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6/10
Emile Cohl?
30 November 2020
A rag picker enters his shack and shows his partner what he has discovered. He placed a tattered blank on a board, tosses some scraps on it, and lo! they arrange themselves into caricatures. After a while, he puts out lumps of clay, gives them a whack, and they become maquettes of gargoyle.

It's credited to Segundo de Chomon, the Spanish cameraman turned Melies-competition for Pathe Freres He was quite capable of turning out work like this, but the animation aspect makes me think it's co-directed by an uncredited Emile Cohl; he was already at work, even though he would not produce his breakout hits until the following year. What we have here s pretty good, although not amazing in light of what was being produced.... and far short of what woould soon come.
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5/10
Too Many Kisses, Not Enough Jokes
30 November 2020
Frank Currier is a mining engineer who has a huge worldwide operation. He spends his profits buying off women whom his son, Richard Dix, has captivated. To save some of the money, he ships Dix off to Basque country under the supervision of Joseph Burke. The Basque woman, Burke informs him, never have anything to do with non-Basque men. Unfortunately, no one has told Basque beauty Frances Howard, and the two are soon canoodling. This upsets policeman/bandit William Powell, who arranges for his death..... futilely as it turns out, because Dix is the star of this movie, and how deadly do you expect your thugs to be when one of them is Harpo Marx in a biretta instead of a battered top hat?

This movie has been sought for many years because of Harpo's appearance. It was listed confidently as 'lost' until it turned up in a 16mm. print in Irvin Willat's estate. The copy that played last night on Turner Classc Movies was in beautiful condition, alas, while the romantic parts are good, the comedy bits aren't that funny. Well, it's one to check off the list.
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Red Light (1949)
5/10
Some One Is Telling Raft To Stop
30 November 2020
When army chaplain Arthur Franz is shot and killed, his brother, San Francisco businessman George Raft sets out to discover who did it.... and to take vengeance before the police can stop him. His only clue are Franz's last words and a missing Gideon Bible. We already know it's Raymond Burr.

It's an unusual film noir produced and directed by Roy Del Ruth. Instead of the usual insistence on man's sinful nature in a world gone to ruin, this one has a clear religious message; it looks Catholic to me, but sufficiently worn down to avoid offending any rabid Presbyterians in the audience. Raft wanders through the movie with the same low-affect performance he gave in seemingly all his later movies, but that permits others to emote more fully without seeming to go over the top.
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Reducing (1952)
7/10
We Can Still Make Fun Of Fat People
30 November 2020
So says the fat guy writing ths review, and a good thing it is too. We need to preserve some of the old comedy tropes. However, given that this Pete Smith short is about an overweight woman, are we still permitted to snicker?

A Smih called Pete doesn't seem to care, nor does his foley artist -- who offers us loud thuds whenever the flesh meets the floor. I'm afraid that my sense of humor is still mred n bygone days, producing what my niece calls a low sense of humor. On those terms, this is a funny short. Well, goodbye now!
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6/10
Keeping Up WIth The Joneses
30 November 2020
Bobby Burns gives his wife a pretty hand bag as a gift. She swanks it up over the neighbor, who persuades her husband -- by slapping him around -- to buy her the exact same handbag. Later, when the first lady misplaces her handbag, she mistakes the second one.... and war breaks out.

It's a simply conceived and potted oshort comedy, but that doesn't stop it from being a funny one. The escalation of mddle-class one-upmansip is straightforwrd and believable, and just as funny as when practiced by the obvious zanies at Keystone.
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Indiscreet (1958)
7/10
Cary Grant And Ingrid Bergman
30 November 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Cecil Parker and his wife, Phyllis Calvert, bring financier Cary Grant to meet Miss Calvert's sister, actress Ingrid Bergman. They fall in love instantly. Before doing anything about it, Grant explains that he is married and cannot get a divorce. Miss Bergman doesn't care, and they begin a passionate affair. There is only one flaw to their relationship: Grant is not married.

It's a lovely, mature, romantic comedy, with both stars at the peak of their thespic powers. The best scene is the one in which they are in an elevator, simply looking at each other. Everything else, the witty lines, the inevitable contretemps when Miss Bergman discovers the truth, even the delightful scene where the cast dances the Highland Fling, pale.

The one slight flaw is Miss Calvert's casting. It's impossible to beleve that she and Miss Bergman are sisters whenever they speak.
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5/10
Will Durante Sing Operetta?
29 November 2020
Princess Diana Napier faces a crisis. They're ten million in debt to Austria-Hungary, and the entire population is too busy singing, playing bassoons and otherwise performing that no one is working and paying taxes. When she goes to speak to her cabinet, they are busy playing quartets. So she outlaws music. Along comes newsman Jimmy Durante, his daughter June Clyde, and tenor Richard Tauber, to offer an underground concert. Then Tauber meets the Princess incognito and boasts of their plans.

Uh oh! The movie operetta was still chugging along in England, and the music of Oscar Strauss offers some lyrical and noisy accompaniment to this nonsense. Durante was taking a break in England, and Miss Clyde spent three years there and made about fifteen movies. Director Walter Forde directs as well as one can when Durante starts mugging. Look fast and you'll spent Evelyn Ankers in her film debut.
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6/10
I'll Wash My Hair Some Other Night
29 November 2020
The Germans are manufacturing anti-tank gizmos in Picardy, upriver from Calais. John Sutton is sent there to somehow mark the factory so that when the RAF is bombing the stuffing out of Calais, some can take a side trip and destroy the widget plant. It goes pretty well. He meets Lee J. Cobb, whose wife is Beulah Bondi and daughter Annabelle, a typical French family. He impersonates the son of the family.... but somehow the nasty Nazis find out about him, arrest the family. Sutton has largely disappeared from the screen by this point, turned into a Maguffin, so the Germans get the increasingly dimwitted Annabelle to track them down for them.

It's actually a pretty good script, with lots of moving parts, even if Lee J. Cobb is as French as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan can be. It's clearly no more than a programmer; it lacks even the recognizable, dilapidated star fronting a Fox B movie. Director John Brahm keeps up the pace, though, and Lucien Ballard uses a lot of side lighting toincrease the drama, resulting in a good movie.
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False Roomers (1931)
6/10
No Cookin'!
29 November 2020
Clark and McCullough offer a taste of the burlesque house when they go looking for a rooming house and settle on one run by a deaf Jimmy Finlayson, who mandates hall lights out at 10PM and no cooking. Of course, neither is obeyed.

This early short shows why these two are accounted part of the Crazy Comedies movement that appeared in films in the early 1930s; the best known are the Marx Brothers, with their anarchic disregard of everything. These two are likewise uncaring of authority, as is everyone, considering the absurd ending.

Eventually their series died down and they went back n the stage where Clak, at least, prospered for decades.
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Woman Wanted (1935)
6/10
She May Be, But Not The Movie
29 November 2020
Innocent Maureen O'Sullivan is waiting while the jury decides whether to find her guilty and hang her, while mobster Louis Calhern tells attorney Charles Lane he's not going to pay for an appeal. Instead, he arranges for her escape, and she jumps into business lawyer Joel McCrea's roadster.

It sounds like the sort of movie that RKO was producing at this time, but this is MGM, and so it has a lot of fine actors, including Lewis Stone, Edgar Kennedy, and Robert Greig as McCrea's inevitable put upon gentleman's gentleman. Even with George Seitz directing, this is pretty weak stuff as screwball. While Greig is funny, everyone else takes the plot points very seriously. There were at least seven screenwriters on this, credited and not, and it loks like almost all the juice was squeezed from it. There are a lot of uncredited people attached, like producer Phil Goldstone, which makes me think no one wanted to be known for it.
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5/10
John Wick Kills A Lot Of People
29 November 2020
If you've seen the first John Wick movie, you know that Keanu Reeves is John Wick, a retired assassin who comes out of retirement when someone kills his dog. In this one, which begins a week later, matters are still reverberating, and some one has stolen his car, which calls for a lot of carnage. That settled, John is called on to pay off an old debt by helping Ian McShane take over the Assassin's Guild by flying around to Italy, Canada and Manhattan and killing what seems like hundreds of assassins.

Ho hum. People who know far more about mixed martial arts than I would ever care to tell me the fight sequences are well done; certainly with all the punching and kicking and stabbing and shooting, Reeves does not come out unscathed. His face is scratched, although his clothes remain spotless. The only sequence noteworthy to me is a series of hand-to-hand fights in a hall of mirrors, which vaguely recalls THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. There are also references in dialogue and composition, to the Matrix trilogy; Laurence Fishburne shows up to make the point.

As with so many movies these days, this is a movie you'll like if you like movies like this. Which isn't saying much, is it?
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Skywatch (1960)
5/10
Dying, It Turns Out, Is Not Easy Either
28 November 2020
Somewhere in Europe, during the Second World War, a group of young men make up a Searchlight Squad. If an adventure is days of boredom interrupted by short bouts of terror, this is an adventure.... but for most of it they spend their time bickering, picking up women, and worrying about what's for dinner.

It's a comedian's show, with Ian Carmichael, Tommy Steele and Benny Hill at the top of the cast list, yet they are all tamping down their performances. If you've ever observed a comic actor giving a serious performance only to be surprised and impressed, you shouldn't be. As Edmund Kean said on his deathbed, dying is easy; it's comedy that's hard. Yet this quasi-service comedy tries to alternate the comedy with the difficulties of actual war, and doesn't really manage the first half of the remit. The actors step on the punchlines, deliberately.... but the result is 75 minutes of boredom, and 15 minutes of terror.
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6/10
Love Laughs At Lox Myths
28 November 2020
Banker Max Asher has Detective Duck Max asher disguise himself as himself so he can take a vacation-- pauses to recheck that sentence. Yep. Meanwhile, Gale Henry takes time off from hanging with her orangutan to hide in banker Max Asher's closets so she can squirt hm with seltzer. But life is not all skittles and beer. Dolly Ohnet, who's one of the Max Ashers' daughter, wants to marry poor clerk Milburn Morante, and none of the Max Ashers approve.

I don't approve either, at least not of such a wedding, but no one is asking my opinion. It's another of the very silly Joker comedies from this period. Will at least one Max Asher approve of the wedding? Will the other one figure out who's squirting him? What's up with that orangutan? For the answer to these, and other poinless questions, look at the film.
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6/10
boo!
28 November 2020
Lillian Peacock is set to inherit her uncle's house, now that he's dead and all, but she must live there. Housekeepers Gale Henry and Milburn Morante will inherit it if she leaves, so they're trying to scare her off. And into this mess walks innocent burglar Heinie Conklin.

It's one of those fake haunted house comedies that remained popular for decades, and the rather disheveled Joker comedy set that the company was using must have been as familiar to its audiences as the Roach set for hotels and rich men's houses. It's certainly not a sophisticated comedy, but the rough-and-tumble slapstick should please those who enjoy such activities.
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6/10
Like All Ninth Episodes Of This Series, A Hoot
28 November 2020
Governor Milburn Morante takes his stein of beer to discover a note: "You will sign that paper or die! The Society of the Sacred Stein'. He summons Detective Duck, played by Max Asher, and he calls on Lady Baffles, played by Gale Henry. In this one she's a good guy. Together they battle the fiendish plot of Fu Manchu. I mean the Society of the Sacred Stein. Same thing, isn't it?

The shorts issued by Gale Henry's starring series in this period were chaotic, celebrated filth, and very funny. In this one, there are a lot of obvious camera tricks, like reversing film, double exposure and stop motion.
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5/10
A Warnng
28 November 2020
To the modern viewer, it may seem peculiar that there are several movies in which a man sneaks a kiss off a young woman in a darkened railway car, all produced in the first few years of the motion picture. Most have a tinge of humor, some are intended as an exercise in editing. It's true that when a particular movie was popular, every film producer either made his own version, or bought a copy and printed it in his own dark room. But what made this movie so popular?

It's part of an old worry associated with railroads. Recall, if you will, that railroad travel only began in the 1830s, and the rail network was still a-building through the turn of the 20th century. Like every new technology, there were people who decried it. Man could not travel at speeds in excess of 25 miles an hour without dying, or the cinders flying from the smokestack would kill you, or if G*d had wanted us to travel on rails, he would have given us wheels.

One of the things that got the railroad denounced was its effect on ladies. They shouldn't be permitted to travel so far, their bodies would never stand the stress, and strangers would try to kiss them. Several publications urged young ladies to keep pins in their mouths in case some one did. And that is what this short movie is about.

You laugh. If you want horrors, though, you might consider the terrible things that riding a bicycle will do to you.
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5/10
I'd Like To Hear Pete Smith Read This Script
28 November 2020
James A. Fitzpatrick sends the Technicolor cameras to jolly old England under the supervision of Hone Glendinning and Virgil Miller and then reads out his usual blather. Gosh darn it. I'd like to hear some one else try to read these lines in an arch tone. Perhaps a challenge could be set, and Jimmy Durante compete with Pete Smith and perhaps S. Z. Sakai.

To give the movie -- particularly the cameramen -- due approval, the pictures are handsome, and the copy of this movie that plays on Turner classic Movies is in pretty good shape.
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5/10
Down On The Farm And Up At Yonkers
28 November 2020
Here's a sweet little RKO Sportscope that covers the life of a harness racer from birth to through the end of his first race at Yonkers. All mammals are cute at birth, and seeing a newborn colt, all wobbly legs, is almost as cute as a basket filled with kittens..... or, if yu like dogs, puppies. The point is: cute

Like many of RKO's shorts during its waning days, this seems more like an industrial film, meant to be shown in non-theatrcal venues, than one intended for ashow of a feature and selected short subjects.
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5/10
Hee Haw!
28 November 2020
Down in the Grand Canyon, all the animals get long just fine. When the young burro shows up, everyone likes him fine. Then he opens his mouth, gives a screeching HEE HAW! andeveryone runs away.

Well, some people must have finer tuned berves than members of the theater audience. We all know how this is going to turn out; someone -- that wolf for example -- is going to threaten some esteemed member of the community, the burro will save him. Having achieved the rank of Useful Idiot, he will be permitted to associate with the critters. Hoo raw.

Rudolph Ising's work is excellent, as usual. The visuals are superb. I just wish he hadn't done this particular plot for the three billionth time.
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Aquaman (2018)
5/10
My Father Was The Keeper Of The Eddystone Light
28 November 2020
More than half a century ago, I was a Marvel comics fan during the Silver Age. One of the reasons I enjoyed them was the fact that amidst the planet-eating villains, there were superheroes with some human problems. Stan Lee may not have been the great writer he had once hoped to be, but he infused his characters with issues that at least symbolically attacked reality. Thus, the Fantastic Four dealt with family issues, the Hulk with anger management, and Peter Parker had all the problems of a teenager except acne.

The DC extended universe, to give it its formal name, under the influence of Zack Snyder, seems to have concentrated on angst. While this has its uses, anger in its various forms does not lead to good solutions; for an audience of teenagers, this might work, but these comic-book movies appeal to alte kokkes like me, too. Thus the recent success of SHAZAM: some jokes, some nice symbolism, some reference to things that showed up in the comics when I was a kid.

I did not see AQUAMAN in a theater. I had grown tired of the standard DC movie, but waited until it showed up on my TV. I regret this mildly. It is visually opulent, with the underseas segments beautifully decorated, lit and shot. clearly they would have shown well on a big screen. However, for much of it it consisted of men and women in costumes that would baffle a Halloween parade, slamming each other against hard surfaces and reacting less than I would stubbing a toe. If you cut me, do I not bleed? Yes I do. Not these fellows. Others may cheer these events, but for me, risk and reward must be balanced.

Well, I've seen it now, and it's certainly watchable, if you like to watch these things, with the sort of cast that only sackloads of money can buy. But I won't be looking at it again.
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6/10
Swing It, Charley
28 November 2020
You know in those old movies how the singer goes to Italy to study voice, then returns to America a star of the opera? No, well, there are movies like that, and Hackett did that in real lif. He made his debut in Genoa in 1914, spent much of his career at the Metorpolitan Opera in New York and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He died in 1942, aged 52.

Unless you're an opera fan, this won't appeal to you, but he's pretty good.
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Pants (1919)
6/10
Two Households Both Alike, Indignity
28 November 2020
Gale Henry is the new, inept cook at a girl's school. Next door is a boy's school, where Milburn Moranti is the inept janitor. The students don't care, the facuty consists of one per school and they're horrid. It's one of those comedies of slovenliness at which Gale Henry excelled for a brief period in her own series. For various reaons, Miss Henry dresses up in men's clothing, and Moranti in a dress.

In large part that's because in the movies, anything can happen, and if the characters in it accept it, so does the audience. Julie Andrews tells the story on herself of when she was preparing for VICTOR/VICTORIA. She told her husband, Blake Edwards, that the audience wouldn't believe her as masquerading successfully as a man, and he told her that they would; he had written it into the script that everyone in the movie did.

Mostly though, that's the joke. The audience is in on it, which makes it funnier.
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5/10
Fragments
27 November 2020
Not much survives of this Joker comedy: Max Asher jumps into the water, wife Gale Henry finds a suicide note, and young lovebirds Bobby Vernon and lovebirds Bobby Vernon and Louise Fazenda are heartbroken.

Louise Fazenda as a lovebird? Yes indeed, that gawky 'country girl character that she played was an act. She was qite a looker in her time, and eventually married producer Hal Wallis, who was sometimes called 'The Prisoner of Fazenda."

In any case, while the IMDb has a write-up, there isn't enough to really comment on, which is a tyical pity. The joker comedies have a very low survival rate, considering how well-known their performers would become.

Eagle-eyed location detective John Bengston identifies the place that Asher jumps off the bridge as the 5th Avenue Bridge in Hollenbeck Park.
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6/10
Silly Comedy Short From Universals
27 November 2020
Gale Henry is Lady Baffles, the thief who walks over chairs, and Max Asher is Detective Duck, the master of disguise who sets out to thwart her designs to steal gigantic matched pearls from Lilian Peacock. Miss Henry relies mostly on a long, gawky legs for comedy, while Asher changes outfits and appearance in a twinkle.

Asher entered the moves in 1913 in Pat Powers comedies, and was a regular at Universal, which explains why he has fallen into obscurity; not much of that company's short subject output has survived. With the coming of sound, he was reduced to uncredited bit parts. He died in 1957, age 71.
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6/10
More Or Less
27 November 2020
Lando Buzzanca is the assistant cashier at a bank. He's a hundred dollars short, which means he may wind up in San Quentin for forty years. Where can he get the money before Monday? He tries his wife's cousin, Raimondo Vianello, who devises a scheme whereby Buzzanca commits some crimes, gets a price on his head, Vianello captures him, they split the reward, and Buzzanca gets hanged.

Nothing could be simpler or more amusingly inept than these two morons in this visual burlesque of Sergio Leone's Man With No Name trilogy. Buzzanca wears an outfit like Clint Eastwood, Vianello dresses like Lee van Cleef, and the two chatter their cowardly, greedy way through the movie. Treating the characters of the spaghetti westerns like those in Commedia dell'arte is a nice conceit, and it works pretty well.
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