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Running gag in pioneer Edison film
Withstanding the political correctness of some modern day viewers, this film is humourous in it's own right. It has the kind of low brow comedy that would have been featured in vaudeville to the derisive laughter of the audience. Vaudeville would have only been a few years old when this film was made, so the idea of an ugly person man/or woman having bad luck in every step of his life would have been sort of fresh. The star in this short is probably a man in drag rather than a real woman. He/She is showcased to be so ugly or unattractive that pictures fall off the wall, the still camera won't work and blows up, the mirror he looks into shatters which is not very well done as the surviving film is dark. The last gag of the mirror shattering was used famously in the 1960s "The Munsters" tv show classic. Every time Herman Munster looked at a mirror reflection of himself, the mirror would shatter. So it's good to see where the origins of this gag came from or at least one of it's earliest incarnations on film.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Kong: Numskull Island
Hey, I didn't expect the classic King Kong story that Merian C. Cooper gave us in 1933 nor did I expect Mighty Joe Young. The CGI special effects are, as to be expected , outstanding. One of the best scenes was with the giant arachnid(spider) amongst the bamboo bush.
The story is preposterous and somewhat implausible. It takes place in the 1970s, '73 or '74 during the waning days of the Vietnam War, but gives us a back story of some 20 to 30 minutes where we see two pilots, during the 1950s Korean War, parachute on Skull Island after a dog fight and knife fight before Kong makes an appearance. Back to the 1970s and John Goodman and Sam Jackson put together a team or expedtion of assorted characters and fly by military helicopters to the island.
CRAZY What Island off of Vietnam would be uncharted in the 1970s?,this is what I asked of Gilligan's Island with the castaways on an uncharted island. WW2 had been fought out there, every inch was charted. Once the copters get to the island and realize danger and monsters, why didn't they turn back.
COMPARISON This version of Kong and his fellow monsters made me think of and rewatch the 1975 film THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. The two films are quite similar in storyline. Indeed the original Kong in 33 may have been influenced by Rice Burroughs's book as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's THE LOST WORLD.
All in all good entertainment, I give it half-n-half, a positive for the ok CGI effect, a negative for the wacky story that insults one's intelligence.
The Deuce (2017)
Cliches and Stereotypes we've seen before
New York in the 1970s when this series takes place: It's a blend of the burgeoning porn industry, legitimate prostitution and pimpery, complimented by good attention to detail as far as set design and decor. Maggie Gyllenhaal's character channels Season Hubley in two films set in Los Angeles "Hardcore"(1979) and "Vice Squad"(1982). Another good trashy prostitue performance of the early 80s was Helen Mirren in the British made "Hussy"(1980). Gyllenhaal even has a son stashed away with a nanny and she comes out of her hooker wig and costuming to visit him, almost identical to Hubley's Princess character in Vice Squad who has a daughter stashed away with a black nanny. We see black men pimping white females, though hardly pimping any black females, contrarily we never see the black pimps, or any random black trick, sampling some of the caucasian prostitutes. C'mon, this is NY in the 1970s. This was the same formula in the two Hubley films. In The Deuce we see white male clientele engaged in different avenues of sex and perversions with both white and black prostitutes. The series seems more of an expose than having a definite beginning and end. In 'Hardcore' the religious tension throughout the film has George C. Scott searching for his runaway daughter whom he finds in LA turning tricks and making porno movies, a direct contrast to Scott having raised her in Calvinist background. Scott also meets Nikki(Hubley's character) who helps guide him through a porno world he doesn't understand. In Vice Squad , Hubley, plays the Princess character who skirts the attention of a violent and murderous pimp, a scenario with not a boring moment. Mirren in Hussy plays a stripper/prostitute who has a young son and falls for a sound technician in the club where she dances. She is hampered also by her thug/bully of an ex-husband who gets out of jail and re-enters her life creating havoc. The Deuce is probably a little underwritten or would have made a better feature film. As a television series it has too many scenes that lead nowhere, lots of characters we just don't give a damn about, something other posters and critics of the show mention. Gyllenhaal's sex scenes are the most graphic which gives her the strongest of the prostitute roles. Once again her role is similar to Hubley's in Vice Squad, Hubley is hooking and putting up with the prostitution to take care of her daughter, Gyllenhall is doing the same to raise a son.
Not a low budget film by any means
This is more of a film that is educational and informative rather than one to be simply enjoyed. Afterall how do you enjoy a film about a navy cruiser being torpedoed and over 700 men dying. I don't know why there are so many negative reviews. Many people saw this film in the theater and judging by some responses here they just wanted to see sharks eating men or the atomic bomb "Little Boy" being delivered. Well that's part of the story but showcasing the lives of the men who sailed on the USS Indianapolis last-voyage gives a little more depth to their existence. I saw the film on DVD already knowing much of the story but also was able to view the DVD supplementary and back-up materials. On the DVD extras star Nicholas Cage, director Mario Van Peebles, the producers and various other cast members give insight into the historical, location, financial logistics into getting the film made including the usage of a real PBY flying boat, some shots of the decommissioned USS Alabama and a real museum situated submarine. Some of the negative reviews brings to mind the negative reviews of RED TAILS(2012), another film about WW2. The DVD supplements may help those who have never heard of the story nevertheless there have been books written on it and a few programs on venues such as Discovery or History Channels. It's a film the survivors of the USS Indianapolis needed be made, rather than recalling just a few lines mentioned by Robert Shaw from 1975's JAWS.
Possibly Lillie Langtry
Watching this Biograph short on the Youtube in a fairly decent print, decent print meaning visual clarity, I was able to run it over and over again and again just to analyze the lady. Her head is for the most part cut off mid-face until she leans over to set her garment down or to disrobe. The woman is unnamed but is familiar looking as I'm acquainted with the personalities of the era. Trying to place a name on this woman, I notice that she's older but quite attractive. So going out on a limb I would certainly say it's Lillie Langtry who had a naughty' reputation as a Victorian celebrity notably carrying on an affair with the Prince of Wales(later Edward the 7th). This film plays up to that spicy reputation that followed Langtry without telling the audience who she is. The film teases the audience (or still Kinetoscope peepshow crowd) with the question 'who am i'?
Kiss Me! (1904)
This film from February 1904 is from the Biograph Company (or American Mutoscope and Biograph Company). It has a series of posters plastered on a fence or wall with one poster torn open and a real or live woman standing in the space. Enough of the torn poster remains (probably intentionally) to reveal the name Rose Sydell. Upon research I discovered Rose Sydell(1865-1941) was a real person and a American burlesque perfomer. She is probably the live woman in the poster frame black space filling in the torn part. Thats the joke on the audience to see if they know Rose Sydell when they saw her. As others have described some people walk past the poster. First a young woman and her mother with the young woman being led away by the ear. Next a husband and wife with the wife continuing on walking and the husband scrutinizing the poster which seemingly blows a kiss at him. Before the husband can analyze further the wife returns and leads him away by the ear.
Three Faces East (1930)
Finding William Courtenay
One of the main reasons I viewed this film is because it is one two surviving sound films that William Courtenay appeared in. "Show of Shows" was the other. Courtenay(married to actress Virginia Harned) was a Broadway actor and star who at 20 appeared in the 1894 experimental film "Miss Jerry" and later played the lead in the long running play "Romance"(1913) with Doris Keane, later made into a film with Garbo. He appeared in a slew of silent film which amazingly several survive or survive in incomplete or fragmentary form. Of his five Warner sound films; he appeared in *"Evidence"(1928 with Pauline Frederick)-- lost, *"The Sacred Flame"(1928 again with Pauline Frederick)-- lost, *"Show of Shows"(1929) all-star-- surviving, *"Three Faces East"(1930 Constance Bennett, Eric Von Stroheim)-- surviving, and *"The Way of All Men"(1930)-- lost.
So after viewing "Three Faces East" and after hearing Courtenay(born in Massachusetts), he comes off sounding much like David Niven whom he favors physically. Many Broadway actors of the early 20th century tried to effect English accents as many plays originated in the UK. So you have American actors coming off trying to sound English or cultured with a mix New England accent.
"Three Faces East" had originally been a successful Broadway play later turned into a 1926 silent film produced by Cecil B. DeMille's PDC company and starring Jetta Goudal and Clive Brook.
As for the 1930 "Three Faces East" directed by Roy Del Ruth, it is a well preserved early talkie. It was later remade as "British Intelligence" by Terry O. Morse in 1940 with Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay. Both films were made by Warners and they both run very similarly, as if Warners just dusted off the 1930 script for the 1940 movie. If you've ever watched both versions of Warner's "The Dawn Patrol" (1930 and 1938) the similarity is close to how both "Three Faces East" and "British Intelligence" appear.
Betty in Search of a Thrill (1915)
Lost film or not
I don't know where previous poster Safarijcg saw this film(as of 2001). By all accounts it's a lost film with no known prints. If this survives, I'd love to know where I can go see it. The lead actress is Elsie Janis who wrote and stars in this comedy. It was released with several titles, ie: "Madcap Betty" and in the UK "The Merry Madcap".
Thomas and Sarah (1979)
Only John Hawkesworth was missing
How could anybody who has ever seen and loved the original Upstairs, Downstairs show not love Thomas & Sarah, the only spin-off series from the former show? In reading some of the other comments, viewers say T&S doesn't have this or didn't have that as opposed to what 'Updown' had. People!, it's not supposed to. If one remembers, the characters Thomas Watkins and Sarah Moffatt were the chauffeur and under-house parlour maid on the original Updown having left at the death of Edward VII, in May 1910. This new show is about them and their adventures, or misadventures, depending on how you look at it. It takes place roughly 1910-1912, but certainly before WW1. In Updown Sarah and many of the other characters always talked about their adventures away from 165 Eaton Place, where they had been, ...for instance James Bellamy had taken Sarah to Paris near the end of series one or earlier when Sarah had first left she had been with a circus for two years. But we never see her and James at Paris, just talking about it. Here in T&S much more is played out. T&S has more location photography that only some Updown episodes had ie the trip to Scotland in the final series. In T&S we get to see the kinds of things Sarah always bragged about to Rose in Updown when they used to share the same bedroom in the first Updown series. The decision to do more adventurous stories and location work is a good extension or extrapolation from the original Updown which was more studio bound, but couldn't help to be with a much larger cast and more subplots. The decision to shoot Updown & T&S on videotape is why these two period pieces are quite viewable today.
Alfred Shaughnessy(1916-2005) is the main producer/writer T&S and in 1990s commentaries on Updown, we learn he had grown up in large wealthy houses and knew about the era just preceding his 1916 birth, the prewar era in which T&S takes place. It seems the only person missing is Shaughnessy's writing partner from Updown, John Hawkesworth. On his own and right after Updown ended in 1975, Hawkesworth produced "The Duchess of Duke Street", with as much attention to period detail as Updown and T&S. When T&S began in 1978 Hawkesworth was about to produce the excellent WW2 series "Danger UXB", so his absence from T&S is understandable. The final episode has a 'Jules & Jim' nature to it joining Thomas and Sarah with a grieving landowner named Richard De Brassey whom Sarah falls for and wants to marry. Others have commented on how this episode ends and what was later to be contemplated with a second series. The finale ends ambiguously with Thomas and De Brassey going into a burning barn. We later see Sarah at a graveside attending the burial of one of them, the name is not on the wooden coffin or is surrounded by a wreath or laurel of flowers. Just my opinion Thomas faked his death in the fire and used the opportunity to flee Sarah, leaving her to marry De Brassey, and go to America as he always wanted to seek his fortune.
A wonderful adventure back to the Old West through time travel
One of my favorite time travel movies. This is a film that's taut and well-made and probably a tad too adult for the Saturday morning kiddie type crowd. It really should appeal to the viewer who has his thinking cap on and can appreciate attention to historical detail. In late 1982 the hero, an off road motorbike racer, named Lyle Swann, unwittingly gets caught in the middle of a time-travel experiment and is transported to the Old West of 1877. In the strata of science-fiction and time travel, this is believable since he's alone in the middle of the desert and cannot ascertain that he's been transported through a time warp. As the film progresses Swann meets several people in 1877: outlaws, an attractive woman named Clare Cygne from Louisiana, a priest Quinn heading a small town and two US Marshalls. The outlaws led by Porter Reese appear to be Civil War veterans from the Confederate side when Reese makes a crack about 'General Lee would have won the war if he had Swann's motorcycle'. The filmmakers add a nice touch and nod to Mark Twain. When Clare pulls out a copy of Twain's "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", written in 1865, viewers paying attention to the scene will recall that Twain is the author of one of the most famous time travel stories "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" written in 1889 and which probably inspires this film. Clare asks Swann if he can read and if he's read any Mark Twain and Swann responds telling Clare he has and that "Tom Sawyer" is Twain's most famous book. Since the old-west part of this film takes place in 1877, it wouldn't have been unusual that Clare would not have heard of "Tom Sawyer" as it had only been published in 1876. Other nice touches of realism are the showcasing of a community of outlaws living in a outlaw camp. The viewer may ask what are those outlaws doing for food, for clothes, bathing, laundry altogether basic survival. When one outlaw is shot early in the film his cohorts pick his body of clothing & belongings before the vultures get to him. The priest and Clare work together bartering with Mexican locals, trinkets, guns, and food stuffs.
The film showcases several adult themes ie: profanity, gunshots, mild sex scene. It's amazing the film was released with a PG rating but remember this was 1982, two years before the Motion Picture ratings system was upgraded to include PG-13 and NC-17. The director keeps the film accurate to its 1877 time frame and shows elements in a western that are realistic such as the profanity and the renegade woman Clare who is a gunslinger, ?prostitute and adventuress. This film gets away with telling mature elements in Western that were not up to that time seen in conventional westerns especially going back to b/w films in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Had Timerider been made in the early 70s it might have been better received. If it had come out in the 40s or 50s as a film noir western it would certainly be a classic but with a compromise. There would not have been no cursing, no scrib gunshot wounds, the sex scene would not be explicit, though for 1982 the scene given is mild. More explicit sex scenes can be viewed in daytime soaps.
GRANDFATHER PARADOX An interesting aspect of this film is the application by some of the 'so-called' Grandfather Paradox. Hmmm! This supposedly applies when Clare and Lyle have sex and she questions him about the pendant around his neck. He tells her that his great great grandmother took it from his great great grandfather after an incredible night and the great great grandfather was never seen again. At the end of the film Swann is rescued by helicopter by the scientists responsible for transporting him to 1877. The head scientists tells Lyle that Clare cannot come back with them to 1982 by which time Clare snatches Lyle's pendant from his neck. When Clare takes the pendant this essentially repeats the story of Lyle's great great grandmother: END OF STORY!.....No mysterious paradox, Clare merely snatches the pendant. At this point many viewers who have seen the film think that Clare's actions reveal her to be Lyle's great great grandmother. I thought this too at one time but this is IMPOSSIBLE. Even if time-travel was real, Lyle Swann could not be his own great great grandfather or father his own great grandmother who would be the child Clare would conceive after the night of sex with Lyle. IMPOSSIBLE, even if time-travel were real a person could not literally go back in time and father his own ancestor. A person has to come from somewhere, he has to have a history. Swann could sleep with his great great grandmother, impregnate her and it would be a completely different individual. (Remember when the two of them were going over the Mark Twain books she tells Swann her real name, Clare Cygne, which if she was his great great grandmother, he should have known her name. Or it should have sounded familiar. A flag should have gone up in Swann's head as to her identity.)This puts an end to the Grandfather Paradox. ...The pendant, a seemingly valuable trinket as Lyle had been handed down to by his mother, is probably something from the 19th century and now it's returning to it's original time when Clare snatches it. If Clare is pregnant by Lyle she'll merely hand it down to her offspring and he/she will hand it down and so forth but there is no reason Lyle will ever see it again as it will be a totally different set of people and circumstances who will receive the pendant.
The film gets 3 1/2 stars out of 4.
Safe biopic for those not familiar with Lovelace's true background
Maybe Lindsay Lohan had a point of bowing out of this sh##. This biopic came off pretty much like I expected. A paper-mache treatment of Linda Lovelace's story peppered with her alleged tales of victimhood. I remember watching an episode of Sally Jessy back in the 90s and the topic was Lovelace and as a guest was Harry Reems. Stupid Sally Jessy got to the end of the show and asked Reems if he was 'gonna apologize to Lovelace'. Reems said, '...for what?' Sally's question and Reems response pretty much sums up Lovelace's picture of herself as victim. This movie concentrates on Lovelace's Deepthroat movie but ignores the numerous loops she appeared in before DT and the one porno after DT called Linda Lovelace for President. As others have mentioned Lovelace had sex with dogs on film and also liked getting urinated on by men and/or women. Strong stuff for sure but on the 35th anniversary DVD rerelease of DT former porn great Eric Edwards(one of the guys who got to pee on her) said that Lovelace would seek him out to be a sex partner in films with her. She also performed in loops with Chuck Traynor, her dirtbag mentor and the guy who is accused of abusing her.
The casting of this movie really doesn't work. Amanda Seyfried is too 'Little Bo-Peepish' to play Lovelace, though imho Lindsay Lohan wouldn't have worked either. Seyfried would have been a lot better cast as Carol Connors the goofy blond assistant to Reems in Deepthroat. Today Connors is known as the mother of legit actress Thora Birch. As cast Seyfried is too wide-eyed and innocent and visually doesn't resonate the hellish life Lovelace had lived by age 22 when DT was made. Lovelace had had an illegitimate child(given away for adoption) and was a veteran of numerous stag-loops and as such comes off world-weary. The recreation of some of the key scenes in DT are the only amusing, though momentarily, thing about this timewaster.
White Tiger (1923)
White Tiger 1923
Fortunately this 1923 Universal film by Tod Browning survives for us to view and evaluate. Made right after Browning's OUTSIDE THE LAW this film has all the feel of "Outside the Law" even to the point of looking like it re-uses some of the "Outsidethe Law" sets. Browning's stars in this film are perhaps his favorite muse, Priscilla Dean who appeared in "Outside the Law" and many other Browning films, Wallace Beery, Raymond Griffith and Matt Moore. Even the same cameraman William Fildew is on hand. If you're familiar with Tod Browning's films you'll recognize that he's treading on territory that he would later use at MGM in such films as THE UNHOLY THREE, THE MYSTIC and THE SHOW. In fact Raymond Griffith has a mustache and is dressed wearing a familiar striped shirt almost identical to John Gilbert's in 1927's "The Show". So one gets the feeling that Browning is never really finished saying what he wants to say where as many of his films, such as "White Tiger", keep returning to the same theme. Sources state that "White Tiger" was made in 1921 but not edited and released until 1923 which is probably why it bears such a striking resemblance to "Outside the Law". As in "Outside the Law" and the later "Unholy Three", the story in "White Tiger" has three to four criminals on the run after a jewel robbery, held up in a claustrophobic environment, each having to deal with the other's foibles. In "Outside the Law" it was an apartment on Nob Hill in San Francisco and in "White Tiger" it's a log cabin in western New York. The sense of mistrust amongst the criminals is just as tense as it is in both the 1925 "The Unholy Three" and it's 1930 sound remake.
The Notorious Lady (1927)
I Figure I Had to Comment
The Notorious Lady(1927): This film is a well shot and preserved late silent, 1927, from the First National Studios and before they were absorbed by Warner Brothers. As many silent lovers know, much First National material is lost. This film has a nice cast led by Lewis Stone and Barbara Bedford. Others in the cast are Lloyd Whitlock, Earl Metcalf, Ann Rork, E. J. Ratcliffe and Francis McDonald. A tidbit of info, both Lewis Stone and Francis McDonald had appeared in First National's NOMADS OF THE NORTH in 1920, a still surviving film. Without letting too much out of the bag on the scenario, the story is about a man running from a manslaughter/murder sentence after an affair concerning his wife. He goes to Africa, has a native girl fall in love with him and catches what looks to be malaria. The film plays like any one of the MGM Tarzan films from the 1930s, just without the Tarzan. Buxom Ann Rork, whose father produced this film, as the native African girl did only a few films like the lost First National THE BLONDE SAINT and she's made up almost exactly the same. In fact her makeup is reminiscent of Raquel Torres Polynesian girl in MGM's WHITE SHADOWS IN THE SOUTH SEA. Rork of course later married into wealth into the Getty oil family. All in all this is a decent King Baggot directed drama film from the close of the silent era.
The Paris Hat (1908)
Mystery film "The Paris Hat"
There is no evidence this film was ever produced, at least not in the United States. It has been alleged to have been a D.W. Griffith directed film but Griffith did not make a film with this title in 1908, or any other time in his career. Lionel Barrymore, in 1908, was living in Paris, France with his first wife Doris Rankin. He was going to art school there, much of it financed by his sister Ethel Barrymore, and also became a father there when Doris gave birth to a daughter, Ethel Barrymore II. The daughter died there in France before 1908 ended(New York Times). The only tangible possibility that this film was made with Lionel in the cast, is that it was made in France under a French title later Americanized. It's not difficult to speculate Lionel moonlighting into a film incognito and more for the reason that he needed the money for his young family. Ethel Barrymore, quite successful on the stage early in her career, married in early 1909 and sent Lionel a letter that she could no longer support his art school and that she wanted to begin a family of her own and needed her money. Hence Lionel and Doris returned from France in late 1909.
Pregnancy Pact (2010)
Plays like an extended ABC Afterschool Special
I don't know the complete facts upon which this movie is based. All I know is what was splattered across the cable media and other concerning teen pregnancy spike in Gloucester Massachusetts. While the story is considered fiction based on true events, unplanned teen pregnancy in the United States has always been an issue going back to at least the 1970s. I generally thought the film was well acted especially by the young teen girls. When the phrase 'Pregnancy Pact' is used one gets the vision of the girls stacking their hands up high and saying "All For One, One For All", sort of like Alexander Dumas 'The Three Musketeers'. I just found it humorous. Since ABC doesn't do Afterschool Specials anymore, Lifetime has picked up the task and this film has all the feel of a traditional afterschool special.
On Our Merry Way (1948)
One of the first films to show married couple in the same bed
Interesting story that doesn't know where it wants to go - I won't be as harsh on this film as other posters. That's perhaps because I know a little about the personal lives of two of it's stars, Burgess Meredith and Paulette Goddard. I just watched this on Kino's DVD. It's one of those rare films with multiple directors and long thought lost. Burgess Meredith and Paulette Goddard get things started for us n the opening and make a cute couple(they were married in real life at the time) and she calls him Oliver, Meredith's real life first name. Meredith plays a newspaper guy and for some reason asks the question "has a child made a difference in your life?" He is IMO trying to get an answer to make something tick for his newspaper article and/or for personal reasons ??. Though this is a scripted film the question, one get's the feeling, is a personal one for Meredith and Goddard, for in real life in 1944 Goddard suffered a miscarriage of their child, probably devastating to both of them. Unless you know that bit of trivia you won't pay but fleeting attention to the conversation between Burgess and Paulette. As stated in the summary this film has to be one of the first motion pictures to show a husband and wife sleeping together in the same bed, which is impressive considering the Breen Production Code in effect at the time. Married couples however would continue to sleep in twin beds until TV shows like The Brady Bunch in the late 1960s. The film pairs off into too many directions first with James Stewart and Henry Fonda, then with Fred MacMurray and William Demarest. Stewart and Fonda were friends in real life and that holds something for fans of the pair but their story is aimless. The duo put on a variety show reminiscent of today's American Idol. MacMurray and Demarest would famously work together again in the mid 60s on My Three Sons, after Demarest replaced William Frawley who became ill and died. MacMurray and Demarest have their comic moments especially with a precocious(in a bad way) little boy called "Sniffles". Demarest is too old for the kind of physical slapstick he's subjected to here. All in all another aimless scene. Dorothy Lamour shows up as a cutie who later dons a sarong in a musical revue. A voluptuous piece of cheesecake, famous for playing the island girl in the Crosby-Hope 'Road' pictures, her stay is all too short. This film should have stayed focused on the interesting beginnings with Meredith and Goddard. Meredith himself is not involved enough in the linking stories to make the finale cohesive. He finds what ever answer/lesson he's looking for but the audience has been shuttled from one minor point to the next. Paulette at the close of the film reveals that she's pregnant(only in the story) and she and Meredith rejoice at end. Their story should have been the main focus of the film and dare the subject of talking about pregnancy which I get at the conclusion that that's what the story was about. Instead we're taken from one inconsequential story to the next without logical tie-in to Meredith and Goddard. That's why I think so many people miss the point and poo-poo the film. But if you know the different junctures of the film especially the part with Burgess Meredith and Paulette Goddard you should be able to enjoy the picture.
His Private Secretary (1933)
Early non-western John Wayne
I first caught a glimpse of this film on a Sunday morning on a local independent station. The film was abruptly pre-empted for a college wrestling match or something. Until recently I was not able to revisit this film in it's entirety, but I remembered one thing that stood out, Evalyn Knapp. She is a mixture of silent actress Bessie Love and talkies Jean Harlow and Barbara Stanwyck. The obvious attraction to this film today is the presence of John Wayne in the male lead. Got to give him credit for doing something other than riding a horse and for trying his hands at something purporting to be drama. Others have complained that this movie was put on DVD and not restored to better condition. Got to understand one thing, this film has been in the public domain for so long it is lucky that it survives in any condition. It is a poverty row film, from something called Showmen's Pictures, sheesh never heard of em. The negative and first generation materials of this movie have probably long since gone out of existence and all that remains is the sub-par 16mm prints floating around in public domain. It was available on several low budget home video labels during the videotape years. Albeit the original print quality probably wasn't all that good to begin with but the picture is what it is. The plot of this movie has been reiterated by some of the other posters so it need not be repeated by me. So I'll get back to the thing that stood out for me before that college game interrupted my original viewing, Evalyn Knapp. She is perhaps the real star of this near 'dog' of a picture and she provides the grasping factor of 'cheesecake'. While she is presented as Wayne's love interest the producer's(and I agree) felt that she could add eye candy value to a hard to sell low budget by wearing slinky form fitting dresses. For being the female lead, we first see her in the film 30 minutes in and she is given nothing more to do than utter several lines and walk in and out of scenes with several tight fitting dresses. Arthur Hoyt(from the silent LOST WORLD)plays a secretary to Wayne's dad and ogles Knapp on several instances and who could blame him. So for many a depression era out of work guy in the audience he would be glad to enjoy a few minutes of Miss Knapp's figure before leaving the theatre back to the miserable reality of the Great Depression. So there's nothing more to be gotten out of this flick but Evalyn Knapp does really save the flick for this viewer and on a historical basis it provides a glimpse into John Wayne's early dramatic abilities.
The Delicious Little Devil (1919)
THE DELICIOUS LITTLE DEVIL; An energized Mae Murray vehicle
This long lost film was rediscovered, restored and preserved at Nederlands Filmmuseum. My hats off to them! It is now companioned on DVD with the lost Gloria Swanson/Rudolph Valentino 1922 starring vehicle BEYOND THE ROCKS. TDLD stars Mae Murray for sure. She is a little hurricane moving from scene to scene in this routine Universal programmer of 1919. Murray's then husband, up and coming director and former actor Robert Z. Leonard, does the directing honors. Leonard keeps his wife and cast in a fast paced zip. The fast zip of this movie is no doubt due to the 24fps running speed on the DVD rather than the actual running speed the film was shot in which to me would seem more in the neighborhood of 18-21 fps. Even at the slower speeds the film still moves at a good pace. Most of Murray's starring vehicles of the 1920s are in archives or foreign collections unrestored, so it's hard to judge her career. TDLD was made at the beginning of her great screen success after a few years appearing in dramatic roles. This film shows Murray in all the raw material of her beauty and energy just before her great successes as a fantasy type queen in the 1920s. This film also gives up-n-coming Rudolph Valentino a significant supporting player part as a rich man's son who loves Murray. For once Rudy isn't playing the gigolo or thug that he was always being cast in. He and Murray got along and stayed friends even after Rudy's big success in 1921 with THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE and when Murray married a faux Russian prince in 1926 it was at Rudy's house. Luckily the TDLD survives in a decent enough 35mm print. Several highlights of this film include Murray getting in and out of a large sunken bath(much like Gloria Swanson in MALE & FEMALE that same year), several cheesecake shots of Murray by director Leonard showing her in near-nude see thru while changing costumes at a play, a funny scene with tall Gertrude Astor that involves talcum powder, a thrilling well choreographed car chase, Murray dancing around and running all while wearing large heeled pump shoes, and a short sequence involving soon to be famous screenwriter Katherine Hilliker as herself in name on a newspaper. Watching this makes one want to see Murray with Lon Chaney in the lost 1918 Universal film DANGER, GO SLOW also directed by Leonard. Audiences are going to discover Mae Murray, if they can find and view her films. This is more deserving of her than just glancing across a famous photo of her in some film book. Oh I must say one thing, the DVD copy has a resurrected original score performed by the Mont Alto orchestra and they do a marvelous job. Overall Mae does what actresses such as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish wouldn't do, show a little (or a lot?) of cheesecake that verges on the daring when viewing the film. These were the days of no Will Hays or Joseph Breen or his Production Code. Nope, all of that lay in the future. Leonard also manages to imbue the film with some filmic technique where he obviously worm gears a pan across a room. If you're a silent fan, this is a rare glimpse at a once famous and beautiful silent film actress in her prime.
KONGO: Northeast of Capetown South Africa
KONGO, starring Walter Huston, is a 1932 talkie remake of Tod Browning's silent WEST OF ZANZIBAR(1928)that had starred Lon Chaney which in itself was based on the 1926 Broadway play "Kongo" that starred Walter Huston. Both films were produced by MGM. KONGO is basically MGM refilming the scenario used by Browning for the silent version WEST OF ZANZIBAR. Think of director Jack Conway using Browning's 1925 scenario of THE UNHOLY THREE to film the 1930 remake. Those who have seen WoZ will recognize this or be familiar with it. KONGO also reuses some of the footage shot for the silent version WoZ with inserted dialogue over and sound effects. I thought I was pretty familiar with MGM's offbeat material. But this film is a rarity and is almost never shown at TCM nor is it available on DVD, so that would explain my not having seen it. But I was finally able to view KONGO in it's entirety and in a decent print after hearing about for so many years. The elaborate prologue in Browning's WoZ explaining what happened to Flint(in the silent played by Chaney who is called Phroso) is gone in KONGO and we start with Flint and his troupe already in Africa. Throughout KONGO Flint(Huston) will make references to his life before Africa and what led him to go to Africa. All the main characters from WoZ are here in KONGO. Albeit Tiny Ward's character of Tiny in the silent film is replaced by curvaceous Lupe Velez as Tula undoubtedly to add more 'cheesecake' to the talkie and the fact that Ward's and Velez's characters in the two films are minor parts. Velez had acted impressively with Chaney in Tod Browning's 1929 WHERE EAST IS EAST where she played Chaney's daughter. Sexy Virginia Bruce replaces sexy Mary Nolan from the silent WoZ as Chaney's long lost, convent protected and later jungle defiled daughter. Conrad Nagel, is an actor I've never understood the appeal of, but he was a popular silent era leading man appearing in numerous dramas and costume films. He seems to have been popular with star actresses and he also appeared in the lost Browning/Chaney film London AFTER MIDNIGHT(1927). Nagel's best film IMHO is HELL DIVERS(1931) as the no-nonsense squadron commander in charge of Wally Beery and Clark Gable. However in KONGO Nagel plays the alcoholic doctor that had been played much better by Warner Baxter in the silent WoZ. One gets the impression MGM didn't think much of the material as they gave it to a seemingly unknown director, William Cowen, to direct. Why not they have given it to Tod Browning to redo as a classic daring Pre-Code talkie? Cowen, for all his lackluster, turned in an appropriately grimy picture which complements it's silent predecessor. Alas this should've been expected as Cowen followed the outline of the silent version to a T. Both Lupe Velez and Virginia Bruce provide ample doses of 'cheesecake' which in this film seems to have been more of the intent compared to the silent version WoZ. Velez wears a low shouldered wrap and is continuously moistened down sexying up her beautiful skin. Bruce has a scene in which in a tussle with Mitchell Lewis her 'ahem' b*****s quite revealingly and quickly pop out of her open shirt. Certainly such a scene would be impossible once the Production Code came into place in 1934. Bruce, heavy chested and well proportioned, appears at the same time a tad skinny and looks malnourished which works well once she gets to Flint's jungle compound. Bruce also has a physical earthiness that works and would have been just as good or even better than Mary Nolan's in the silent WoZ. So in closing this was a treat to view this film. It is a concoction of the weird, like FREAKS produced that same year at MGM. Perhaps Warner Brothers or whoever now owns the copyright to this obscure gem will get it out on DVD in the near future.
The Scarlet Car (1917)
Early Chaney Makeup Role
A decent speeded of a sloppy story. Lon Chaney gives a performance of an ancestor of Paul Revere and his old man makeup is not as convincing. The aged beard &* whiskers gives hint at the character Jan in the lost film "Tower of Lies"(1925). Franklyn Farnum(no relation to William or Dustin) is the star of this Universal movie. The picture moves so fast you may have to watch more than once to follow the denouement. Edith Johnson is the leading actress here playing Chaney's daughter. The film also boasts a zippity car chase that verges on Sennett knockabout. The picture is directed by Joseph DeGrasse. His brother Sam Degrasse, one of silent films slickest villains, is a handsome costar. This film, which is based on a story by Richard Harding Davis, was lost for decades until a copy was located in the 1990s.
The False Faces (1919)
Decent WW1 film MADE during WW1
The story for "The False Faces" is taken from a novel by Louis Joseph Vance based on a character he created called 'The Lone Wolf'. Films about WW1 made during WW1 are interesting. The opening stages of Irvin Willat's "The False Faces" hark forward six & eleven years to the battle sequences in "The Big Parade" & "All's Quiet on the Western Front" respectively. Indeed both King Vidor & Lewis Milestone must've viewed portions of this film. 1919 was a break out year for Lon Chaney with "The Wicked Darling", "Victory", and the hugely successful "The Miracle Man". "The False Faces" is Chaney's first film of 1919 so it was probably made while WW1 was still going on(before November 11 1918). The film actually stars Henry B. Walthall as a Sidney Reilly type spy, 'The Lone Wolf'. Quite possibly a double agent. The movie is a potpurri of a spy cheating officials and officials cheating the spy. Director Willat has scenes that occur on board a real passenger liner and later in a submarine. Amazing that Willat could obtain the use of a sub for his film. Chaney plays a man called Ekstrom in several disguises & whom 'The Lone Wolf' harbors a personal vengeance against. Ekstrom is a German w/spiked helmet, an officer on an ocean liner, a sub captain and a shaven adventurer in drawing room back on shore. An actress called Mary Anderson plays the sole female character in this film. A popular and pretty actress in the silents, she's all but forgotten today. Irving Willat's brother, Edwin Willat, is the cinematographer. The print of this film survives generally in good condition but some of the intertitles are so blacked out that they can't be read. Grapevine video actually replaced key titles so to hold the viewer to the story. The latter part of the film tends to get melodramatic. But the highlight scenes are on a real passenger liner(makes some think of the Titanic & Lusitania) and a real submarine with scenes that hark forward to 'Destination Tokyo' and 'Das Boot'. Most films about WW1 made during WW1 tend to be propaganda or over the top grotesque comedies aimed at Germans. This movie is a little bit of both but alas one of the more tamer films compared to others.
The Patsy (1928)
A Gem of A Picture
The Patsy is a nicely shot comedy starring Marion Davies. The picture is directed by King Vidor. The small cast supporting Davies is consists of Marie Dressler(mother), Dell Henderson(father), Jane Winton(sister), Orville Caldwell(boyfriend) and Lawrence Gray(neighbor). Caldwell is the least known of the back up players as he was more of a Broadway performer than a film actor. Dressler stands out as the mother and steals every scene she has including the ones she has with Davies. This is one of the rare opportunities to see Marie Dressler as a silent comedienne & dramatic actress in fine form. Quite often Marie is seen in "Tillie's Punctured Romance"(1914) with Charles Chaplin & Mabel Normand, and a film which has gross overacting. In "The Patsy", Dressler shows the comic & dramatic timing for which she would soon be known in talkies. With coif hair & evening dress, Dressler actually becomes kind of attractive. Vidor shoots with his signature style of moving camera throughout & soft focus touch. This makes for a very pleasant viewing experience. Jane Winton was a pretty & popular silent actress who was best known for appearing in two John Barrymore films, "Don Juan"(1926) as the cheating wife and "The Beloved Rogue"(1927) as one of the revelers. Here Wionton plays the exquisite though jealous sister of Marion's character. Dell Henderson was an old Mack Sennett dependable who became a director. Lawrence Gray was a popular & handsome leading man for a few years toward the close of the silent era. Davies has a sequence in "The Patsy" where she imitates three silent actresses, Lillian Gish, Mae Murray and Pola Negri. She pulls off mimicking Gish, then she gets Murray down pat (*probably because the two women 'do' lookalike. The Negri imitation falls flat. "The Patsy" predates the classic Davies picture "Showpeople" but both are wonderfully directed by King Vidor. The Patsy is in danger of becoming Marie Dressler's movie at times or whenever Dressler is on the screen. The Patsy is a gem of a seldom seen movie that accurately showcases Davies comic talents and should be enjoyed over and over. dir. King Vidor, MGM.
The Sea Lion (1921)
Good Sea Yarn with Familiar Premise
Hobart Bosworth was an interesting person. A traveler, adventurer, boxer, actor, sailor. He purportedly went to California at doctor's request for his health around 1908. In California Bosworth was amongst the earliest of stage actors to make movies in California becoming writer, director, actor, producer. Around 1913 Bosworth, already a movie veteran, formed his own production company ultimately producing a 1914 version of "The Sea Wolf". The Sea Lion is a 1921 adventure. The kind that Bosworthh liked to make. It is directed by Rowland Lee. Bosworth leads the cast in "The Sea Lion" in a yarn of a cuckold sailor who after 18 years is reunited with his daughter, played by Bessie Love. The print of this film is awful. The movie, is now in the public domain. Judging by the quality of the film it looks like a 6th generation print of a copy of a copy. It's hard to follow this movie because you can't read the intertitles at times or follow the action. Second and third viewings are almost mandatory to experience what the filmmakers are showing. Even in a messy print the story matter is exciting and one full of adventure. Hopefully a better print surfaces. dir. Rowland V. Lee, Bosworth Prods.
An Early Masterpiece
After watching Maurice Tourneur's "Victory", the first movie of a Joseph Conrad novel, it makes one lament the loss of Tourneur's "Treasure Island" which also was photographed by Rene Guissart and had Lon Chaney in a great make up. Long thought lost, a beautiful pristine 35 mm print of "Victory" was located in a European film archive. Along with Chaney the cast has pretty Seena Owen looking quite seductive, suave but dull Jack Holt, menacing Wallace Beery, frightening Bull Montana and odd Ben Deeley. Deeley is the least known of the cast. He was married to Barbara LaMarr and would die in 1924 two years prior to Barbara. Deeley made several silent films but "Victory" is one of his few that survive & he gives a memorable creepy characterization. In addition to "Victory", several classic Tourneur silents survive ie Alias Jimmy Valentine(1915), The Wishing Ring(1914), Pride of the Clan(1917), Poor Little Rich Girl(1917), A Girl's Folly(1917), The Blue Bird(1918), Prunella(1918), Last of the Mohicans(1920), The White Moth(1924) and parts of the Mysterious Island(1927-29). Thankfully "Victory" survived the decades, in great condition, and is a great silent film to introduce a newcomer to the genre. A very high & enthusiastic recommendation. Maurice Tourneur, Paramount.
The Wicked Darling (1919)
Rare first Browning-Chaney Vehicle comes to light
Having seen "Outside the Law", the second Browning-Chaney-Dean feature, I can say "The Wicked Darling" feels almost like a prelude to that film. When you watch this film it looks like some of the sets were used in "Outside the Law". Browning seems to want to finish in "Outside the Law" what he started in this film. There's even a gruesome fight scene (two in fact) with Chaney & the hero here(Wellington Playter) as there would be between Chaney & Wheeler Oakman in "Outside the Law". Priscilla Dean is one of the best actresses of the silent era & I look forward to checking out her other silent films like Browning's "The Virgin of Stamboul" (unfortunately minus Chaney). The version of this film comes from the remaining 35mm print in the Nederlands Filmmuseum and it has tremendous beginning stages of nitrate decomposition. Fortunately this film was rescued in the knick of time. Dean's character at the opening of the film comes off as a thief in cahoots with Chaney but its insinuated that she also moonlights as a prostitute with Chaney her pimp. Browning seemingly sets up the viewers imagination on Dean's activity while early in the film showing Gertrude Astor as a 'kept woman' for Wellington Playter. Astor leaves Playter after he goes broke. With good chunks of the film lost and this being an abridged foreign release anyway, more imagination is still left to the viewer. But Browning's customary last act of redemption for the crooked Priscilla Dean is identical in Outside the Law.