Saturday, April 25, 2009

Goodbye to the 1930's, hello 1940's!

My 1930's movies marathon is over. Now what? What else? The 1940's! Why? Because I'm insane, because it's fun, and because nobody else is doing it.

It's insane because the number of movies available from my Mysterious Disreputable Sources increases sharply for every year of movie history. But as long as I can finish the years in less than real time, I could actually take this pretty far.

What, someone made a good movie this year? Be patient. I'll get around to it.

A reader has requested a list of only the movies that I think are worth watching. I'm tempted, but that kind of misses the point. There are no lists of movies worth watching, and never will be. There are only lists of movies worth watching for me, or you, or someone else. You could pick some of the movies I watched to the end, (which has been and will remain the only way I grade these movies), but who knows what forgotten masterpieces you'll miss out on?

Reading reviews in search of the perfect choice of movie is pointless when you can just get a hundred random movies, and watch them for as long as you're interested, and no longer. (Just remember to get the ones you like from a Non-Mysterious Reputable Source afterwards. Don't be a leech.) The movies you find that way will be your own, in a way some idiot reviewer's favorite never can be.

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30's movies marathon - part 31

The Old Maid (1939, USA) - I just noticed how grotesque Bette Davis's head is. Beautiful but malformed, like a real-life manga character. Oh, and there's a love triangle in the shadow of the American Civil War. Watched: 15 minutes.

Each Dawn I Die (1939, USA) - Journalists vs gangsters. The journalists are the good guys, and the drunk driving frameup isn't very plausible either. Watched: 12 minutes.

The Little Princess (1939, USA) - Gah, Shirley Temple! Watched: 4 seconds.

King of the Underworld (1939, USA) - This gangster movie has cheap written all over it, from the TV drama sets to the not-even-trying Humphrey Boghart. Watched: 7 minutes.

Five Came Back (1939, USA) - It's the prototypical disaster movie: A group of diverse people with Backstories, (including a rabid anarchist), ends up on the same plane, which ends up in the jungle. To judge from the foreshadowing, they'll be running from headhunters next, before at last the Final Five are revealed. Watched: 34 minutes.

Oss baroner emellan (1939, Sweden) - A bored noble fails to pick up a girl on the street, and begins a stalker-like search to find out where she lives. Why is it that behavior that is creepy in real life is romantic in movies, (and vice versa)? Watched: 12 minutes.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 30

The Four Feathers (1939, UK) - On the eve of his first assignment, to quell restless natives in Khartoum, a British officer resigns. Branded a coward by his friends and fiancee, he realizes that they're right, and sets out to the Sudan alone to prove himself through reckless displays of bravery. This is fantastic both as an adventure movie and as a display of the British imperial self-image. A bit unfocused, not to mention implausible and jingoistic, but all its blemishes are interesting blemishes. Watched it all.

The Three Musketeers (1939, USA) - The movie equivalent of a person who laughs at their own jokes. Watched: 8 minutes.

The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle (1939, USA) - Enough with the Fred Astaire and the Ginger Rogers. Enough. Watched: 21 minutes.

Bachelor Mother (1939, USA) - Ginger Rogers (no Astaire, so okay then) is fired right before Christmas, and through an unbelievable confusion of identity finds herself adopting an abandoned child. I don't like where this is heading. Watched: 7 minutes.

Le Jour se Lève (1939, France) - A man has committed murder. Locked, trapped in a room, he recalls how he became a murderer. No that isn't my description, it's the movie's introduction text, but it'll do. Starring Jean Gabin, who dies romantically, (***spoiler apology***). Watched it all.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 29

Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939, USA) - An old teacher at a British public school looks back on his life, and the generations of boys he has taught. This is probably the perfect nice movie, intelligent and well balanced between melancholy and humor. Starring Robert Donat as Albus "Chips" Dumbledore. Watched it all.

Buck Rogers (1939, USA) - Upon being awakened from 500 years of suspended animation, Buck Rogers is immediately handed a space ship and a stupid suit, courtesy of .. the FUTURE! First episode of a serial, but that is no excuse. Watched: 17 minutes.

Der Feldzug in Polen
(1939, Germany) - This came without subtitles, but the gist of it seems to be that all Germany wants is peace. Watched: 37 minutes.

Another Thin Man (1939, USA) - Another hard-boiled comedy with Nick & Nora, taking the series to new heights of plot complexity. The underlying message is that every alcoholic (indeed, every man) should have a wife like Myrna Loy. Watched it all.

You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939, USA) - Some moderately funny circus jokes. Watched: 16 minutes.

Made for Each Other
(1939, USA) - Apparently even James Stewart can be a terrible actor, as long as the script is bad enough. Watched: 8 minutes.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 28

Destry Rides Again (1939, USA) - A good western, finally! Bottleneck is the dirtiest town in the West. The drunkard sheriff sends for James Stewart, a gunslinger's son who doesn't like guns. The result is a quieter Blazing Saddles. Watched it all.

Jamaica Inn (1939, UK) - A gang in Cornwall lures ships onto land, where they murder the crews and steal their cargo. One of the darkest movies in the marathon so far, made by someone who likes to see ugly bandits slobber over pretty women. Watched it all.

My Love for Yours (1939, USA) - The message here seems to be that successful business woman Gail Allen should give up her silly hobby and settle down in some sweet-talking guy's kitchen. Watched: 40 minutes.

Gjest Baardsen (1939, Norway) - Gjest Baardsen, a trickster thief and escape artist, befuddles the police and rescues Maid Marian from the claws of Guy of Gisbourne. Watched it all.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939, USA) - I hope the scene where "everybody" in 1482 knows the world is flat is Hollywood's invention, not Victor Hugo's. I know I should still give the movie a chance, but don't you find it hard to get back into a movie after it has caused you to slap your forehead? Watched: 10 minutes.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939, USA) - Bette Devis plays Elizabeth I well, but the prospect of watching a whole movie with even a non-swashbuckling Errol Flynn is intolerable. Watched: 19 minutes.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 27

Gulliver's Travels (1939, USA) - Paramount imitates Disney, with an animated feature based on Jonathan Swift's heartwarming children's tale, (ahem). Snow White was terrible, but in a polished way. This is just bad. Watched: 17 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where there are no yahoos. One IMDB reviewer calls it "one of the best Literary Films of 1939 [..] and I think I would like to read the original novel sometime". She's in for a surprise.

The Lion has Wings (1939, UK) - Britain is the awesomest country in the world. Is all this to end simply because one man wants to conquer Europe? No! Fine propaganda movie, which makes the British case for war with a stiff upper lip and dry humor. Watched it all.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939, USA) - A movie made by and for people who find airplanes sexy and interesting. Watched: 20 minutes. (Observant readers will note that its title contradicts the previous one. They are of course both wrong: Lions don't have wings, and angels don't exist.)

Dark Victory (1939, USA) - Dr. House treats Bette Davis for a horrible brain disease, but she's doomed .. doomed .. doomed! Watched: 45 minutes, (there's a reason why all medical dramas these days are in the format of 43 minute TV episodes, not feature-length movies.)

Frontier Horizon (1939, USA) - Another dreadful western. Watched: 5 minutes.

The Rules of the Game (1939, France) - Everybody is cheating with everybody in decadent Paris. Watched: 18 minutes.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 26

Midnight (1939, USA) - An American woman with a talent for lying finds herself in Paris without money, and gets mixed up in adulterous upper-class intrigues. One of the funniest farces I've seen. Watched it all.

Pygmalion (1938, UK) - My Fair Lady without the silly songs, and about twice as intelligent. Perfect. Watched it all.

Bringing Up Baby (1938, USA) - Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in two very annoying roles. I expect this from Grant, but Hepburn?! Watched: 15 minutes.

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938, USA) - Andy Hardy is a teenage boy who is just wild enough to land himself in the sort of trouble that leads up to the delivery of valuable life lessons from his stern, wise father, but not enough to shock any 1938 middle class parents. I don't approve, but I have a weakness for nice movies done well. Watched it all.

Boys Town (1938, USA) - The street kids are unruly, but all they need is a little attention from the local Catholic priest. Watched: 14 minutes.

Sex Madness (1938, USA) - I'm confused: Is the anti-syphilis message a pretext for making a movie with burlesque shows and "frank" sex talk, or is that just a ruse to teach moviegoers about the joys of clean, syphilis-free living? It's a dreadful movie either way. Watched: 13 minutes.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 25? 26? who knows?!

Aleksandr Nevskiy (1938, Soviet Union) - Considering that the message here is "never mind the Mongols who just passed through our village, the Germans are our real enemy", it's not surprising that Hitler broke the pact. Watched: 18 minutes.

Carefree (1938, USA) - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers spoof psychoanalysis. Best (only?) attempt in film history to combine tap dancing with golf. Watched: 16 minutes.

Little Tough Guy (1938, USA) - The 'Dead End Kids' from 'Dead End' reach a [two words, two syllables] in this terrible followup. Watched: 8 minutes.

Mr Wong, Detective (1938, USA) - What is it about the 30's and stereotypical Chinese detectives? Boris Karloff could at least have tried to look the part. Watched: 6 minutes.

The Great Waltz (1938, USA) - A movie about Johan Strauss and his immortal waltzes. I hate Johann Strauss and his immortal waltzes. Watched: 4 minutes.

Suez (1938, US) - Yes, but what I want to know is: Whatever happened to Napoleon the second?! Watched: 14 minutes.

Le quai des brumes (1938, France) - Probably a very fine movie about a cynical deserter, but not for me. Watched: 15 minutes.

Marie Antoinette (1938, USA) - A cheerful, empty-headed princess marries a royal imbecile, and then she's beheaded by the citizens. Interesting, but the acting is either bad, or an accurate portrayal of some truly annoying people. Watched it all.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

30's movies marathon - part .. oh who's counting?

Jezebel (1938, USA) - A 1850's New Orleans woman tries to win love through manipulation and audacity, which doesn't work out too well. Told against a background of Southern elegance and happy, comical slaves. Fantastic, racist period piece, with Bette Davis switching comfortably between brave, pathetic and cruel. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers call it a prelude to Gone With the Wind, which is nonsense - this is far better.

You Can't Take it With You (1938, USA) - A group of free spirits explore Maslow's fifth layer in their commune, which is threatened by .. (queue Psycho-music) .. tycoons. Nice, well-intended, and naive, in a way that's a little less interesting now that we're all like this. Watched: 30 minutes.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938, USA) - The beloved classic, reimagined as Dennis the Menace. Watched: 10 minutes.

Ask a Policeman (1938, UK) - Loud jokes that beat you over the head with how funny they are. Watched: 8 minutes.

The Texans (1938, USA) - Evil cardboard yankees force confederate veterans to pay taxes and work for a living in reconstruction-era Texas. It's a travesty! It's up to a band of brave, doomed rebels to save the South, by relaunching the Civil War with Mexican and French soldiers on their side. Yes, they're the good guys. Watched: 14 minutes.

A Slight Case of Murder (1938, USA) - Gangster tries to go legit when prohibition ends, but Society Won't Let Him, (they hate his crappy beer). Watched: 8 minutes.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 23

Topper (1937, USA) - Manny-man man's man Cary Grant plays an irresponsible playboy who kills himself and his wife in a drunk driving accident. They then return as ghosts to teach a respectable banker to be an irresponsible drunk driver too, (or at least help him stand up to his shrewish wife). Loved it. Watched it all.

The Good Earth (1937, USA) - I don't know which is more stupid: A movie set in China where all the main characters are white, or this, where the characters are Chinese, but they're all played by white actors. Watched: 14 minutes. IMDB reviewers beg us to consider the casting in the context of its era, and not condemn it out of "political correctness". I wonder if they excuse all 30's racism equally?

Conquest (1937, USA) - Polish countess Greta Garbo is pressured into offering herself to Napoleon in the hope of securing freedom for her people, but all she gets in return is rape and dishonor. She falls in love with him anyway, but again (and again, and again) she is betrayed by his ego and ambition - just like Europe. Excellent. Watched it all.

Range Defenders (1937, USA) - Oh God, it's a horrible, ultracheap Western. Noooooo...! When did they begin making good ones?! Watched: 5 minutes.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 22

Young and Innocent (1937, UK) - A British movie that doesn't suck! In fact it's good. Hitchcock does his innocent suspect thing, with black humor and many inspired scenes, such as a jazz drummer in blackface trying desperately not to reveal his villainous twitch. Watched it all.

A Damsel in Distress (1937, USA) - Merging Fred Astaire with P.G. Wodehouse sounds like a good idea, but .. nah. Watched: 15 minutes.

Salama fi khair (1937, Egypt) - En Egyptian farce! It's actually funny, at times. A lazy office worker gets stuck with a large sum of money, and becomes afraid of thieves. Watched: 31 minutes.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937, USA) - A man happens to look exactly like the crown prince, and happens to meet him just in time to fill in for the prince at his coronation after he's poisoned. This will no doubt cause 1h and 40m of intrigue and confusion, but this sort of aristocratic adventure doesn't interest me. Watched: 15 minutes.

La Habanera (1937, Germany) - A Swedish woman visits Puerto Rico with her humorless aunt, where she is swept off her feet by the natives and their exotic customs (bull-fighting etc.) Watched: 14 minutes. IMDB reviewers say the romance doesn't last, and she ends up safely in the arms of a fellow Aryan.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 21

Dead End (1937, USA) - Excellent drama about street kids in a poor New York neigbourhood. Smart and unsentimental, with great performances by the kids, and a fine supporting job by Humphrey Bogart as a bitter gangster. Watched it all.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, USA) - You know, I find it hard to believe that Snow White and the queen are the two most beautiful women in the kingdom. It's .. unlikely, and not borne out by the visual evidence. The movie looks great for its time, but the story is stupid, full of cute animals and cute songs - in other words a typical braindead FX movie. (Besides, I think this is how it really happened.) Watched: 27 minutes.

Love From a Stranger (1937, UK) - Another terrible British movie. Watched: 6 minutes.

Souls at Sea (1937, USA) - Gary Cooper isn't the right actor to play a slave trader, even one with a conscience. Watched: 19 minutes.

Stella Dallas (1937, USA) - Character drama that feels too much like a novel. Watched: 17 minutes.

The Last Gangster
(1937, USA) - Is that a promise? Good enough, but I've seen it all before. Watched: 15 minutes.

Lost Horizon (1937, USA) - Silly but well-made oriental adventure with something of a Spielberg flair. Watched: 37 minutes.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 20

Stage Door (1937, USA) - Loud comedy about a boardhouse for girls who want to make it in the theatre. I especially like the scenes where Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn are sniping at each other. (Now why is is that the few 30's movies I've seen that are Bechdel compliant are about actresses?) Watched it all.

Festliches Nürnberg (1937, Germany) - Having finally freed itself from Jewish oppression, the German people celebrates with a spontaneous outburst of goosestepping. You know, sometimes I feel sorry for the regular German people I see in these movies. Other times I feel they got just what they deserved.

Marked Woman (1937, USA) - This gangster movie taught me a new word: clip joint, a shady club that scams its customers. Watched: 23 minutes.

Paradise Isle (1937, USA) - An American washes ashore a South Sea island where the white men (including himself) are arrogant jerks, and the natives are happy, subservient and child-like. Watched: 15 minutes.

Pensionat Paradiset (1937, Sweden) - Light summer vacation farce. Watched: 18 minutes.

Kid Galahad (1937, USA) - Just some lousy boxing movie. Watched: 6 minutes.

Nothing Sacred (1937, USA) - I love what this satire about a fake victim of radiation poisoning who becomes the darling of the New York press is trying to do: It's full of odd jokes and black humor. That doesn't save it from being, at times, kind of bad, but I refuse to hold that against it. Oh, poor, doomed Hazel Flagg! Watched it all.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 19

Captains Courageous (1937, USA) - A spoiled rich kid learns the joy of honest labor. The star here isn't Spencer Tracy, but the kid, Freddie Bartholomew, who manages to be both obnoxious and likeable. Watched it all.

Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937, USA) - This is the most stupid crime movie I've ever seen. Charlie Chan, a Chinese-American detective who speaks easternish platitudes in broken English, travels to the Berlin Olympics to retrieve a stolen gizmo. Watched: 43 minutes, in hope of seing a portrayal of Nazi Berlin, but the movie takes place in an alternate universe where Hitler never happened.

Blake of Scotland Yard (1937, USA) - The British really sucked at movies in the 30's, didn't they? A scientist invents a giant death ray, hoping thereby to end all war, presumably by obliterating the enemy. Watched: 9 minutes.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937, USA) - Grown-up children don't care about their sad, lonely, old parents. Watched: 32 minutes. IMDB reviewers say not to watch this if you feel suicidal.

Heidi (1937, USA) - Opens with Shirley Temple stripping(!), followed by Shirley Temple being cute. I loathe Shirley Temple, and I suspect her fans. Watched: 8 minutes.

Black Legion (1937, USA) - Didactic drama about the rise of a KKK-like movement of working class fascists. Not good, but it's the first 30's movie I've seen so far to deal with the most relevant subject of the decade. Watched: 38 minutes.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 18

The Lower Depths (1936, France) - A thief, a bankrupt baron, and assorted poor people live in a lodging house. Based on Maxim Gorky's play. I think I rather like socialist realism, especially when it's done with grim humor. Watched it all.

Big Brown Eyes (1936, USA) - Fast-talking crime comedy, with many right ingredients, but I just don't care. Watched: 10 minutes.

Winds of the Wasteland (1936, USA) - These old westerns almost make me not like westerns any more. How dreadful! Watched: 8 minutes.

Mayerling (1936, France) - Wonderful historical romance. The crown prince of Austria-Hungary finds the love of his life in 1880s Vienna. Correct in the outline, though the events are a matter of historical controversy to this day. Watched it all.

Klondike Annie (1936, USA) - Any definition of pornography that doesn't include Mae West's smile is deficient. But she can't act, and neither can anyone else in this movie. Watched: 16 minutes.

San Francisco (1936, USA) - I am prejudiced against movies that begin by solemnly informing you that the uninteresting people (including Clark Gable at his most despiccable) you're about to meet may all die horribly at the end. In this case the disaster is the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but the same applies to, say, the Titanic and Pearl Harbor. Watched: 11 minutes.

Wedding Present (1936, USA) - Cary Grant, the man's man who put modern boy-men to shame, (yes!), plays a boy-man with an annoying sense of humor. Watched: 8 minutes.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 17

Pépé le Moko (1936, France) - Excellent gangster drama, set in the Casbah in Algiers. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers say it invented noir. I say you should follow up with The Battle of Algiers.

Windbag the Sailor
(1936, UK) - An old man who pretends to have been a sailor is tricked into captaining a doomed vessel. He inevitably ends up king of a cannibal island. Watched it all. Not very funny, but .. it's British humor, finally!

Follow the Fleet (1936, USA) - Who needs medicare and the 35c flat rate fare, when Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are dancing through the air? (I'll soon run out of obscure song references, I promise.) Watched it all.

Satan Met a Lady
(1936, USA) - A crime comedy with the actual comedy removed, leaving only unappealing cynicism behind. Watched: 20 minutes. IMDB claims it's based on the The Maltese Falcon. I refuse to believe it!

The Garden of Allah (1936, USA) - It's good to see a 30's movie In Glorious Technicolor (tm) at last, but what a mess the story is. You can't cast Marlene Dietrich in a straight and boring drama. The sprinkle of oriental stereotypes don't make it exotic, just stupid. Watched: 21 minutes.

Libeled Lady (1936, USA) - Some people are trying to frame some other people as part of some intricate plot. Charming nonsense, saved by William Powell and Myrna Loy redoing their parts from The Thin Man. Watched it all.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 16

My Man Godfrey (1936, USA) - A hobo with a Harvard degree gets hired as a butler for a family of rich assholes. Darker than Wodehouse, lighter than Blackadder. Best scene: The opening, where New York's wealthiest decadents go on a scavenger hunt for "lost men" in the city dump. Watched it all.

Things to Come (1936, UK) - Powerful anti-war science fiction. In the distant year of 1940, war drags the world down a seemingly neverending spiral of violence and disease. Eventually a strong but peaceful world government arises, creating a new world order based on reason, science and preposterous clothing. Watched it all.

Next Time We Love (1936, USA) - Bloodless romance, with James Stewart back when he was so young his best smile just made him look sleazy and stupid. Watched: 9 minutes.

Ceiling Zero (1936, USA) - Dedicated to the brave young men in the U.S. Air Mail Service. Watched 8 minutes. IMDB reviewers say the rest sucks too.

Swing Time (1936, USA) - Wave your hands in the air / And wave 'em like you just don't care / Like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire / My main man Yogi Bear. Not as good as Top Hat. Watched: 55 minutes.

Desire (1936, USA) - Con woman Marlene Dietrich hooks up with regular joe Gary Cooper. It'll never last! But I do wish they'd shown the scene where he gives her a spanking for being a perl thief. Watched it all.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 15

Fury (1936, USA) - Spencer Tracy, a stranger innocently arrested for kidnapping, faces the insane rage of a small town. This is a shocking movie about mob rule and revenge, with many unforgettable scenes. Fury is essentially an indictment of the masses for the murder of Justice. Its outlook is so cynical that even the somewhat happy ending, (whether forced on Fritz Lang by the studio or not), doesn't resolve anything.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936, USA) - Errol Flynn was the Lord Flashheart of old Hollywood. The good thing about him starring in this movie is the hope that his character will die in the charge. The bad thing is that one fears he will somehow find a way to lead the light brigade to victory at the battle of Balaklava. Watched: 18 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where Errol Flynn dies(!!), although in an annoyingly glorious manner.

After the Thin Man (1936, USA) - Nick Charles is an alcoholic ex-detective, back when this was a sign of sophistication. In this second Thin Man movie based on Dashiell Hammett's novels, there are further horrible relatives, farcical crime plots, and Clues liberally sprinkled everywhere. Watched it all.

The Dark Hour (1936, USA) - A murder mystery with no good qualities. One of the worst movies in the marathon so far. Watched: 13 minutes.

Sweeney Todd (1936, UK) - I didn't like Tim Burton's version, and this one isn't even pretty - or audible. Watched: 16 minutes.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 14

Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936, USA) - A small town guy inherits millions in New York, where he outwits swindlers and cynics by being so simple he's clever. In the war of city against town, I'm on the side of the city, and Mr Deeds is wish fullfilment for people who think that living in a small town makes them honest and real. But .. I love it, it's adorable. It's so simple and nice that it outwits clever analysis. Watched it all.

Sabotage (1936, UK) - What could it be, it's a mirage / You're scheming on a thing, that's sabotage. But as for this movie, Hitchcock must have still been learning at the time. Watched: 17 minutes. IMDB reviewers say it's one of his most underappreciated movies, which is a stupid thing to say.

One Fatal Hour (1936, USA) - A decent family woman finds her murderous past turned into a radio play, which is bad for some reason. Only Humphrey Bogart is interesting in this comedy, he plays the radio manager like a hardboiled detective. Watched: 21 minutes.

Wife vs Secretary
(1936, USA) - Wealthy New Yorkers flirt and banter. It's all fun and games in the magazine publishing business, and although I expect a minor crisis two thirds into the movie involving Clark Gable's wife learning a new emotion called "jealousy", it will no doubt all be resolved in a sophisticated manner. Watched: 38 minutes, then fast-forwarded to the crisis. (It's actually four fifths in.)

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 13

The Devil is a Woman (1935, USA) - Marlene Dietrich teases her admirers to madness, offering only smiles in return for their favors and money. Dietrich's exaggerated doll-like acting and the Spanish carnival setting makes the whole thing surreal. Watched it all.

(1935, USA) - Almost like several good musicals I can think of, in the same way that a false note is almost like an accurate note. Watched: 14 minutes.

Becky Sharp (1935, USA) - The first three-color feature film, meaning that, not only is the sound poor and the story bad, it looks dreadful too. Watched: 12 minutes. IMDB reviewers say Becky Sharp is an elusive lost treasure, and, in its defense, it did win the award for Best Color Film at the Venice Film Festival of 1935, against stiff competition.

The Last Outpost (1935, USA) - Those rascally genocidal Kurds are no match for a pair of stout British officers. Hooray! Watched: 13 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end where the officer who isn't Cary Grant dies gloriously. The film reused footage from a silent film shot at a different speed, which is why the Kurds move with super-speed.

Dracula's Daughter (1936, USA) - Dracula's daughter wants to be a good girl, but that's difficult when you're constantly walking around in the mist, spellbinding gentlemen with your hypno-ring. Unfortunately the other characters aren't as interesting. Watched: 19 minutes.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 12

She (1935, USA) - The Indiana Jones of the 1930's. Fantastic effects and an intelligent story - and now available in a fine colorized version. This is better than the well-known fantasy movies of that time. Why haven't I heard of it before? The only thing wrong with She is the title, and maybe that's the answer.

Top Hat (1935, USA) - Enter Fred Astaire (somewhat younger than I'm used to), and Ginger Rogers, dance on air. Lovely farce. This is the old Hollywood I love. Also featuring a funny offensive Italian stereotype, (yay!)

The Call of the Wild (1935, USA) - I like how we know who's the villain here: He's the one who carries a portable bathtub when he's prospecting in Alaska. That, and he's mean to dogs and Clark Gable. Fine movie, though the ending feels like they just ran out of story. (Not Jack London's story, though - they ran out of that after the title.)

The Thin Man (1934, USA) - Retired from police work to focus on his drinking, Nick Charles tries his best not to have to solve a series of murders, but that's difficult when everybody insists on dropping clues in his lap. Works well as both comedy and crime. Favourite scene: A room full of drunken people singing christmas songs.

The Black Room (1935, USA) - Prophecies of doom, hidden rooms with terrible secrets, and Boris Karloff as the evil twin, the good twin, and the evil twin pretending to be the good twin. Unexpectedly unpredictable.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 11

Les Miserables (1935, USA) - Coherent and well paced, this is how to film a big novel. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers warn that some details from the 1000+ page book are missing, as well as entire characters such as Tom Bombadil.

Mark of the Vampire (1935, USA) - Spends too much time on convincing the characters that they're actually dealing with vampires. Yes yes, those mysterious marks on the neck are unexplainable by modern medicine - get on with it! The actual vampire scenes are enjoyable, but clichéd, with the usual wailing, spiders and mist. Or perhaps they hadn't become cliches yet at this point? Watched: 20 minutes.

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935, USA) - To-ga, to-ga, to-ga! Featuring matte paintings and Romans who are inexplicably opposed to slavery. Watched: 11 minutes.

The Raven (1935, USA) - No, judge, I don't think the doctor with the Hungarian accent who says his cellar full of Poe-inspired torture instruments is "more than a hobby" should be trusted near your daughter. Watched: 23 minutes.

Captain Blood (1935, USA) - I hate Errol Flynn and his movies. Perfect, smirking heroes fighting for Freedom and The Girl. Always the same plot, regardless of the "historical" setting. But, god damn it, this isn't too bad. Flynn smirks less than usual. If I had to see one Flynn movie, I suppose this would be it. Watched: 42 minutes.

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Friday, January 2, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 10

This is what Russians looked like in the 18th centuryThe Scarlet Empress (1934, USA) - Sent to Russia to marry Peter III, Marlene Dietrich is a lone, wide-eyed innocent among the half-wits and brutes at the Russian court, a place of barbarism and confrontational architecture. She emerges from the perverse nightmare as Catherine II, cool and cruel tsarina of a cool and cruel country. Watched it all.

Change of Heart (1934, USA) - Vapid college graduates are released into the world, with only the Depression and their stupid parents standing in the way of happiness. Love and hilarity presumably ensues. Watched: 8 minutes.

L'Atalante (1934, France) - I really want to give these French comedy-dramas a chance, but they're too strange. Maybe they will grow on me. Watched: 12 minutes. IMDB reviewers say this is the best French film of all time. I hope not.

Waltzes from Vienna (1934, UK) - Alfred Hitchcock tries his hand at slapstick, and FAILS. Fails, fails, fails. Hitchcock himself thought this was the worst film he ever made, and even that's being too nice. Watched: 9 minutes.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, USA) - "Raise the men and lock the women indoors" - the monster is back, and he doesn't take himself quite as seriously as before. The scene with the tiny people is very silly. Watched: 31 minutes.

The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935, UK) - Sound technology was apparently still an unfamiliar art in Britain in 1935. So was acting. (*ba-dum-dum-ching*). Watched: 6 minutes.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

30's movies marathon - part 9

The Count of Monte Cristo (1934, USA) - A straightforward, somewhat unfocused adaptation, with an entirely wrong Robert Donat as Edmond Dantes. (Don't hire a boy to play a middle-aged man's role.) There must be better versions, but the underlying story is strong enough to carry the movie anyway. My favourite Cristo will of course always be Alfred Bester's.

Of Human Bondage (1934, USA) - I remember this novel. This isn't it. But it does remind me I should revisit W. Somerset Maugham. Watched: 9 minutes.

Cleopatra (1934, USA) - What Would Jerry Bruckheimer Do? He would open his Cleopatra with the kidnapped queen being carried by chariots at high speed into the desert, and so does Cecil B. deMille. But I think Bruckheimer would find a Caesar who looked less like Graham Chapman pretending to be serious. Watched: 10 minutes.

Bright Eyes (1934, USA) - Shirley Temple plays Shirley, the world's cutest orphan - who has a disturbingly close relationship with all the men at the local airbase. Watched: 6 minutes, then skipped forward to her singing for and being groped by a passenger plane full of men. What?!!! (Graham Greene thought it was fishy too. Shirley Temple had him sued.)

The Lost Patrol (1934, USA) - Arabs hunt British soldiers in the desert. Starring Boris Karloff as the world's ugliest Christian. Watched: 9 minutes.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 8

The Black Cat (1934, USA) - Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi lock horns on a World War battle site, making only laughable obeisance to Poe. The story is a mess, but it's dark and ambitious, and merges war horrors with occult evil in a unique way. Watched it all.

Mystery Liner (1934, USA) - There is a ship, on which there presumably is a mystery. Utter crap. Watched: 6 minutes, then fast-forwarded to see what the mystery is. Couldn't find it, they talk and talk right through to the end.

The House of Rothschild (1934, USA) - The five Rothschild brothers cause the defeat of Napoleon and save the Jews of Europe. Preposterously prettified historical drama, but it's correct in the outline, and works well as a heroic movie. I especially liked the financial intrigue. Watched it all.

It Happened One Night (1934, USA) - Spoiled and willful-yet-vulnerable beauty hitchhikes through the country with annoying-yet-charming rogue who looks like Clark Gable, thus giving birth to the wacky romantic comedy. Watched it all.

Tarzan and His Mate (1934, USA) - Ah, Africa, where Europeans are Europeans, the natives are either restless or part of the scenery, and animals can be wrestled to death. Retard ape-man Tarzan and his bimbo girlfriend must deal with a pair of explorers searching for ivory. It's all very stupid but it's hard to look away, especially since Maureen O'Sullivan is so hot. Watched: 55 minutes.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 7

Will this marathon never end? Hopefully not!

Little Women (1933, USA) - Now this is Hollywood magic. Grand, funny, lively, (and too sweet and uplifting, but ..) Starring Terry Jones as Aunt March, and Katharine Hepburn as Katharine Hepburn. Watched it all.

Queen Christina (1933, USA) - Costume dramas like to place modern ideas in the mouths of historical characters. In the case of Queen Christina, peaceful daughter of Sweden's war-king Gustav II Adolf, this is actually somewhat justified. The movie feels like an amateur theatre production, but at least it gave me an excuse to read about a fascinating person. Watched: 23 minutes.

Ekstase (1933, Czechoslovakia) - A bride and groom enter a room. They walk around a bit. This goes on for ten minutes. Why?! Watched: 10 minutes, then skipped to the end, where the movie has somehow transformed into a celebration of semi-nude agricultural workers.

She Done Him Wrong (1933, USA) - Mae West was one of the causes of the Hays Code. But apart from her swaggering, oh'ing and wisecracking, this movie is pretty stupid. Watched: 18 minutes.

Las Hurdes: Land Without Bread (1932, Spain) - Apparently, this is a slightly off-key documentary about life and poverty in deepest, darkest Spain. Actually, (says Jeffrey Ruoff), it is a satirical commentary on anthropological expeditions and travelogues, a black comedy that merges genuine images of poverty with an exaggerated yet dispassionate voiceover and inappropriate music. (Wow!)

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 6

I'm no Angel (1933, USA) - Flimsy shreds of plot wrapped around a luscious body of nudge-nudge one-liners. Watched it all. But why does Mae West remind me of Bugs Bunny? This needs further investigation!

Picture Snatcher
(1933, USA) - Donald Duck employment story with James Cagney as the rogue who becomes the star photographer of a disreputable newspaper, beating his arrogant competitors to the scoop by being willing to go further than anyone else. Not good, but it's hard to hate Cagney (or Donald). Watched: 40 minutes.

Zéro de Counduite (1933, France) - Boarding school dramedy. Am I watching these wrong? Maybe it's a cultural barrier. The movie doesn't seem bad, I just don't care. Watched: 15 minutes.

Sagebrush Trail
(1933, USA) - There was a time in Hollywood when even the worst westerns were fairly good. 1933 wasn't it. Still new to acting, John Wayne stares and smiles like some tourist who's been let in on the set. Watched: 13 minutes.

The Invisible Man (1933, USA) - A visually challenged scientist is driven to madness and terrorism by the prying eyes of peculiar British villagers. They won't even let him lock his own room! It's no wonder he gets angry (and drives trains off the tracks etc.) Watched it all.

Ladies They Talk About (1933, USA) - Swaggering bank robber Barbara Stanwyck manipulates a naive preacher. Watched it all. IMDB reviewers say the plot is stupid, but apart from the lenient prison conditions it's actually smart and well written.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 5

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, USA) - Song, dance, witticisms and a flimsy plot about show business. Hey, this formula might have future! (Multiple female leads who talk about other things than men: Not so much of a future.) Watched it all.

Shanghai Express (1932, USA) - Marlene Dietrich is all decadent on the Beijing-Shanghai train, which carries its all-white passengers through some tedious little civil war or whatever. Ah, the golden age of cinema. Watched: 19 minutes.

Freaks (1932, USA) - Good idea: Cast a movie with misshapen humans, pretend you're doing it to educate the world about their plight. Bad idea: Make it really really boring. (This has been another Good idea / Bad idea). Watched: 14 minutes.

Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933, Germany) - Leni Riefenstahl's clumsy precursor to Triumf des Willes. Makes marching in a Nazi rally look not at all fun. Watched: 30 minutes. IMDB reviewers say you shouldn't downrate a film just because it's Evil.

Bureau of Missing Persons (1933, USA) - Violent cop learns manners from the kind, public spirited folks at the Bureau of Missing Persons. Could be the pilot of a modern family-friendly cop show. Watched: 19 minutes.

20 000 Years in Sing Sing (1933, USA) - Prototype of the uplifting prison drama. With Spencer Tracy as the tough guy who isn't so bad after all. All he needs is a bit of Loving Discipline from the wise and fatherly prison warden. Written by the warden of Sing Sing. Watched it all.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 4

The Most Dangerous Game (1932, USA) - A hunter of big game runs his yacht across a reef of Dramatic Irony, and becomes himself the hunted on a mad Cossack's island. Contrived and badly acted, but gets points for making the quintessential Star Trek episode 30 years ahead of time.

The Island of Lost Souls (1932, USA). Good Island of Dr. Moreau, starring .. The Panther Woman?? Yes that's what the credits say. Anyway the manimals rebel and chant "Law no more!", thus making some point or other.

La Chienne (1931, France) - Introduced by a puppet, who mocks the conventions of filmmaking. Watched: 18 minutes. IMDB reviewers say that with this movie, French cinema enters the pathway to genius..

The Public Enemy (1931, USA) - Gangster childhood! Starring James Cagney, as an unconvincing teenager. Remember, kids, selling beer isn't cool.

Le Bonheur (1934, France) - Surreal allegory about happiness. Impressive, whatever. Watched: 10 minutes.

White Zombie (1932, USA) - Ooh .. I had forgotten that zombies came from voodoo! But I prefer the kind that eats brrrraaaiiiinnnsss. This movie is terrrriiiiibbbllleeeee. Okay, I'll stop now. Watched: 10 minutesssss.

The Big Trail (1930, USA) - Westerns got better over the years. Watched: 6 minutes.

Taxi (1932, USA) - Cab drivers can be gangstahs too! Yes, but I'm tired of gangster movies. Even if this one's got a yiddish-speaking James Cagney. Watched: 9 minutes.

Flight Commander (1930, USA) - Won the Oscar for best writing, which is a mystery I don't care to explore. Watched: 11 minutes.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 3

Paul Muni as ScarfaceMurders in the Rue Morgue (1932, USA) - This is really bad, but gets WTF-points for turning Poe's crime story into a damsel & man-in-monster-suit movie. Takes place in Paris, 1845, where people are so well-read that they're already discussing Darwin's theory of evolution. Watched: 30 minutes.

Scarface (1932, USA) - Say hello to my little .. oh, never mind the pun. This is actually really good, apart from the comic relief and some attempts at being respectable. Paul Muni is a crazier and better Tony than Al Pacino. Notice the glee in his eyes as he gets his first machinegun.

Hell's Angels (1930, USA) - Bits and pieces of everything stitched together. Some parts are shot as a silent movie, others in a sort of "color". It's the Frankenstein monster of movies: slow, dull, and with a sickly green hue (*ba-dum-bum ching*). Academy Award nomination for strangest German acting in a movie. Watched: 30 minutes, then fast-forwarded through the stuntman-killing action scenes. Not worth it.

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932, USA) - I am an important made-for-Oscar social drama. Watched: 9 minutes.

The Beast of the City
(1932, USA) - The Shield: The Previous Generation. Watched it all.

Limite (1931, Brazil) - It's not that I hate art films on principle. I just think they attract bad filmmakers. Watched: 10 minutes.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

30's movies marathon - part 2

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932, USA) - It is good that the world has a group of clumsy British archeologists to protect us from hundreds of millions of obedient and ruthless Chinamen. Watched: 18 minutes. IMDB reviewers call it "politically incorrect", by which they mean racist.

Mata Hari (1931, USA) - Greta Garbo is a tease, for which she is shot by the French government. Good and weepy, and not true to history.

The Blood of a Poet
(1933, France) - French surrealism again. Okay, I get it, it's clever. But - why?! Watched: 10 minutes.

Smart Money
(1931, USA) - Small-town gambler learns swindling and street smarts in the big city, (inoffensively named "The Big City"). Charming.

The Mummy (1932, USA) - A reawakened mummy bores archeologists to death. Watched: 14 minutes.

The Old Dark House (1932, USA) - It was a dark and stormy night, in every conceivable way. Makes up for being bad by being peculiar, which is the definition of cult. Watched all of it, and so should you.

Morocco (1930, USA) - Marlene Dietrich's too sexy for this crappy movie. Watched: 30 minutes.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

30's movie marathon - part 1 ("I bid you .. welcome" edition)

My new movie marathon is movies made in the 1930's. Where on earth do I get them all?! Have I found some kind of buccaneers den of movies? It's a mystery! But however it happens, I always buy the good ones. I don't rip off artists, even when they've been dead (undead undead undead) for half a century.

Dracula (1931, USA) - Creaky, (meaning bad), but every overacted word out of Bela's mouth is gold. Mad Renfield's good too.

The Bat Whispers (1930, USA) - It's a remake of The Bat! NOOO[dramatic fade-out]ooooo[almost gone now]ooo... Watched: 5 minutes.

The Black Camel (1931, USA) - Bela Lugosi (again?) is a psychic charlatan who gets involved with a murder investigation in Hawaii. This sounds more exciting than it is. Oh, Bela. Watched: 17 minutes.

Platinum Blonde (1931, USA) - Romantic comedy with the quips of a Groucho Marx and the satire of a P. G. Wodehouse, only much less so. Watched: 30 minutes.

Chandu the Magician (1932, USA) - Boy, those mysterious Indians sure are mysterious! Watched: 8 minutes.

Enthusiasm (1931, Soviet Union) - Confused documentary about the Soviet Union's struggle against religion, coal shortages and good filmmaking. Workers in the Ukraine fulfill their five-year plan in four years, and then they all live happily ever after.

The Golden Age (1930, France) - Scorpions .. sick islanders attacked by battle bishops .. what? Looks good, sounds bad. Making talkies is hard, especially without a narrative. Watched: 20 minutes.

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