Reviews written by registered user
westerfield

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24 reviews in total 
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Cimarron (1931)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Far from PC, 24 February 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm disturbed that so many reviewers gave this film bad marks because it is not politically correct by today's standards. They should be rating the film on its effectiveness as a story. I found it compelling and believable. All of the principle actors gave one of their best performances. Certainly Stanley Fields and George Stone were never better. Irene Dunne carried off a range of impressions seldom matched on the screen. And Richard Dix did the opposite in just as admirable a way: maintaining character through numerous situations.

But what is most important is that the film was not politically correct for its time - in a brave way. It showed the intolerance for blacks as something shameful and that color didn't matter when it came to courage. Showing the black teenager as a hero was almost unprecedented for the period.

At a time when native Americans were portrayed in film merely as evil hoards, this film showed both their shameful treatment and nobility. And dared to show that marrying for love knows no racial barriers.

And finally, far from being anti-feminist, it showed that any woman raised to be prejudiced and subservient could become a fair-minded, independent leader.

The film did all of these things within the confines of the story without being preachy. That alone is a triumph of its time. Add to that the sweep of the film that didn't lose the personal stories and you get an Oscar worthy film.

3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
I couldn't stay objective, 1 February 2013
10/10

As a fan of Rand but not an Objectivist I attended opening day of Part 1. I was pleased to see the theater was packed for an afternoon showing. When I watch any film I try to stay uninvolved, just going along for the ride. My verdict for Part 1 was 7 stars. I thought the acting competent, the story interesting and the selection of scenes slightly disappointing but acceptable, given the constraints of editing down the book. I purchased the Blu-ray; it didn't change my opinion. My wife, who thinks libertarians are crazy gave the film better marks than I. It was a good but not great film.

However, from the beginning of Part 2 I was completely emotionally involved. I pumped my fist. I clapped. I yelled (as softly as I could). The film was just so RIGHT! The actors playing Rearden and Francisco were definite upgrades. The sets were much better, as was the CGI. The story moved with an urgency that left me breathless, even though I knew what was coming. That means the directing, editing and music are all complementary. And it was wonderful to see all the cameos that in no way subtracted from the experience. I knew Teller was a fan but none of the others. I have the Blu-ray on pre-order. There are some films I can watch over and over and still get the same experience - in some cases get more. I expect that to be the case with Atlas Shrugged Part 2.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Many surprises in this interesting film, 29 January 2013
7/10

I've always been a Ricardo Cortez fan. He rarely gets a chance to stretch his acting wings but he does so here. Cortez is exceptional in playing older men. In Torrent (1926) you'd swear he actually aged. In Hat, Coat and Glove he plays age, hopelessness and loneliness quite well. It is unfortunate that the effect is damaged by shoddy makeup. His graying hair varies between scenes and virtually disappears in some. Dorothy Burgess was never better. The wife and her lover are somewhat weak. Frankly, I didn't see what the husband or lover saw in her. But it didn't matter; this is Cortez's film. The twists and turns of the plot are anything but conventional. For all it's absurdities this is a quality programmer that will hold your interest.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
you'll enjoy it, 26 January 2013
8/10

My wife and I saw Dr. Rhythm when we were first married about 40 years ago. We loved it and never forgot the main song, nor Beatricy Lillie driving Franklin Pangborn crazy over the danner nipkins. For the last 20 years or so we've tried unsuccessfully to get a copy. Turner doesn't even list it. Other posters here also remember it fondly, hoping to see it again. Good news! As of January 2013 the entire film is posted on YouTube. We just watched it and it was as good as we remembered. The songs are pleasant, the actors are old favorites, including Andy Devine and Sterling Holloway. The action is unexpected and well paced. The comedy is unforced and genuine. Bea Lillie steals the show whenever she appears. Indeed, she should have received equal billing with Crosby. Why not? Only a gypsy knows!

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A wonderful adventure film, 18 January 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Far from boring, the opening minutes of the film take the time to introduce us to the lives of Virginians in 1777. It helps establish how folks lived in an established colony. A base line. The film then covers the trials leading to a new country. This contrast is extreme. The climb of the mountain is one of the great sequences in film history. The idyll on the other side is rewarding but still packed with danger from both the Native Americans and the weather. I don't believe any other film quite captures how tenuous life was back then.

The dialog is a bit ripe but the actors deliver it with such conviction that I accepted it as the way folks talked in the 1700s. I became invested in them, particularly Gavin Gordon and Elenor Boardman. John Mack Brown simply plays himself. The Great Meadow deserves to be much better known. Turner Classic Movies should show this in the 8 PM spot with commentary by Robert Osborn.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Innovative cinematography, 13 January 2013
7/10

I've watched the 1926, 1930 and 1930 wide screen versions many times over the years. However, the other day I finally watched the widescreen on my 5x6 foot screen which I usually save for 3D and football. The details really jumped out. There are so many wonderful camera tricks, many of which I cannot explain. As a professional modeler I can say that the miniatures were far ahead of their time, as was the skill in photographing them. They probably were only exceeded beginning with the Star Wars attack on the death star.

The fluidity of the camera was amazing for its time. The old lady and the maid walk down a long corridor, talking all the time as the camera moves ahead of them. They walk into a room and sit at a table which was right in the path of the camera. Later in the film a character vaults over a 3 foot wall and runs down a path with the camera following him, apparently right through the wall. The shadows of the Bat as he hulks on the floor are inhuman. On several startling occasions the characters jump right into the camera. These and more have been mastered for years but this film discovered them. If you are familiar with the climax of The Alibi, you remember the special effect that seemed almost real, not surpassed until CGI. The Bat Whispers is filled with such effects.

Yes, the film is static, despite all the goings on. And the acting, although unacceptable by 1932 standards was about average for 1930. However, I would gladly have strangled Maude Eburn who ruined every scene she was in. The Bat Whispers is really a guilty pleasure for modelers, cinematographers and horror fans.

The Squall (1929)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Loy steals it, 4 January 2013
5/10

I never was a fan of Loy's later films. Frankly, I never found her good looking enough to attract her co-stars. But as a bad girl she excels. See her in Thirteen Women! The dialog direction in The Squall is beyond terrible. On the basis of this example I would never have predicted that Loretta Young would ever become a great actress. The whole film sounded like a bad junior high production. Except for Loy. She is natural, transcending her sometimes awful lines. She is believable among a bunch of seeming amateurs. And sexy. There are few more torrid performances ever put on the screen. Watch The Squall for her performance alone.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Best murder mystery of its time, 16 November 2012
8/10

Look up lists of best murder mysteries and only three pre-1940 films appear: Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Thin Man. Both Morgue and Thin Man really stretch the point. There's no mystery in the former and the latter is really a comedy. It's not surprising that early films fail to make the list; they are infrequently seen. And when they are, modern sensibilities make them seem too old fashioned to rate high marks.

Fog Over Frisco is a forgotten gem that deserves to be high on anyone's list. It takes over from the early Philo Vance films in complexity and adds original twists, tension and action. The Warner Brothers stock company players are uniformly good but Bette Davis is amazing. The film doesn't follow a standard mystery format and avoids most of the clichés found in such films. It is fresh, exiting and original. Fog Over Frisco is far and away the best of its kind made up to its time (1934) and perhaps through the entire 1930s.

The Letter (1929)
1 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing, 24 October 2012
5/10

I looked forward to this film for years due to the Jeanne Eagles mythology. Frankly, I was disappointed. The Letter was dull, below average for a 1929 Paramount product - think The Coconuts. Eagles performance was underwhelming. I could see that her acting would have been effective on the stage but here her instant changes of expression lacked subtlety. Her final scenes, while effective, just didn't square with the rest of her performance. In a similar situation Mary Pickford's Coquette was more effective, although the films' total quality is about equal. There was no real tension as compared to the Bette Davis version. A great deal of this failure was due to the choice of the Chinese woman who couldn't pull off the Gale Sondergaard type of mystique and evil. And who stuck in that totally irrelevant mongoose/cobra fight? I liked Herbert Marshall's performance as the cad. O.P. Hegge is a personal favorite but here he merely recites lines. He's much better as Nayland Smith in another 1929 Paramount chasing Dr. Fu Manchu.

Looking for John George, 1 September 2012
1/10

There is only one reason to watch this really bad film: hunchbacked dwarf John George. George worked in films from the late 'teens to the early 1960s. He had some nice roles in silents but his heavy accent limited him in sound. He usually played news vendors and the like. As such he appeared in many big films: Picture of Dorian Gray, Bride of Frankenstein, The Killing, A Streetcar Named Desire, Around the World in Eighty Days and Ocean's Eleven. In each of these his appearance can be measured in seconds. It's a treat then to see him in Mesa of Lost Women where he gets a number of glowering close-ups. Once you've noticed him you'll see him everywhere: Mark of the Vampire, The Black Room, Tower of London, The Black Cat, Man of a Thousand Faces and so on. Keep looking for him but look fast!


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