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The good cast is one of the main pluses in this entertaining B-feature.
It features a good role for Richard Arlen as the main character, and he
is given good support by the likes of Elisha Cook, Jr., Buster Crabbe,
and William Frawley. The story is rather formulaic, but the oilfield
setting is used for some action and suspense sequences that work pretty
Arlen plays an ambitious would-be oilman who hopes to use a combination of leadership, hard work, and financial trickery to come out ahead in his rivalry with another driller played by Crabbe. Cook is quite good (and well cast) as Arlen's jittery but loyal partner, while Frawley and Arline Judge play a couple of confidence operators who get tangled up in the oil rivalry, making the plot a little more interesting.
The finale is an extended firefighting scene that works all right considering the low production values. Along the way, Arthur Hunnicutt and Ralph Sanford provide some comic relief that includes an occasional thoughtful moment. It's a solid combination, and while there's nothing that special about it, it provides some solid entertainment for a little over an hour or so.
The fine cast makes this melodrama work, and turns a rather routine
plot idea into a good and sometimes memorable movie. John Gilbert and
Lars Hanson are a good combination as the male leads, and Greta Garbo
is convincing as always, as the woman at the center of everything.
Clarence Brown's direction also contains some good touches.
Gilbert and Hanson work well as the two lifelong friends who fall in love with the same woman. Gilbert's more passionate, hot-blooded character forms a believable and interesting contrast to Hanson's innocently earnest portrayal of his loyal, unsuspecting friend. Garbo's character is treated roughly at times by the story and by some of the other characters, but she more than rises to the occasion, and as she often does, she makes what could have been a stereotyped love interest into a complex and sometimes tormented character.
Barbara Kent also does well in a smaller role, and her character (the younger sister of Hanson's character) is used effectively at some important moments that help develop the main characters. Brown adds a lighter tone to a couple of sequences when suitable, and he provides a good pace. Given the fairly simple story, it might run a bit long, but otherwise it is well-crafted and effective.
For the first hour or so, this fictionalized biography of "Jack London"
is not bad. Michael O'Shea brings some energy to the role, and in
general it conveys some of the basic characteristics of its subject's
life reasonably well. The last part of it was heavily tailored to the
time in which it was filmed, and unfortunately it is now only of
interest as an example of how badly a movie can become dated when it
tries to do that.
Most of the movie is a collection of distinct experiences in London's life, tied loosely together. It works all right, and it effectively conveys the irregular nature of his lifestyle, with some courageous acts being mixed in with his involvement in disreputable and even illegal activities. The low budget nature of the production occasionally keeps some of these sequences from being more effective, but it's not bad, though it would have benefited from giving Susan Hayward and some of the other supporting cast members a little more to do.
In the last half hour or so, the story shifts its focus to a lengthy sequence that has London in Japan, reporting on the war between Japan and Russia in the early 20th century. The overt and sometimes forced condemnations of Japan make the sequence now look labored and a bit frantic, though in its time the message may have seemed to be appropriate.
There was surely a middle ground that would have allowed for brief wartime message to be inserted without getting things completely off-track. Many movies of the first half of the 1940s, in fact, do just that, and are able to hold up perfectly well today even when there are a handful of scenes or quotes that were clearly intended to have wartime significance. Jack London was a fine writer and an interesting person, but this movie ends up taking the focus too far away from him and from his life.
As the notorious "Mata Hari", Greta Garbo makes both the role and the
character her own, providing a portrayal that is much deeper and more
complex than the historical character probably was. The rest of the
cast and production work well enough, but they are mostly there only to
provide Garbo the backdrop and the foils that she uses to develop the
The story focuses Mata Hari's liaisons with two Russian officers, an older general played by Lionel Barrymore, and a young aviator played by Ramon Novarro, with an implacable Secret Service man (played by C. Henry Gordon) trying to stop her. Each of the three plays his part well, while allowing Garbo to take the spotlight. Lewis Stone also makes good use of his limited screen time, and Karen Morley has some memorable moments as another spy.
The story probably has little in common with the historical facts, and while the historical character is an interesting one, it seems certain that Garbo's character is more so, combining her obvious appeal with a depth of feeling and a complicated set of priorities, as few other actresses could have done. Designing the story and characters with her in mind works well, making for good drama and one of Garbo's many effective performances.
This does have a couple of good action sequences, but overall it is too
predictable to be anything more than average, at best, for its genre.
The Foreign Legion setting is fairly interesting, at least as a
reflection of its time, and it provides for a couple of relatively
George Raft stars as a Legionnaire who combines a hazardous mission with a romantic involvement with an Emir's daughter. Once things get started, Raft is good enough in the role, but the first several minutes of the movie are wasted trying to portray his character as an incurable skirt-chaser, which doesn't really work. Marie Windsor plays the Emir's daughter, and while there's nothing wrong with her performance, she doesn't really fit the part, and she and Raft never quite seem to click together. The script is straightforward enough, but it could have used some sharper dialogue to pick up these scenes in particular.
Once Raft's character gets his assignment and meets the daughter, the story follows a pretty standard formula. The action sequences are the highlights, which include a good chase scene with Raft trying to elude a palace full of pursuers. Otherwise, there are only occasional moments of good drama to hold your attention.
This early holiday-themed feature is enjoyable to watch, and it is also
a good example of Edwin S. Porter's style in filming special effect or
fantasy movies. The story, loosely based on the theme of the poem "The
Night Before Christmas", is old-fashioned in a good way that works
pretty well. It's also one of the earlier movies to feature the use of
cross-cutting or parallel editing.
The story alternates between two story lines, with 'Santa Claus' getting everything ready for his December 24 deliveries, while at the same time the children from a large family are having difficulty falling asleep due to their excitement. The 'Santa' portions flesh out the standard legend with Porter's characteristic style, and the family sequences are easy to identify with, for just about anyone who remembers being a child.
As director and cinematographer, Porter takes his usual approach with this kind of material. Rather than striving to make the settings and visual effects seem as lifelike as possible, he instead aims to make them interesting and pleasing to look at in their own right. It works well here, and the images seem to fit in well with the story. It's short (less than ten minutes), yet the length seems just about right, and it makes for an entertaining little movie.
For 1910, this is a good version of the classic Charles Dickens' story.
Many of the scenes look quite familiar from the many more recent
versions, and most viewers today will have no trouble filling in
unexplained details and the like. It covers a lot of ground in only one
reel of film, but even then it leaves out some very familiar details,
so it really just tries to get across the main point of the story.
Marc McDermott, one of the Edison Studio's best actors, plays Scrooge. He does a good job, although the techniques of the era limit him somewhat, since the story relies on an effective Scrooge to make an impact. The story moves quite quickly, which again is simply a reflection of the time. Quite a few one-reel features of the era squeezed in enough material to fill two or three times their running time.
The story is so well-known and so worthwhile that almost any version of "A Christmas Carol" is worth seeing. This one is a good movie adaptation for its era, and it would have been hard to improve upon it significantly given the techniques and resources available at the time.
This pleasant fantasy feature is particularly worth seeing for the very
nice visuals it contains, combining outdoor footage from Alaska with
interesting depictions of 'Santa Claus' in his workshop. Despite its
age, the relatively unchanged nature of the material allows it to hold
up rather well, and it could almost work as a holiday feature for
The story starts with two children sneaking out of their bedroom on Christmas Eve, so that they can talk to Santa when he comes. Most of the movie simply shows Santa's descriptions of his home and activities, and most of his leisurely explanations are entertaining to watch.
The main titles prominently call attention to the location footage in Northern Alaska, and with good reason, since these sequences contain some beautiful arctic scenery plus some enjoyable views of arctic animals. The indoor sequences also have some high points, in their depictions of toy-making and toy delivery. These sequences are rather old-fashioned, yet sometimes quite detailed.
By the nature of the material, the feature has a noticeable nostalgic feel, and in this case it works quite well due to the resourceful photography and the interesting settings.
The location photography in Mexico is a noticeable plus in this
adventure feature, which is watchable but just fair overall. The story
follows a very familiar pattern, yet it opens up some good dramatic
possibilities. The cast and characters don't always make full use of
the opportunities, but there is enough to make it worth seeing.
William Lundigen stars as a diligent but rather small-minded archaeologist, who is reluctant to take a female photographer on an important and hazardous trip to a remote part of Mexico. Once the expedition is underway, he and the group's guide find themselves rivals for the photographer's attentions, which makes the hazardous situations they face even more difficult.
The combination of a love triangle with a hazardous quest is the kind of setup that can make for a fine movie, and this one gets enough out of the setup to be interesting, but it could have been quite a bit better. The dialogue is too bland to give the actors a lot to work with, and as the lead, Lundigen is believable but one-dimensional. Peggy Castle is attractive enough to make it easy to believe that the two males could make fools of themselves over her, but likewise she and her character remain one-dimensional. Armando Silvestre is somewhat more interesting as the guide.
On the plus side, the settings and the situation are interesting, and they offer a slight change of pace from the usual action film premises. Even with some of the color having faded from the print, the rugged scenery is often well worth seeing just for itself, and the outdoor photography adds considerably to the atmosphere. Overall, though it has some apparent flaws, it's not bad and it has some definite pluses.
This entertaining feature is one of the better movies in the 'Octavius,
Amateur Detective' series. It has an interesting story, and it builds
things up to a resourceful chase sequence that combines suspense with
humor. It does have some of the technical flaws, mainly in the editing,
that were unfortunately common in the series, but otherwise it's pretty
As Octavius, Barry O'Moore efficiently defines the energetic, slightly self-satisfied amateur detective, making him likable despite his flaws and blind spots. Here, Octavius is asked to dress up as 'Santa Claus' for the benefit of his friends' children, only to become involved with a burglar who uses a 'Santa' suit for his own purposes. There is also a little romance thrown in on the side.
The best part of the movie is the chase sequence between the two 'Santas', which has some amusing moments and a clever outcome. The pace is a little more even than in other Octavius features, and the editing is also better, with only one or two really significant defects.
For a time, this series must have been relatively popular, given the number of features in it. The lively approach and the simple but well-defined central character also keep it watchable today.
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