Watched:  10/01/2023
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Archainbaud

So, I became aware of this movie via the You Must Remember This podcast during an episode discussing the ill-fated Peg Entwistle, the actress who famously threw herself from the H in the "Hollywood" sign when her career stalled.  I was also aware this was one of several pre-Thin Man films in which Myrna Loy (praise be her name) appears as an Asian character/ person of mixed heritage.*

It's a tight hour-long movie, and more thriller than horror, although there's quasi/ possibly supernatural elements.  

The movie was only semi-available for a while, then in the Internet Archive and other places in pieces, but now it's at Criterion and looks and sounds terrific.

Here's your story:  a group of former sorority pals are still in touch, writing chain letters (this is 1932 and facebook is not a thing).  At some point, one of them decided to start reaching out to a famed Yogi/ Swami to get her horoscope, and suggested all of the girls do the same.  But as the horoscopes trickle in, they predict death and chaos.  We see one of the girls, a sister-act circus acrobat, learn someone will die in her act, and she immediately drops her sister to her death, and goes mad.  Entwistle's characters kills her husband with a knife, I believe, and she's out of her only performance well before the half-way mark.

As more members of the friend circle are picked off, we learn there's a mysterious and exotic beauty (Myrna Loy) paired with the Swami, but she's pulling the strings using some form of hypnosis.

It's a fascinating, exploitative film relying on an absurd premise and set-up.  featuring a largely female cast - thrusting Irene Dunne into the lead as a widower who is neither overly skeptical nor biting on the power of the stars hook, line and sinker.  It's also kind of sexy in that pre-Code manner of suggesting lots of sex off-screen as Loy's character bewitches dudes who are useful to her.  

The only real mystery is the "why" of the murders and chaos.  And, as it turns out, we never really, fully find out.  But it seems the sorority had been responsible for making Loy's life hell at the school, and forced her to leave after working and scraping to get in and afford it.  A "half-caste", she's half "Hindu" and half-Anglo, and fits in with neither.  Although the movie's most eye-poppingly racist moment isn't the reveal that the women we've been so worried about were maybe terrible people in college.  It's when the cop helping them out describes Loy's character's ethnicity.  

The movie's brief run-time means we don't get to all 13 women, but that would probably feel repetitive as a film, anyway.  It also gets to the point and wraps up within seconds.  

Anyway - it's a product of it's time, but could be remade now with no problem.  

I looked into the book it's based on, and it sounds like an absolutely crazy ride.  I may check it out.

*this is Pre-Code, but nonetheless, implying or indicating romantic or sexual relations between people of different ethnicities was frowned upon (I know) unless the actors were both white and one was playing a different race (I KNOW).  It's part of how you wind up decades later with John Wayne as Ghengis Khan

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Ape Watch: King Kong (1933)

Watched:  06/11/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Merian C. Cooper / Ernest B. Schoedsack

So, last week Stuart sent me a link to a doc on YouTube to watch.  It was, roughly, a 3-part series on King Kong (1933) and the impact of the film over decades.  I texted him 15 minutes in to the first part and said "there's no way I don't wind up watching Kong this weekend", and, indeed, I'm a man of my word.

We all have our foundational films, and King Kong, in it's very roundabout way, is one of mine.  

Growing up in the 1970's and 80's, and in the wake of the 70's monster craze, Kong was more or less a household name, concept, etc...  Everyone had an idea of King Kong as a giant ape liberated from an island who winds up in Manhattan and wreaks havoc, winding up atop the Empire State Building.  

My first exposure to Kong's full story was in a hard-back book my dad read to me (and, I assume, my brother) when I was about 5.  Only later would I learn it was an official novelization worked on by no less than Merian C. Cooper, director of the film.  

Monday, January 23, 2023

Screwball Watch: Libeled Lady (1936)

Watched:  01/23/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Jack Conway

You can do worse than a movie with Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow.  But our male leads are Spencer Tracy and William Powell.  So.  

A newspaper accidentally runs a badly sourced story about a rich young woman (Loy), claiming she carried on with a married man, but it's not accurate.  Tracy is attempting to marry Harlow, but the emergency (threats of libel and slander suits) pulls him away from his own wedding.  Looking to find a way to get the $5 million lawsuit dropped, he employs scoundrel William Powell to set Loy up for a fall in front of cameras and make her lawsuit moot.  

There's nothing I don't like about the movie.  It's brilliantly conceived, acted and it's hysterical, careening from one sequence to another.  It's top tier talent making the most of a great set-up.  

Monday, December 19, 2022

VidCast - PodCast 226: "The Thin Man" (1934) - a Day-Drinking the Holidays PodCast with JAL and Ryan

Watched:  12/18/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  W.S. Van Dyke 

Join JAL and Ryan as we get into the gin, watch a bona fide cinema classic, ponder what makes it great, and toast the hell out of each other. It's a festive good time as we talk classic mystery, the fading of memory around even the best of stars, and Ryan probably overplays his hand discussing Myrna Loy.

Video PodCast

Audio Streaming PodCast

Playlist Holidays 2022

Noir Playlist

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Halloween Double Feature: "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1931), (1935)

Watched:  10/30 and 31/ 2022
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  James Whale

This is now my movie Halloween tradition.  If I haven't already watched them elsewhere, watch Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein to wrap up the spooky season and before my thoughts turn to sweet potatoes and turkey.  

I don't necessarily always watch with zero distractions - these are movies I've seen over a dozen times each.  I can put them on and do other things and look up for key scenes.  

Anyway, here's a podcast Simon and I did on the films.  

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Black Cat (1934)

Watched:  10/14/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  third?
Director:  Edgar G. Ulmer

The Black Cat (1934) imho is a Universal Horror A-Lister that rides the Halloween movie bench because of the lack of "monsters" within the film.  But it speaks much more to where some great horror would come from over the years than, say, Frankenstein, which is it's own genre.  You can feel the echoes of this film in many a future Corman and Hammer movies about deranged dudes with a beef and essentially borrowing from the general world view of Edgar Allen Poe.  

Starring both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, with amazing set design, cinematography, and performances from our leads - both vying for who is the more watchable weirdo - it's a really fun, thrilling watch.  It's also a glimpse into what was possible in a Pre-Code horror/ thriller world with content I'm not sure would have been in a movie by 1941.  But then you look at RKO horror, and, man, who knows?  But it's a movie with mostly uncomfortable thoughts more than anything on screen.  

Karloff's character is clearly way past sociopathic, having sold out his own people during WWI and returned to Austria - having woo'd and won Lugosi's wife (who believed Bela dead).  Bela has finally left prison after being captured during the war and wants revenge - and his daughter if she's there.  A dopey American couple gets mixed up in it all, and unfortunately for them, the woman is the quite fetching Jacqueline Wells (better known as Julie Bishop).  And because everyone here is a psycho, she becomes the MacGuffin.  

Look, this movie has Bauhaus architecture, Satanic cults, hypnosis drugs that go nowhere, and an unfounded and unexplained fear of kitties.  And cat murder that goes uncommented upon.  It's absolutely wild.  And not just for Karloff's extremely comfortable-looking wardrobe of dressing gowns and silky robes.  

The runtime is like 70 minutes, so it moves along at a rocket clip, so it never gets boring and I highly recommend seeing it if you've never checked it out.  If nothing else, it's a lot of weird, spooky fun.


Friday, August 26, 2022

Classic Watch: The Women (1939)

Watched:  08/24/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second?
Director:  George Cukor

I'd previously watched The Women (1939), but always felt I should probably have watched with Jamie, who I knew would find it at least *interesting*.  And, this time that's what we did.

Look, I am not the person to give you the definitive take on The Women, and there's plenty of literature out there on the movie.  I can only assume the original play came from a place as it would have been holding up a mirror of a story to New York society women who attended Broadway shows, and would have been called out as fraudulent as a play, and then as a movie if there weren't some basis in the facts of how society folk seem to not have anything better to do than get divorced and married (I mean, really the primary pre-occupation of most tabloids).  

But the movie also humanizes some of the characters - not everyone is going through the motions of being a society wife.  And, of course, there are those angling to up their position from perfume counter girl to the better life.  

The cast is a phenomenal who's who of the period, with Crawford on the edge of her Box Office Poison years pre Mildred Pierce.  Shearer herself would retire out of movies in 3 years (don't worry - she was fine), but you get to see them alongside Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Ruth Hussey and more.  

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Watched:  08/19/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1930's
Director:  Alfred Werker

Well.  What's not to like, really?  

If you like Holmes books, this is... close-ish.  Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are kind of the model for on-screen Holmes and Watson.  There's a great villain in Moriarty.  And a young Ida Lupino is charming as hell at the center of it all.  

What's amazing is how undated the film feels some 80 years later.  You can imagine all of this as the plot and performances in a modern Sherlock retelling,  And maybe that's because they made 14 of these movies in the span of less than a decade - not quite a serial, but certainly a series that left enough of an impact that this was how it was done until the 21st Century decided "what if Holmes was not at all like Holmes?" in two separate series of movies and a TV show.

I won't say the movie was flawless, but it was very, very *fun*, which is what I'm looking for in my Holmes reading or adaptations.  Give me a Holmes and Watson on the case, and a mystery I can't solve on my own, and I'll come back for more.

It will *surely* annoy Jamie that now that I know there are 13 more of these, I'm gonna watch them.  But she knew what I was about when she married me, so.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Last Film of 2021: Another Thin Man (1939)

Watched:  12/31/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1930's
Director:  WS Van Dyke

Technically, I finished this movie at 12:30 AM on 01/01/2022, but I'm calling it as my last movie of 2021.  I make up the rules here, so deal with it.  

TCM started a Thin Man marathon at 7:00 PM Central on New Year's Eve, and we watched the first two movies in parts between episodes of Queer Eye's Austin season which debuted on 12/31, and is worth it's own post.  But once Jamie went to bed, I was free to hang with my pals, Nick and Nora.  

Another Thin Man (1939) needs no write-up from me.  Or at least isn't getting one on New Years Day, but it's a very fun movie.  I definitely suggest watching the Thin Man films in order, just to follow the progress of the series, but any time with William Powell and Myrna Loy is a good time in my book.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Hallow-Wax Watch: Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Watched:  10/30/2021
Format:  I am not sure?  DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1930's
Director:  Michael Curtiz

So, this movie, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), is the one that the 1953 Vincent Price film, House of Wax, is based upon.   The plots are somewhat similar, certainly the set pieces and locations.  I think this movie, in turn, is based on a story and stageplay.  

Two fascinating things here, tho:  
1)  I've never watched a whole film in the two strip technicolor process.  It's weird as hell.  Perfect for horror, I think, but I imagine this gives me an idea how some color-blind people see the world, but in a weird inverse.  This is all reds and greens.
2)  It's mid-career work by Michael Curtiz!  Maybe one of the most versatile directors I can name, it's interesting to see him doing 30's horror and doing it so well

This movie differs in many ways from House of Wax, including a very 1930's woman reporter who is really the catalyst for most of the action, and I adored her (played by Glenda Farrell).  The great beauty that the crazed sculptor pursues is no less than Fay Wray, so... understandable, despite your murderous, psychopathic ways, sir.

The movie refuses to take itself too seriously, but does a great job of a grand guignol-type horror but with a fast-talking news woman anchoring the whole thing.  

I'd love to re-watch this one at some point, especially with other folks.  It has some terrific stuff the 1950's one eschewed for a more solid plot, but this one is equally entertaining in its own, incredibly 1930's pulpy fun way.  

Saturday, October 23, 2021

PODCAST: "Son of Frankenstein" (1939) and "Son of Dracula" (1943) - Halloween 2021 - Horror Sequels w/ SimonUK and Ryan

Watched:  09/06/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  a whole lot
Decade:  1930's and 1940's
Director:  Rowland V. Lee and Robert Siodmak (I KNOW)

We check in on the boys and see what the kids are up to! One back in the old family villa and the other heading to Louisiana for some jambalaya, we assume. Two franchises rise yet again, stitched together from ideas new and old as we look at the third in the series for each, and sink their teeth into familiar tropes as well as all new stories and characters!

Son of Dracula Theme - Hans J. Salter Orchestra
Son of Frankenstein Theme - Frank Skinner

Halloween 2021

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Halloween Watch Party: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Watched:  10/15/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1930's
Director:  James Whale

My friends, I have watched this movie so many times and talked about it so much, I am sure you are sick of it.  But we had a grand old time watching it together for a Watch Party!

So, annual viewing of Bride of Frankenstein, complete!