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Before going to a massive broadcasting, only about half a dozen people in the Los Angeles area owned a TV in 1933. But those handful of early adopting TV geeks were in for a special treat on March 10th of that year when the movie The Crooked Circle was broadcast in its entirety.
That day the campy detective flick became the first feature film ever broadcast on TV when experimental Los Angeles station W6XAO-TV beamed it out from the corner of 7th and Bixel Streets in downtown. It was still playing in local theaters at the time. See more »
Apparently, one reviewer didn't read the earlier reviews before writing his entry. As other reviewers pointed out, Zasu Pitts didn't talk like Olive Oyl - Olive Oyl's voice was modeled on hers! This was a comedy/mystery, and Zasu Pitts was one of the most popular comediennes of her time. She was a star of silent films, and her voice and manners transferred successfully to the talkies, where she was a big star, and favorite of audiences. Her 'whining' was her shtick, and audiences loved her for it.
The role played by Zasu Pitts in this, and many other films, is actually almost identical to the one played by Stepin Fetchit and Mantan Moreland. Zasu is a whimpering, cowardly fool - played for obvious comic relief. Of course, she was a white woman, so no one mentions the obvious connection. If she had played Charlie Chan's maid, she would have fit right into the Birmingham Brown role.
The plot in this film is clunky, and the acting a bit stiff and caricatured, but it was made in 1932, and they were still trying to figure out how to make talkies. Watched with that in mind, The Crooked Circle is quite enjoyable.
*** After over a year, and with a second viewing, I'm back to add a few comments. It's interesting that even at the very beginning of the old dark house genre, humor was already an essential part of the mix. One might think that the setting would have featured horror/mystery films, but Hollywood had already figured out that to sell a film to the largest audience possible, it was best to mix genre elements. Thus, we get a murder mystery set in a semi-Gothic atmosphere, with more than one comic relief character. This film did have the other common element, an attractive young couple in the romantic role, but that element played only a small role here. If it was a murder mystery without the old dark house, they might have added a musical number as well. Something for the boys, the men, and the ladies and girls, all in one. Personally, I find the humor far overdone here, and would much prefer a straight Gothic thriller, but I've learned to get along with the humor over time. The policeman-as-fool was played rather hard here, the price you have to pay to get the rest of the story. I still give this a six out of ten on second viewing, but I can see where audiences would have enjoyed it at the time.
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